This post is the fifth in the series of five on God's Sovereignty in Salvation, if you have not been following along, it is important to go to the archives and catch up. Otherwise some of my statements might be taken out of the context of past study. Also, this post was written to fit in the book I'm writing so if I reference a chapter of the book, please disregard.
Now we reach the final doctrine in the doctrines of grace, Perseverance of the Saints. Sometimes this doctrine is referred to as preservation of the saints or eternal security. The basic idea is that once a person is saved, justified in Christ, they will not ever and cannot ever, lose their salvation. A popular phrase that is often used is "once saved, always saved." This is used by many people that don’t even believe in the preceding points such as Unconditional Election and Limited Atonement. Perhaps you are one who believes in "eternal security" but you disagree with the idea of election, or perhaps you do not believe in this idea at all. Maybe you think that salvation can be lost, taken away or rejected.
Hopefully, if you fit into any of those categories, this book has given you a lot to think about. Because if I have "sold you", so to speak, on the idea of Total Depravity, that is mans inability to save himself or even turn to God on his own, and if I have demonstrated that mans only hope is that God unconditionally elects certain individuals to salvation, and that God accomplished salvation for the elect on the cross not just made it possible but actual, and if I have convinced you that God saves all whom He draws to Himself and does not fail, then this last doctrine only makes sense as the last piece of the puzzle. Clearly if man has nothing to do with saving himself, then there is nothing he can do to lose his salvation.
Perseverance of the Saints can be defined in this way:
"Once God has saved an elect sinner He continues to guard their salvation by His power. There is nothing a justified sinner can do to lose their salvation, nor can they walk away from it. A person who is truly born again will continue in faith in Christ, undergoing sanctification, until the day they die and go to be with the Lord and are made perfect in Christ."
As always, let’s go to the Scripture to see where this is indeed in taught by God in His word.
"13In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14who is the guarantee
of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it,
to the praise of his glory."
What a glorious verse of Scripture, one of my favorites. This verse is a wonderfully rich verse when it comes to this doctrine as well as that of salvation by faith alone. The Scripture here teaches that upon the moment when one places their trust in Christ they are "sealed with the promised Holy Spirit." The presence of the Holy Spirit is what causes regeneration in the life of a sinner. Giving a spiritually dead person the life and faith they need for salvation. When the Spirit indwells a person, faith takes place instantaneously. It’s not a matter of which comes first, they are synonymous.
It is at that very moment of faith that the Holy Spirit indwells the new believer and seals them into their salvation. The word "sealed" that is used here carries the idea of kings seal upon a scroll. Often times in New Testament times when a royal person would write a letter, they would use wax to seal the letter so that it would not be opened and they would press their signet ring into the seal so that everyone who saw it would know that this was sealed by the king. No one was allowed to break the seal except the one whom the message was intended for in the first place.
This is the same idea that is used here. When God saves someone from their sin, He seals them with His Holy Spirit. No one can break that seal, it will remain kept for the believer until they "acquire possession" of their salvation when Christ returns. The Scripture says that this seal is a "guarantee." If God gives a guarantee upon something, His word is good enough for me. He promises that the believers salvation is safeguarded by His Spirit in us until the day it is realized and we are glorified and made perfect in Christ with the Father in Heaven.
Where else does Scripture speak of this doctrine? How about 1Peter 1:3-5?
"3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time."
It surely doesn’t get much plainer than that. First of all, who caused us to be born again? God the Father did, through Jesus Christ His Son. Who is keeping and guarding our inheritance (eternal life in Christ)? God the Father is, through faith, which God supplies. Do you see the trend? How could we who have nothing to do with saving ourselves possibly lose our salvation? It’s not even ours to lose, as if we earned it. God supplies the faith that justifies, God guards our salvation and seals it by His Holy Spirit living in us.
Look also at Romans 8:29-30.
"29For 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. 30And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified."
This verse is sometimes referred to as "the golden chain of redemption." It’s an unbreakable chain, and indeed it is a chain reaction. If the one happens then by necessity the next happens, all the way down the line. Just use simple logic with me as we look at verse 30. What does God do with those whom He predestines? He calls them, doesn’t He? What Does God do with those whom He calls? He justifies them. And those whom he justifies, what happens to them? They are glorified.
Is there anything unclear about this passage? If anyone is ever justified, that is made right and sinless in the sight of God, they are eventually glorified. There is no room in this passage for someone to be justified (saved) for a time and then lose their salvation and go to Hell and not be glorified. It’s just not possible. All who are predestined, elected by God, are justified and upon Christ’s return they will be glorified. It is Scripturally incompatible to say that "so and so used to be a Christian." If they are not a Christian now, they never were. This is so plain. And please do note, that the reason people are glorified in the end is because God, in His Sovereign free-will, made a choice to predestine individuals to be justified in Christ. And Christ accomplished that "actually" and not just "possibly."
How about some more Scripture? John 6:44 says,
"No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day."
I’ve already used this verse several times, but I feel the need to do so once more. I talked earlier about how this verse clearly shows that God has to enable man to come to Jesus, we cannot do it on our own because of our depravity. I also used this verse to show that God’s grace is irresistible, and that everyone whom the Father draws comes to Christ. And now I bring it up again to point out that all those whom the Father draws come to Christ, and we know this because Christ raises them up on the last day, which also specifically implies that all who ever come to Christ will endure to the end and be raised to new life. Just a few verse earlier in John chapter 6 verse 39 Jesus also 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."
Again, the same idea as above. Whatever is given to Jesus by the father, He does not lose. Jesus always does the will of the Father. God does not fail in His mission to save sinners, whomever God chooses to save, He saves them to the uttermost. We could look at more verses that support this doctrine, however I think that we have looked at plenty of verses for anyone who is going to accept the Scripture for what it clearly teaches. Many will read these verses that are so plain and straightforward and reject them purely because of their opinions and presuppositions. It wont matter to them that this is clearly what Scripture says about these five doctrines, they will reject it because it doesn’t sound fair to them and they don’t like it. But I say to you, don’t be one of them. It’s fine to have hesitations and want to study further about this, but don’t just refuse to even think about something that Scripture so clearly talks about.
Objections to Perseverance of the Saints
One of the most common objections to this doctrine and really to the whole of the teachings of the doctrines of grace, is that it "let’s people off the hook for their sin." Or in other words, because the doctrines of grace are so clear that we are saved by God’s grace alone, through faith alone (which is supplied by God), in Christ alone, that these teachings would allow for people to shirk any responsibility for holiness and live life however they want. After all, if we cannot lose our salvation, we might as well live it up and do whatever we want! Right!? WRONG!
Such a teaching is not compatible with Scripture and therefore is not compatible to these Scriptural teaching of the doctrines of grace. Indeed it is often those who hold to these teachings whom you will see taking the issue of holiness very seriously. Why? Because Scripture clearly teaches that when God saves a sinner, that sinner will become a new creation, with a new nature. And that new creation will act differently then it did while it was still dead in sin. Galatians 5 talks about this difference.
"13For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." 15But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. 16But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21envy,
drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. 26Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another."
The clear teaching of Scripture is that "those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires." In other words, our old nature is dead once we become new in Christ. We can still struggle with sin, but ultimately a born again believers desire will be to please God and they will strive to walk by the Spirit. A true believer will exhibit the fruit of the Spirit more and more as they are sanctified by God’s Spirit. A person who calls themselves a Christian but lives no differently then they did before their supposed conversion to Christ, should be under serious suspicion. Scripture teaches that changed people will act like they have been changed. In Romans 6:1-4 Paul continues this idea that Christians are expected to avoid sin and walk in the Spirit, seeking to please God by their actions.
"1What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life."
Again, clearly the expectation of Scripture is that those who are Christians will not be flippant about sin. Sin is the very thing that our Savior Jesus Christ came to die for, it is a serious thing that anyone should knowingly sin and not care about it. In fact a true believer who commits sin and is unrepentant, that is they don’t turn away from that sin and seek forgiveness, will be seriously convicted by the Holy Spirit who lives in Him. In John 16:8-11 Jesus speaks of the Holy Spirit and what He will be active in doing in the world when He comes (as He did in Acts 2).
"8And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged."
In the life of a believer the Spirit convicts us concerning righteousness. Therefore a believer in unrepentant sin will be under the conviction of God until that sin is dealt with in repentance. Matthew 6 talks about the narrow road and gate that a believer must walk to find eternal life. The believer doesn’t get to act like the wide road fools on the way to Hell. Believers walk a difficult course. Believers undergo sanctification and are continually being transformed into the likeness of Christ. 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 says,
"17Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit."
This teaching is completely compatible with the teachings of the doctrines of grace. A true Christian with true saving faith will have the Spirit of God transforming and convicting them into righteousness. A true Christian will pursue holiness. The doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints does not let people off the hook and encourage sin. This is a biblical doctrine, all who come to Christ have been drawn by the Father and they cannot and will not be lost. But those who come to Christ truly, will truly be changed and concerned with holiness.
In Him -Jacob