Perseverance of the Saints

January 1, 2007

John 10:27-29– “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 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.”

When we approach the doctrines of salvation, we must always remember that it is God alone who works out our salvation. We do nothing of ourselves to earn salvation. It is just not possible, for we are dead in our trespasses and sins. How can a dead man do anything? There is, however, one question which must be addressed concerning salvation. Will those whom the Father has elected, and brought into salvation according to the work and atonement of Christ, continue in their estate of salvation to the end?

This question was dealt with by the Westminster Confession of Faith, and they concluded, that “They, whom the Father hath accepted in His beloved, effectually called, and sanctified by His Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved” (Westminster Confession of Faith 17:1).

In other words, once you are truly saved, your salvation is secured. You are guaranteed to enter the Kingdom of God because He has saved you, and no one is able to snatch you out of His hand. He holds you firmly in His hand, and he will never let go.

When it comes to perseverance, however, the Arminian party during the Reformation saw this doctrine in a different light. They concluded that if God truly secures a person’s salvation, and they cannot lose it completely, would it not them to continue in their sin unconcerned about going to hell? This thinking that God would eternally save men seemed to them to be a recipe for disaster.

However, this thinking that men would continue in their estate of sin while still possessing salvation, completely ignores what Paul told the Romans:

Romans 6:1-4– “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We 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.”

There is a common phrase out there today among many modern Arminians called ‘Once saved, always saved’. This phrase is true, to a point. When we are truly saved by the grace of God, our salvation is preserved, and we will continue to persevere in Christ to the end. This phrase is derived from the practice of Decisional Regeneration. Decisional Regeneration is the belief that if you simply ‘pray a prayer’, you will be saved because you called on the name of God to save you. The Scriptures clearly teach that this is practice is false, for Christ clearly taught that not all those who ‘pray a prayer’, or call upon the name of the Lord, go to heaven:

Matthew 7:21-23– “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 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.” (emphasis added)

Christ has told us that not all of those who say they have prayed a prayer will go to heaven! Decisional Regeneration is a clear violation of what is clearly taught in Scripture. The same principle applies to the ‘Altar Call’. It is not a prayer that will get you into heaven, only mercy and grace of God through the calling of the Holy Spirit causing you to repent, believe, have faith in Christ is what will bring you into heaven. Decisional Regeneration is a doctrine of demons; contrary to Scripture.

The implication of Decisional Regeneration is that it is a guaranteed process, but Christ says that not all who claim Christ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Many of those who claim to be born again because they simply prayed a prayer will not enter, for they were never of the elect from the beginning. Claiming to be a Christian because you prayed a prayer is as far from the truth as claiming to be a Marine because you hold a rifle. Holding a rifle in your hand does not make you a Marine, so saying a prayer does not make you a Christian.

Part 2

There is one passage, however, that Arminians (the ones who believe you are able to lose your salvation) will turn to when their arguments are being torn down:

Hebrews 6:4-6-“For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they then fall away, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.”

To the Arminian, this passage seems to say that those who were ‘enlightened’ were saved, and they fell away, and they lost their salvation. They were given salvation through the work of the Spirit, yet their faith was corrupted and their salvation was lost in their sinful ways of ‘crucifying once again the Son of God’.

The problem is that the meaning of ‘enlightened’ is assumed to mean ‘saved’. When the writer of Hebrews says ‘enlightened’, we cannot assume he means ‘saved’. In the Greek New Testament, the word is photizthentas, which means ‘to give light to, to shine’, or ‘to enlighten, to illuminate’. The word photizthentas in Greek literally means ‘enlightened’! The word implies no suggestion of the person being saved, but it does clearly mean that the person has been exposed to and been given enlightenment of salvation, but not attained it, for Christ never knew him.

Even though enlightened cannot necessarily mean ‘saved’, the rest of the verse seems to imply otherwise. It states that this person has ‘tasted the heavenly gift, and have shard in the Holy Spirit’. Does that not mean saved? This phrase seems to indicate salvation when the passage is read at face value The problem is that this interpretation contradicts the rest of Scripture.

We must remember that in he early New Testament era (when Hebrews was written) that when the Holy Spirit filled someone, it not only filled them spiritually, the Holy Spirit was physically visible (Pentecost for example), and it came down at groups of people (like Pentecost). Thus, a person could physically see the work and power of the Holy Spirit, and ‘taste the heavenly gift’, and ‘share in the Holy Ghost’ when the Holy Spirit filled a group. So, a person could very well have seen the work of the Holy Spirit visibly, yet not be of the elect. With this in mind, then those who fall away, as the passage states, they must have denied the obvious power of God, and never attained salvation. Knowing, then, that they knew it was God at work, and yet denying it, is the unforgivable sin of blaspheming the Holy Spirit. Therefore, we can conclude that the men referred to in this passage of Hebrews, were never saved, but were reprobate sinners, and were never of the elect.

Now that we have seen what this passage in Hebrews is explaining, there is a principle to be learned. When the Bible is clear in one area (such as Matt. 7), and not as clear in another, we must use the clearer passage to aid in studying and explaining what the less clear passage means. Scripture, as a whole, is simple to understand. It is not always clear when specific details are given, but the general meaning is always understood by those who have been redeemed by the blood of Christ, and given new hearts by the Holy Spirit. So, since the passage in Matthew is clear as to its meaning, we ought to use that passage which is easily understood to derive the deeper meaning of the other. In other words, a clear passage can bring light to a more difficult one.

In Philippians, Paul says:

Philippians 1:6– “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.”

Christ, who has begun the work in you, will complete it! You will not fall away if the good work of Christ has begun in you. Dr. Gordon Clark in his book Philippians writes on this verse:

“The work of salvation in the heart or soul was initiated by Christ, not by the human person. The text does NOT say that because Christ began to work after the sinner had started the good work, He, Christ, would continue His efforts too. The text says that Christ began the good work: He also will perfect or complete it, continuing His work throughout the now regenerated sinner’s life.”

In John 10:28-29, Christ has given us a wonderful promise. If we truly are saved, we will be held in God’s hand forever, and no one, not even ourselves, can cause God to loosen His grip on us. When His hand has taken hold of us, there is no escaping. We will continue and persevere to the end because He preserves us.

Colossians 2:13– “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses,”

Dr. John Gill, a Baptist preacher from England and Calvinist from the 1700’s, writes on this verse:

“…forgiveness of sin is not done by piecemeals, or at different times, or by diverse acts, but is done at once, and includes sin past, present, and to come; and is universal, reaches to all sin original and actual, before and after conversion; sins of thought, word, and action.”

Many Arminians in their debate over whether Christ died for all our sins say that Christ only paid for the sins we have already committed, not the ones we will commit. The logical problem is that ALL of our sins were in the future when Christ died on the cross! When Christ died, we had not been born, and therefore had not yet sinned. If he only paid for past sins, He didn’t pay for any of our sins at all!

Calvinists believe that Christ’s sacrifice satisfied the all of the sins of the elect, and His sacrifice was effectual. Regeneration is based on the atoning and saving work of Christ, not the decision or work of man, and they cannot fall away from their state of grace, for “no one can snatch them out of [His] hand”. Therefore, those who ‘fall away’ from the Christian faith, and deny the atoning work of the Spirit were never Christians in the first place. Their willing ignorance and sin of unbelief destroys their claim of salvation from the beginning.

The Synod of Dort concluded on Perseverance:

“For God, who is rich in mercy, according to His unchangeable purpose of election does not take His Holy Spirit from His own completely, even when they fall grievously. Neither does He let them fall down so far that they forfeit the grace of adoption and the state of justification, or commit sin which leads to death (the sin against the Holy Spirit), and plunge themselves, entirely forsaken by Him, into eternal ruin.”

Those who are saved will persevere to the end. Their salvation is securely preserved by God, their justification finalized, and their souls sealed in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Therefore, they will continue to be Christians throughout their lives, even if heinous sins interfere. Their actions will demonstrate their faith as James has said:

James 2:17-22– “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. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe–and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works;”

Our works will demonstrate our salvation, and our salvation will into eternity as He has promised.

Scriptural support of the Perseverance of the Saints:

Romans 5:8-10– “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.”

Hebrews 9:12,15– “he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption”, “Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.”

Ephesians 4:30– “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”

2 Timothy 4:18– “The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.”

John 6:47– “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.”

Hebrews 12:28– “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe,”

Romans 8:35-39– “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 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.


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