Perseverance of the Saints


Essential Truths of the Christian Faith

Perseverance of the Saints
==========================
Most of us know people who have made a
profession of faith in Christ and who
have perhaps even made a strong display of faith, involving themselves deeply
in the life and ministry of the church, only to later repudiate that faith and
become spiritual dropouts. Such
evidence always raises the question, can a
person once saved lose his
salvation? Is apostasy a clear and present danger
for the
believer?

The Roman Catholic church teaches that people can and do lose
their salvation.
If a person commits a mortal sin, such sin kills the grace
of justification
that inhabits his soul. If he dies before being restored to
a state of grace
via the sacrament of penance, he will go to
hell.

Many Protestants also believe that it is possible to lose one’s
salvation. The
warnings of Hebrews 6 and Paul’s concern about becoming
“disqualified” (1
Corinthians 9:27), as well as the examples of King Saul and
others, have led
some to conclude that people can fall fully and finally from
grace. On the
other hand, Reformed theology teaches the doctrine of the
perseverance of the
saints. This doctrine is sometimes called “eternal
security.” In essence the
doctrine teaches that if you have saving faith you
will never lose it, and if
you lose it, you never had it. As John writes,
“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 they might be made
manifest, that none of them
were of us” (1 John 2:19).

We know it is
possible for people to be enamored by certain elements of
Christianity
without ever embracing Christ Himself. Perhaps a young person is
attracted to
a fun and stimulating youth group that has an appealing program.
The person
may be “converted” to the program without being converted to
Christ. Such a
person may be like those pictured in the parable of the sower:

A sower
went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell by the wayside;
and it
was trampled down, and the birds of the air devoured it. Some fell on
rock;
and as soon as it sprang up, it withered away because it lacked
moisture. And
some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up with it and
choked it. But
others fell on good ground, sprang up, and yielded a crop a
hundredfold.
(Luke 8:5-8)

The parable may refer to those who believed at first, but
afterwards fell
away, or it may mean that those who “believed” had a false or
spurious faith,
as Reformed theology maintains. Only the seed that falls on
the good ground
yields the fruit of obedience. Jesus describes these as ones
who hear the word
“with a noble and good heart” (Luke 8:15). Their faith
proceeds from a truly
regenerate heart.

The doctrine of perseverance
does not rest on our ability to persevere, even
if we are regenerate. Rather,
it rests on the promise of God to preserve us.
Paul writes to the
Philippians, “Being confident of this very thing, that He
who has begun a
good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus
Christ” (Philippians
1:6). It is by grace and grace alone that Christians
persevere. God finishes
what He begins. He insures that His purposes in
election are not
frustrated.

The golden chain of Romans 8 gives further testimony to this
hope. “Moreover
whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called,
these He also
justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified”
(Romans 8:30). Paul
goes on to declare that nothing “shall be able to
separate us from the love of
God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans
8:39).

We have security because salvation is of the Lord and we are
His
craftsmanship. He gives the Holy Spirit to every believer as a promise
that He
will fulfill what He begins. He has likewise sealed every believer by
the Holy
Spirit. He has marked us with an indelible mark and given His
personal down
payment that guarantees He will finish the
transaction.

A final basis of confidence is found in the high-priestly
work of Christ, who
intercedes for us. Just as Jesus prayed for the
restoration of Peter (and not
for Judas), so He prays for our restoration
when we stumble and fall. We may
fall for a season but never fully or finally
fall away. Jesus prayed in the
upper room, “While I was with them in the
world, I kept them in Your name.
Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none
of them is lost except the son of
perdition, that the Scripture might be
fulfilled” (John 17:12). Only Judas,
who was a son of perdition from the
beginning, whose profession of faith was
spurious, was lost. Those who are
truly believers cannot be snatched from
God’s hand (John
10:27-30).

Many people make a profession of faith in Christ and later
repudiate Him.

Perseverance of the saints rests on the promises of God to
preserve the
saints.

God will bring to completion the salvation of the
elect.

Those who depart from the faith were never really
believers.

We can have confidence in our salvation because we have been
sealed with the
Holy Spirit. He is God’s pledge to bring our salvation to
completion.

The intercession of Christ is for our preservation.

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