Perseverance of the Saints

by Matt Slick

Video Presentation of this topic is found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dU3OSsJ6bks

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These notes were used by me in my defense of Perseverance of the Saints on the radio show.  I did not use everything listed here.  Nevertheless, they should help should you desire to follow along.

 

 

Perseverance of the Saints - Perseverance of the Saints, also sometimes known as eternal security, is the teaching that all who are truly regenerated will, by God’s grace, be kept in the faith.  They will never stop being Christian.  They will never stop persevering.  They will persevere until the time that they die. Christians persevere because of the grace of God, not because of their own ability to do good or remain faithful. True Christians are, therefore, secure in Christ.  They cannot fall away.  They cannot lose their salvation.

  1. Quote: “The perseverance of the saints means that all those who are truly born again will be kept by God’s power and will persevere as Christians until the end of their lives, and that only those who persevere until the end have been truly born again.”(Grudem, Wayne A. (2009-05-18). Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Cómo Entender) (p. 788). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.)
    1. It is God who grants that we believe (Phil. 1:29) and it is he continues to work belief in us (John 6:28-29). 
  2. Our perseverance is not dependent on our ability to keep ourselves in the faith whether it be by not doing bad things, or by doing good things, or by keeping ourselves right with God through our faith.  Instead, our perseverance is dependent upon God’s faithfulness to us, not our faithfulness to him… After all, we are never perfectly faithful.
    1. 1 Pet. 1:5 says that Christians have an inheritance in heaven and that Christians, “…are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”
    2. We will persevere because of God’s work, not ours!  God is the one who keeps us and protects us by his power.  
  3. This perseverance does not mean that the Christians don’t have free will, or that they were forced to believe, or that they cannot backslide.  We will struggle against our sin.  We don’t live perfectly.  But God is always faithful and disciplines us as a loving Father, and brings us to repentance when we stray, even as the regenerate sometimes do. I’m glad that God says he will never leave us or forsake us.
    1. Heb. 13:5, “Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.”
  4. It is absolutely critical that we understand that we are kept by God’s grace and not our ability. Otherwise, grace is not grace. If our salvation depends on our faithfulness in any way, then it most certainly means we would be lost. 
    1. Some people say that they can keep themselves in the grace of God by not doing too a certain set of bad things, by maintaining a certain level of proper, moral behavior, and by continuing to believe.
    2. If we are kept by anything that we do, then grace is not grace.
    3. Would any of you stand before the throne of God and proclaim that you, by the effort of your own will, kept yourself in the faith by remaining faithful? I would hope not.  Such a thing would be boasting.
  5. But some will say that we must continue to believe and be sincere.  Yes, we ought to believe and be sincere before God and not harbor hypocrisy in our hearts.
    1. However, remember that it is God who works faith in us (John 6:28-29). After all, he granted that we believe, (Philippians 1:29).
    2. As far as our sincerity goes, the standard that God demands is perfection, not a sincere yet faulty effort.
      1. 1 Peter 1:16, "because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”“
      2. Galatians 3:10, "For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them.”
        1. Deuteronomy 27:26, “‘Cursed is he who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’"
    3. If anyone were to appeal to his or her sincerity as one of the reasons that he can stand in God’s presence and be saved, then he is appealing to his pride because he is appealing to the goodness within his own heart.
    4. Sincerity is a form of pride if it is used as an appeal to why God ought to continue to love us or continue to save us.
  6. There are Christian denominations that teach it is possible to lose one’s salvation. They teach that you maintain your place with God by conformity to his principles, by not committing certain sins, or too many sins, by conforming to a holiness standard, and by remaining faithful.
    1. But how is this not a form of works righteousness where a Christians salvation is maintained to his own effort?
    2. I’ve asked Christians many times if they take credit for their own believing. Sometimes they say yes.
      1. Again, Philippians 1:29 and John 6:28-29
  7. But this brings up an issue.  Are we so secure in Christ that we are free to sin all we want?  Well, Yes and no.  Let me explain.
    1. How much does a Christian want to sin?  Christians are new creatures in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).  The regenerate, because of the work of God in them, want to resist their sin. They don’t resist their sin to maintain their salvation. They resist their sin because of their regeneration, because they are made new creatures by God, because of God working in both to will and to work for his good pleasure
      1. 2 Cor. 5:17, "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”
      2. Philippians 1:6, "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."
      3. Philippians 2:12–13, "So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure."
    2. But of course on the other hand, as true Christians we are avoid sinning because we want to please our Lord and bring glory to him, not because such avoidance keeps us saved.  Consider this.
      1. Rom. 5:20-6:2, “And the Law came in that the transgression might increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.  6:1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase? 2 May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?”
      2. The issue of antinomianism, the teaching that because we are secure in Christ is okay to sin, is addressed by Paul in these verses. Notice that he says that we have eternal life through Jesus Christ. He immediately asks in Romans 6:1 if it is okay to sin so that God’s grace might increase. But of course, he says it is not okay.  Why? Because we have died to sin therefore we are not to seek it.
      3. Why would he raise the issue if we could lose our salvation? The question only has relevance if were eternally secure and the grace of Christ.
      4. Ephesians 1:4–5, "just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will."
      5. Romans 8:29, "For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren.”
      6. 2 Thessalonians 2:13, "But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth."
    3. God called us from eternity. So, we cannot be lost. We have been given to Christ.
      1. John 6:37–39, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. 38 “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 “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.”
    4. So, eternal security, perseverance of the saints, is not a license to sin.
  8. Verses used to support Perseverance of the Saints
    1. John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”
      1. Notice that Jesus equates eternal life with not perishing.  There is no conditional statement here such as “…should not perish but have eternal life if they stay faithful”, or “if they do enough good”, or “unless they do enough bad.”
      2. If you can have eternal life and lose it, then how is it true that you can never perish? It would mean that you have eternal life, but you might perish?  But that is not what Jesus says. He says they will never perish.
    2. John 10:27-29, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand. 29 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.”
      1. Jesus again equates eternal life with never perishing and again there are no conditional statements that make the eternal life temporary or dependent on our actions or faithfulness.
        1. Yes, we must believe, but we are granted to believe.
          1. Phil. 1:29, "For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake."
        2. Our belief is the work of God
          1. John 6:28–29, "Therefore they said to Him, ‘What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered and said to them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.’"
      2. Also notice in John 10:27-29 that Jesus says that no one is able to snatch his sheep out of his hand (v. 28) or the Father’s hand (v. 29).  Think of two hands, cupped together, holding fast, keep in the Christian secure in his grip. Remember, it is the Christian who has been chosen ‘before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless,’ (Eph. 1:4). It is the Christian who has been chosen for salvation (2 Thess. 2:13), having been predestined by God (Eph. 1:5,11; Rom. 8:29-30). 
      3. Will God make a mistake and lose those whom he has predestined from all eternity to be saved and who he has given to the Son for safe keeping and they will be lost?
      4. But some might say that we can snatch ourselves out of God’s hands.  But this makes no sense since the verse says “no one”, not “no one except yourself.”Besides, “you”belong to the group called “no one”.
    3. John 6:38–40, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 “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. 40 “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."
      1. Notice what Jesus is saying.  In v. 38 he says that he came to do the will of the Father. In verse 39 he says what the will of the Father is, that Jesus lose no one but raise us up on the last day. Then in verse 40 he again says this is the will of the Father that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in him will have eternal life.  Then he again says he will raise them up on the last day.  So Jesus is saying that the will of the Father is that Jesus lose none of whom the Father has given to Jesus and that Jesus raise them up on the last day. It is also the will of the Father that all who hold and believe in the Son will have eternal life and Jesus will raise them up on the last day.  If it is possible for Christ to fail to do the will of the Father by losing some, then it must also be possible that those who behold and believe in the Son don’t have eternal life.
        1. If in v. 39 the will of the Father is not always done, then the will of the Father in 40 is not always done when they believe!  But this cannot be, since those who believe have eternal life.
        2. It is not eternal if it is not eternal. In other words, it is not eternal it can be lost.
      2. From this it should be clear that none are lost because it is the Father’s will that Jesus lose none. 
      3. This agreement is between the Father and Jesus, not between the Christian and Jesus.  It is an arrangement dependent on the faithfulness of Jesus, not the Christian.
      4. The agreement is between the Father and Jesus not between the Christian and Jesus. You see, Jesus was sent by the Father to redeem the ones given to the Son by the Father. The covenant is between the father and the son, not between the son and the people. Jesus said that all the Father has given to Jesus, Jesus will lose none. That is the will the father. If anyone wants to say that people are lost, then they are saying that Jesus failed to do the will of the father, that he did lose some. That would mean Jesus sinned by failing to do the will of the father. It cannot be true.
      5. Since 1 John 5:13 says we can know we have eternal life now, and
    4. Eternal Covenant: Hebrews 13:20 might shed some light on this.
      1. Heb. 13:20, “Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord.”
      2. First, a covenant is a pact or agreement between two or more parties.  This covenant is eternal which implies it is intertrinitarian; that is, it is between the members of the Godhead.
      3. Second, it says “blood”.  This implies the sacrifice of Christ by which we are redeemed. 
      4. Third, Jesus says that he came to save the ones given to him by the Father.  Who are they?  They are those chosen by the Father for the Son:
        1. John 17:2, “even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life.”
      5. So, it would seem that the blood of the eternal covenant is the covenant made between the Father and the son before the foundation of the world with the Father would give to the son those whom the Father had chosen for salvation and the Son would redeem them. The covenant is eternal and is not based on our faithfulness, but on the faithfulness of Christ and his ability to keep the law and do the will of the Father. After all, Jesus said in John 8:29 that he always does what pleases the father. Therefore, since it’s the will of the father that none be lost by Christ, then none can be lost.
      6. 2 Thessalonians 2:13, "But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.”
      7. John 6:39, “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.”
      8. John 8:29, “And He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.”
      9. John 10:11, "I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.”
      10. Colossians 2:14, "having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.”
      11. John 17:2, "even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life.”
      12. Romans 6:20, "For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness."
      13. 1 Corinthians 2:14, "But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.”
      14. Romans 3:10–12, "as it is written, 'There is none righteous, not even one; 11 There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God; 12 All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, There is not even one.'"
      15. Philippians 1:29, "For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake."
      16. John 6:28–29, "Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?”29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.”
      17. John 1:13, “who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”
      18. 1 Peter 1:3, “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,”
  9. 1 John 2:19, "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, in order that it might be shown that they all are not of us."
    1. It is the last hour, v. 18 (this seems to be referring to the entire Christian era as Peter mentions in Acts 2:16-17 and 1 Peter 1:20)
      1. Acts 2:16–17, “but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel: 17 ‘And it shall be in the last days,’ God says, ‘That I will pour forth of My Spirit on all mankind; And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, And your young men shall see visions, And your old men shall dream dreams;”
      2. 1 Peter 1:20, “For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you”
    2. There are many antichrists, vv. 19-26
    3. So John tells us that those who are of God will remain, and those who are not will leave so that it would be made evident that they were never safe to begin with.
      1. 1 John 2:19, “Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have arisen; from this we know that it is the last hour. 19 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, in order that it might be shown that they all are not of us.”
    4. The context mentions antichrists but John is telling us that those who are “of us”will remain in the faith.  Antichrists don’t remain in the faith because they are not sheep and real Christians aren’t antichrists.
      1. 2 Cor. 5:17, "Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come."

 

 

 

 

 
 

About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.