Perseverance of the Saints
Perseverance of the Saints states that all who are chosen by God, redeemed by Christ, and given faith by the Spirit are eternally saved. They are kept in faith by the power of Almighty God and thus persevere to the end.
1 Samuel 2:9; Nehemiah 9:16-19; Psalm 31:23, 32:7,23,28-33, 38, 84:5-7, 89:30-33, 94:14, 97:10, 121:7, 125:1; Proverbs 2:8; Isaiah 40:30, 54:4-10; Jeremiah 32:38-42; Matthew 18:6, 12-14, 24:22-24; Luke 1:74, 22:32; John 3:36, 4:13, 5:24, 6:37-40, 51, 8:31, 10:4, 8, 27-29, 17:11, 15; Romans 6:1-4, 7:24-8:4, 28-39, 11:29, 14:14; 1 Corinthians 1:4-9, 3:15, 10:13; 2 Corinthians 1:22, 5:5; Ephesians 1:11-14, 4:30; Philippians 1:6; Colossians 3:1-4; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; 2 Thessalonians 3:3-5; 2 Timothy 1:12, 4:18; Hebrews 3:14, 7:25, 10:14, 36-39, 13:5; 1 Peter 1:3-5; 2 Peter 3:8; 1 John 2:19, 3:9, 5:4, 13, 18; Jude 1, 24.
Perseverance of the Saints first needs to be properly understood. This doctrine does not mean that all those who merely appear to have faith (i.e., said a certain prayer, walked down the church isle, joined a church, were baptized, etc.) will be kept by God and will therefore persevere to the end. There are many people who profess to be believers but then later fall away. Instead, Perseverance of the Saints means that all those who have a genuine faith in Christ will be kept by God forever and will persevere to the end. There are many professing Christians who trust in their own works, goodness, merits for their salvation. These people are trusting in their own "righteousness, instead of Jesus' blood, and do not have true faith in Jesus Christ.
Therefore, later on they may get discouraged and decide to leave the faith and no longer be a Christian. This does not prove that they were saved and then lost their salvation, but simply that they deserted the Christian religion because they had only a said faith rather than a genuine one. The Apostle John clearly described such people in 1 John 2:19. Speaking of some who had renounced the Christian religion and had become anti-Christ, he said, "They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us." It is clear from this passage that those who profess faith in Christ and appear to be true believers, and yet later fall away, were never really a part of God's people in the first place.
Another important point that must be made is that the doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints in no way permits believers to live a lazy and rebellious Christian life. Some opponents to this doctrine say that it teaches a license to sin with an open door to heaven. This is grossly untrue, and a complete distortion of what Perseverance of the Saints actually teaches. Jesus said in John 14:15, "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments." Since the Christian is born again by the Holy Spirit, he loves Jesus and so naturally desires to keep His commandments. The change of heart that the Holy Spirit makes in regeneration, as well as the indwelling presence of the Spirit in the believer, ensures that the believer will continue to love Christ. Of course, the amount of love for Christ varies with the individual. A more mature Christian no doubt has a deeper love for Christ than a "baby Christian."
Nevertheless, all of God's children have a love for their Savior. Thus, true believers strive each and every day to please Him. They strive each and every day to keep His commandments. This is not done in order to obtain salvation, or even to maintain salvation, because that would turn salvation by grace into salvation by works. Rather, Christians keep His commandments out of love and gratitude for the One who shed His precious blood for their redemption. Therefore, those who believe in Perseverance of the Saints do not say that Christians can live like any way they want and still expect to get into heaven. They say, "Do you really love Christ? Then keep His commandments!" Even though believers have a great love for the Lord, and strive to obey and please Him, human imperfection, the sinful flesh, causes a fall into sin from time to time. No one on earth is sinless. But God will keep His saints. He will see to it that all those He elected, died for, and regenerated will be glorified.
Here are several Scriptural passages that teach the doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints. Jesus said in John 6:39-40, "This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day." Here we are told that the Father's will for the Son is that the Son lose none of those that were chosen and given to Him. So in order for an elect person to be lost, the Son would either have to disobey the Father's will, or be impotent in His power to prevent the loss of those given to Him by the Father! It would be a sin for the Son to disobey the Father's will; and if Jesus lacks the power to keep those whom the Father had given to Him, then perhaps He is also unable to make good the many other promises He made to believers. So the only way a believer could be lost is for the Son of God to sin or be powerless to keep them.
Needless to say, that will never happen. In John 10:27-29 Jesus says about the elect sheep in verse 27, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me;". Notice that it is the nature of sheep to follow the Divine Shepherd. If anyone fails to follow the Shepherd, that person was never really a sheep. In the verses 28-29 He continues, "And I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand." It is sometimes argued that although nothing can take a believer out of the Father's hand, a person might take himself out of the Father's hand. However, the verse does not say that the believer is holding tightly to the Father's hand. It says that the Father is holding tightly to the believer.
To illustrate, whenever an earthy father is holding his child's hand while crossing a busy highway, he holds tightly onto the child's hand. Even if the child releases his grip the father does not release his. He does not leave the safety of the child up to the child. He does not merely hold out a stick and tell the child to hold on to the other end of it and just leave it up to the child's decision as to whether to let go and wander into traffic or not.
In the same way, God is a good Father, and He holds us tightly in His hand. We will never be able to get loose from His grip and perish because He promises that we "will never perish". How could He make that promise if it were possible for us to get loose from His grip and perish? It is not possible. In John 17:24 Jesus said, "Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world." It is Christ's desire for the ones whom God has given Him to be with Him and behold His glory. Christ is the sovereign God. He will get what He desires.
Romans 8:35-39 says:
"Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, 'FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED.' But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Sometimes it is argued that Satan may be successful in separating the believer from God and His love. However, Satan is a created thing, and the promise is that no created thing will be successful in separating us. If Satan could separate a believer from God and cause him to be unsaved, then that would make Satan more powerful than God!
It is also argued from time to time that even though the believer is safe from adversaries outside of himself, he is not safe from destroying himself. However, it needs to be remembered that even the believer himself is a created thing, and the promise is that no created thing will ever separate us from God.
Philippians 1:6 says, "For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus." God is not a God who fails to complete the tasks He begins. He is never defeated in anything He sets out to do. If He has really begun a good work in an individual, He will be successful in completing it. We can be confident of that. 1 Corinthians 1:8 says, "[Jesus Christ] will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ." 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 says, "Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass." Here the Apostle Paul assures believers that God will preserve them in a blameless (justified) state. 2 Thessalonians 3:3 says, "But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one."
Since it is God's will that the Son lose none of those that were given to Him, the believer can be sure that He will successfully guard him from the attempts of Satan to destroy him and separate him from God. 2 Timothy 1:12 says, "For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day."
Sometimes people say that God would definitely like to make our ultimate salvation a certainty but that He is not able to because that would interfere with our so-called free will. But the Bible teaches that He is able. Jude 24-25 reaffirms this when it says, "Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen." This passage does not teach that God is able to keep us from stumbling and stand blameless before Him if we continue to do our part, for then, salvation would be dependent on our own ability, our own efforts. No, it is God who keeps the believer from stumbling; it is God who makes him to stand before Him justified.
There are several doctrines which prove Perseverance of the Saints. One of them is Predestination. The Bible teaches that God predestines certain people to be saved. Ephesians 1:5 says that "He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will " To be adopted as a son is to be saved. God also predestines us to be conformed to the image of Christ. Now, everyone whom God predestines to be saved and conformed to Christ's image will eventually be glorified in heaven.
Romans 8:30 says that "these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified." Here we see that predestination is an unbroken golden chain. Paul says that the ones who get predestined are the ones who get called. The ones who get called are the ones who get justified. The ones who get justified are the ones who get glorified. If you get the first part of salvation you get it all. It is an unbreakable chain. All those who get the first part of salvation get the last. All those whom God predestined to be saved will be glorified in the end. And how could it be otherwise? How could the Sovereign God predestine a thing to occur and it not occur? It is impossible!
Another doctrine that proves Perseverance of the Saints is Salvation by Grace. In Ephesians 2:8-9 Paul said, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God not as a result of works, so that no one may boast." Notice here that salvation is "the gift of God not as a result of works, so that no one may boast." Some people believe that a believer can lose his salvation. They believe that that the only reason some people are able to keep their salvation and others fail to do so is because some are simply able to endure.
Perhaps one person has more strength than another, or maybe he does not lose his determination, or perhaps he has some innate ability to remain in Christ that others do not have. One of the problems with this, however, is that this leaves room for boasting. Let's say Christ did die for both men, and the Spirit did regenerate both of them, but one went to heaven while the other did not. Why? Because he had the strength to endure. So when he gets to heaven, he will have a lot to boast about. He could boast about his ability to persevere, or for even being sensible enough to make the right choice in accepting Christ as his Savior.
According to Paul's understanding, however, there is no room for boasting at all. God chose us before the foundation of the world, not because of anything we did. Jesus Christ died on the cross, and His blood covered all our sins. Then the Spirit brought us out of our spiritual death and into life; and God is holding us in His hand and guarding us from the evil one. He is keeping us forever.
Salvation is totally of God and His grace. Therefore, we have nothing to boast about, and we will give God all the praise and glory. The Biblical view gives God all the glory for his salvation. Those who hold to the opposing view is logically compelled to accept a part of the glory for himself. Surely any understanding of salvation which leaves room for man to boast and divides the glory for salvation between God and the sinner cannot be the biblical understanding of salvation.
Another thing which proves that the believer is eternally secure, is the fact that scripture says that our life is eternal. Consider John 3:16: "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life." If there is any possibility that some who believe in Him will at some future time lose their salvation, then how could Christ have made this promise? He said they will have eternal life. If someone is promised eternal life but loses it after twenty years, did he have eternal life? No. That person only had 20-year life. Christ promises that all believers will have eternal life. For the Son of God to make such a promise, He must know that it will come to pass. If the Son of God makes a promise like that, He will do everything to make sure it occurs, including putting us in the Father's hand. And the Father is greater than all, so no one can snatch us out of His hand.
Another thing which proves the doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints, is that when Christ died on the cross, He purchased the church. Acts 20:28 says, "Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood." Jesus purchased those people for whom He died. The church is Jesus Christ's possession. We are His. How then can we ever belong to another? How then can we ever lose our salvation and not belong to Christ anymore? Who would ever succeed in taking something away from the Creator of heaven and earth unless that person was greater than God? No, believers are securely in God's hand, and we know that God does not plan for any believer to be lost.
Unfortunately, many quote Hebrews 6:4-6 and say that this passage disproves the doctrine of the believer's eternal security. The passage says:
"For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame."
In order to have a proper understanding of the teaching of Hebrews 6:4-6, it is necessary to study the context. In Hebrews 5:10, the Lord Jesus is referred to as "a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek." Continuing on in verses 11-14 it says, "Concerning him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil."
Then comes the exhortation of the opening verse of the sixth chapter, in which the writer calls upon his Hebrew brethren, who have not yet received Christ although they have come to a knowledge of Him, to declare themselves openly for Christ. The Old Testament was their elementary school, their kindergarten, the place of first things or principles. The time had now come for them to graduate.
The law was their schoolmaster to lead them to Christ that they might be justified by faith (Galatians 3:24). He writes now to them saying, "Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity [the same Greek word as is in the proceeding verse is translated "full age"], not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment." (Hebrews 6:1-2)
All these are Old Testament doctrines. The apostle is exhorting the Hebrews to move forward to Christ, to whom all these doctrines pointed. "And this we will do, if God permits. For in the case of those who have once been enlightened [as the Hebrews had been] and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of [literally, companions, those who go along with] the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God [this had come to them through the ages by the prophets] and the powers of the age to come [these were the miracles they had witnessed], and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame." (Hebrews 6:3-6)
The Hebrew recipients of this letter were probably convicted of the truth of the gospel message without actually fully accepting it. So in that case they would not be genuine believers. The writer of Hebrew's warning in this passage is similar to that of Hebrews 4:11. Hypocrites among the recipients of the gospel have heard the truth repeatedly without an appropriate response. If they proceeded in their plans to return to Judaism, it would be "impossible" for them to genuinely repent since their hearts would have become hardened.
There is nothing in this passage which speaks of a born-again person losing his salvation. This passage teaches there is no salvation for anyone unless they are found under the shed blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. If this passage was teaching that a true believer could loose his salvation, then it also would be teaching that once someone has been saved, then lost, he cannot be re-saved. This would counter the idea some Christians hold that one could fall away, and repent later and return to Christ to be saved. Those who "fall away" are like the people the apostle John spoke about in 1 John 2:19:
"They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us."
One can come to the presence of God in apparent repentance without ever having a genuine fellowship with Him. (Luke 8:13, 13:27) Even Pharaoh repented for a season. But his returning to rebellion against God showed that his repentance was not genuine. (Exodus 9:27, 10:16-17) But of those who truly come to Christ in faith and are born again, the Apostle Peter says:
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time." (1 Peter 1:3-5)
"After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you." (1 Peter 5:10)
We truly are saved by grace through faith, and that not of ourselves, for it is the gift of God, lest anyone should boast. We have no reason to boast about anything. Not even for making a decision for Christ. We serve a gracious and merciful God who chose us before the foundation of the world; who shed His precious blood which covered our sins; who changed our hearts so that we would willingly serve Him for all of eternity; who gave us the faith we need; and who holds us in His hand now and forever. To Him be all glory and praise forever and ever!