Challenging Fact #5: Perseverance of the Saints
Grace Secures us for Glory
by Bob Burridge ©2012
When we get something new we like it to last, but few things do. The old prints of favorite family color photographs fade with time. Our cars regularly visit the repair shop. Our plumbing, rooves, and air conditioners need constant maintenance. We grow out of our clothing, or it wears out or goes out of style. Our shoes need regular polishing and replacement.
In this life we take it as an axiom that, “Nothing lasts forever.” It’s hard for us to imagine anything that never deteriorates, or that is really secure.
But our salvation is an imperishable and unalienable gift. What Jesus purchased for his people by his life, death and resurrection cannot be taken from them. It will not deteriorate. It cannot fail.
1 Peter 1:3-9 shows us the certainty of the Christian’s destiny in glory.
“Blessed 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, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith–more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire–may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
If the security of our salvation was up to us alone, it would be no more unchangeable than we are. If salvation is ours by choice, it could be lost if we change our minds, or if we sin. God might doubt the sincerity of our choice. An unbiblical gospel offers us an insecure salvation.
The biblical gospel is entirely different. It teaches us that the perseverance of God makes us persevere all the way to the end of our life on earth.
Our salvation cannot be taken from us if God has promised it.
It is as reliable as the unchangeable God who secured it and applies it to our lives. If we imagine that salvation depends upon us, then there is no security. We need to discredit some common objections which are raised against that teaching of Scripture. Those who believe they can lose their salvation read the Bible with those colored glasses which distort God’s truth and grace.
Some say that you would not be forgiven if you die while sinning. They reason that you need to confess each sin in order that it can be forgiven. They fear that if they died before they had an opportunity to confess it, it will remain on their account. Some have suggested that if a person commits suicide he is not forgiven since he doesn’t live to confess it. He will lose his salvation.
The Bible never makes that kind of statement. It is not confession that saves. It is the saved heart that truly confesses. Confession is not listing your sins. The word used in the New Testament is the Greek word homologein (ὁμολογειν). It literally means to “say the same”. It’s when we agree with God with what he says is true about our sin and guilt. We should be admitting our sins rather than denying them or excusing them. While we should humbly admit or confess every sin, failure to do so does not revoke our election. There are probably countless moments every day when we fail to give God the honor and attention he is due. Jesus paid for all the sins of his people with no exceptions and no conditions that depend upon what we do.
Some worry that there is a sin that is unpardonable. They fear that if a believer commits that particular sin it will not be forgiven. Biblically, there is no “unpardonable sin” for a true believer in Christ. When the Bible speaks of sins that cannot be forgiven it is not talking about the sins of true redeemed children of God. It is speaking of the sins of those whom Christ did not die to redeem. No one can change God’s election or frustrate his eternal plan. [For more detail on specific verses often misunderstood you may want to read the article, “Is There an Unpardonable Sin?”.]
Some also believe that a person can choose to surrender his own salvation. Those who teach that salvation is by man’s choice might say, “what if our choice changes?” His security would then be in danger. But choice was never the cause of salvation. It is God’s grace not our decision that saves us. God’s purpose and grace never change.
Our salvation is not secure because of what we do.
We are secure because God promises to preserve his people. The benedictions confidently express this.
1 Thessalonians 5:23-24, ” Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. ”
Jude 1:24, “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy”
Jesus said He would secure the salvation of those given by the Father in John 6:39, “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.”
In John 10:28-29 Jesus spoke of his sheep saying, “I give them eternal life, 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.”
The Holy Spirit is God’s seal upon those redeemed. Paul explained it in Ephesians 1:12-14, “so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In 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, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”, and 4:30, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”
If the Triune God is for us, our salvation can never be in danger. The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 8:38-39, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, 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.”
On the other hand, there is no security promised to impostors.
Some call themselves Christians, but are not regenerated by grace. Jesus gave an alarming warning in Matthew 7:22-23 which we have looked at in previous studies. There he spoke about the final day of judgment, “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ ”
The self-righteous often say they are Christians. Many even try to confirm this claim by supernatural signs. They claim to prophesy, to be able to cast out demons, and to perform miracles. But these are also common claims made by members of cults and heathen religions. They can be artificial perceptions of things around them.
These special signs are not promised to continue in the church. They belong to the apostolic age when God was still revealing himself and completing the books of Scripture. They were signs given to affirm God’s authority behind the message of the gospel. Even in that era there were some who claimed such things, but were not doing them for the glory of the true God.
These impostors show no repentance, no humble trust in grace alone. They show little passion for biblical worship or for knowing God. They look upon the sins of others with disgust, but turn a blind or indifferent eye to their own sins. There is no security whatever for those who do not belong to Christ.
Those who falsely claim to be Christ’s, do not persevere when the hard challenges come along. They often drift away from sound teaching and sound churches. 1 John 2:19 says, “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.” They were never really Christ’s to begin with.
Security is promised by grace to all who belong to Christ.
This doctrine is often called “the Perseverance of the Saints“. By “saint” we mean anyone truly redeemed by Christ. It’s not “Saint” in the Roman Catholic sense where it means an unusually pious person who has performed true miracles, and has been since taken into the presence of Christ. Biblically, all those who are made alive in Christ, set aside as a redeemed child of God, and clothed with the righteousness of the Savior are properly called “saints”. This is how the word was used in the New Testament. It’s why the Apostle Paul addressed the members of various churches as “saints”.
No one who is made alive spiritually will suffer the second death of eternal and agonizing separation from God. The Bible often calls this new birth a resurrection from the dead. Our dead souls are made alive in Christ.
Ephesians 2:6 tells us that God, “raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus”
Colossians 2:12, “having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.
Revelation 20:5-6, calls this the “first resurrection”. It says, “The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.”
Resurrection is the undoing of death. Death is primarily “separation” in Scripture. Physical death is the separation of body and soul. Spiritual death is the separation of a person from fellowship with God. When we are raised in the time of Christ’s return in judgment our bodies and souls will be rejoined. When we are born again in Christ we are rejoined into fellowship with God. This spiritual resurrection is what must come first. It insures us of the final resurrection to life, re-union with God in glory forever.
Those who remain in their sin and are not converted, do not experience this first resurrection to life in Christ. They are destined to face the horrors of the second death after the final resurrection to judgment on the last day.
All those known by God will be preserved all the way to glory. Romans 8:29-30 takes each believer from eternity past to glorification. As we saw in our past studies, these verses say, “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.”
True believers will not fall away. They will persevere to the end.
This differs from the doctrine people commonly call “eternal security”. Those holding to that version of our promises of security say that once you “decide for Christ” you are secure eternally. When they sin, they are told to dismiss any doubts about their salvation because their past decision saves them.
While those holding that position faithfully may also trust God’s promises, they fail to grasp what the Bible teaches about this matter. We are not saved by our decision. We decide because God saves us. Our security lies in God’s grace, not in our choice.
When there is no changed life, a person who claims to be a Christian should have deep concern about the legitimacy of his profession of faith. No one becomes perfect, but all should see some growth. They should have concern when they fall short of honoring God. James warns us that a redeemed heart should show evidence of grace at work producing a maturing spiritual life. He said in James 1:22, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” Then in James 2:17-18 he wrote, “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”
John also wrote in 1 John 1:6, “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” Then in 1 John 2:3-5 he said, “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says ‘I know him’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him:”
The Bible warns every believer to make his salvation sure.
2 Corinthians 13:5, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves.”
2 Peter 1:10, “… be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure”
Obedience and true repentance are not the causes of our salvation, nor do they contribute to it in any way, but they are among the evidences God tells us we are to look for. Though imperfect in this life, our perseverance is as secure as the promise of forgiveness. Those truly redeemed are moved by the hand of God’s grace to strive toward godliness, even though its final attainment is reserved for when our time here on earth has ended.
When we sin, our attitude should not be to ignore our conscience. Believers will admit their sin and repent before God. We may for a while ignore our conscience, but if you are really a believer, one made spiritually alive by grace, your sin will eventually drive you to God in repentance. You will beg for forgiveness and deliverance from temptation.
The doctrine of perseverance means that a true believer will not excuse his sin. He will by God’s grace remain faithful in Christ. They are kept by God’s power. Though they stumble, they will never again fall into condemnation. God will bring them back to Christ.
I’ve often quoted Pastor Gordon Girod who wrote, “How can I be certain that I am a child of God, and that He will never let me go? Have you ever wept for your sin? Have you ever felt deeply and agonizingly that you have failed your God? You see, it is only that man, that woman, who in the agony of their guilt before God – not once but a thousand times – have sought forgiveness, who can know with certainty that God will not allow them to be lifted from the hollow of His hand.” (Pg. 90 in The Deeper Faith)
True believers will also be progressing out of their sins. There will always be evidence of growth in personal holiness. In Matthew 12:33 Jesus said, “the tree is known by its fruit.” While they may still sin on occasion, sin is no longer their master as Paul reminds us in Romans 6:18, “having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.”
God enables us to overcome temptation. 1 Corinthians 10:13 assures us that, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. ”
There is security in Christ, but we must give up taking credit for any part of our salvation or growth in holiness. We need to understand how depraved we are, and begin to appreciate the grace of the Father who loved us when we were still sinners. We should better appreciate the death of Christ who effectively saves all those so loved by God, and learn to respect the power of the Holy Spirit who implants life where there was death. Our responsibility is to gratefully rest in the promise of God to keep us and to preserve us to the end.
Does the Spirit stir your heart to deep conviction when you sin? Do you feel agony and discomfort when you neglect your Christian duties? Do you cry out for forgiveness and deliverance from your taste for sin? If so, then praise God in humble worship for his love that will not let you go! Come to him trusting his promises to strengthen you and to draw you closer to him.
If this is all strange to you, come to Christ and cry out to Him for new life. Pray for forgiveness and lay hold of his promise. Come humbly and make your calling and election sure.
(Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.)