Sunday, 29 November -0001 19:00

The Perseverance of the Saints

Written by Rev. G.R. Procee
The blessed message of the Gospel is that the triune God saves sinners. The Lord is a complete Saviour who draws sinners to Himself. He converts them and washes them in His blood and also causes them to stay in this blessed state of salvation. We call this the perseverance of the saints. The perseverance of the saints is a rich comfort. Because God is a complete Saviour, He sees to it that His people inherit everlasting life. He not only leads sinners into a new life with the Lord Jesus but also causes His people to persevere in this new life. Everyone of them will obtain everlasting salvation. The Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter XVII, gives a definition of the perseverance of the saints: "They whom God 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." In distinction of other branches of Christianity, the Reformed faith alone holds to this doctrine. It flows from the conviction that God is sovereign and man is totally depraved.

Denial of the Perseverance of the Saints
Many churches deny in doctrine or in practice the sovereignty of God as well as the total depravity of man. The denial of the perseverance of the saints is related to an optimistic view of man. Such a view contends that it is up to man himself to remain in this redeemed state. Man must secure his own salvation. Moreover, it seems that Scripture teaches that there is a falling away from grace. We find this in the following instances:

1. There are various admonitions to persevere to the end (Matthew 24, Rev. 2).

2. Sometimes Scripture speaks as if falling away is possible (1 Cor.10:12).

3. Sometimes the names of those who have fallen away are mentioned, for instance Demas (2 Tim.4:10).

For these reasons Roman Catholics, Arminians, and others teach that it is possible to lose saving grace.

St. Augustine
In the ancient church it was Augustine who emphasized the sovereignty of God and who therefore taught the perseverance of the saints. But because he considered uncertainty and fear from the side of the believers in regard to their salvation to be useful, he taught that those who are born again can lose saving grace. If they belonged to the elect, however, they would regain this grace before death.

Grace Cannot be Lost
Reformed believers stand alone in holding to the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. The issue is whether God maintains and completes the work of grace He began or whether God allows this work of grace to be undone by the power of sin.

Reformed churches have always confessed that God's saving work and saving grace can never be undone. God fulfils His saving work by bringing all the elect, that is, all who are regenerated, to everlasting glory. Perseverance is therefore not a work of man, but a gift of God. He takes care that the work of grace will be brought to completion in the life of the believer.

The Lord does not do this without the believerÕs involvement, but in the activity of perseverance the Lord makes use of the believer. The grace granted in regeneration and faith can never be lost. The Lord gives everlasting life, which by its very definition Òeverlasting,Ó can never be lost. Eternal life is granted to the believer. Calling, regeneration, justification and glorification are an unbreakable and indissoluble bond that is inextricably linked together.

Calls and Admonitions to Persevere
The calls and admonitions in Scripture to persevere are in not negations or denials of the perseverance of the saints. These admonitions are the way by which God realizes and carries out His grace of perseverance. God causes the believer to persevere in faith and in love. We may never deduce from the admonitions that God's children can actually lose their faith and the gift of eternal life. We may compare this with the temptation of the Lord Jesus in the wilderness. We may never say that because He was tempted that He therefore could actually sin. Jesus could not sin; He was God and yet the devil tempted Him and tried to lead Him to sin.

God causes His people to persevere. Perseverance takes place only through the power of God. Left to themselves and their own resources they will most certainly fall away. But God will not permit this to happen. He elects and predestines people to be conformed after the likeness of His Son. "For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethrenÓ (Rom.8:29).

The emphasis should be upon perseverance and not upon preservation. The latter term leads to false presumption. In Scripture we read that the preservation by God of the believers takes place in the way of struggling and persevering. Therefore, there are also many admonitions. God's children are to be watchful and are called to persevere to the end. In this struggle they may be assured that it is ultimately God who causes them to persevere. He watches over His people.

Those who teach that GodÕs children can fall away distinguish between sins whereby this saving grace is lost and sins whereby this saving grace is not lost. But how can one make such a distinction? Scripture makes no such distinctions. Such a view leads to an appalling lack of comfort and assurance of faith and does not tend to the glory of God. Such teaching means that the life of grace is not enduring but can be lost at any time.

It is inevitable that those who teach that the saints can fall away also deny election and the foreknowledge of God. According to this view, eternal security is dependent on the will of man and not upon God. Thus Christ is not a complete Saviour and God becomes dependent on man. Christ died, but ultimately salvation depends on the human will.

Scripture Proofs
The Scriptural data for the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints are plentiful:

áLuke 22:31,32: "And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren." Peter's faith continued, because of the prayers of the Lord Jesus Christ.

áJohn 5:24 "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life." Those who believe have been passed over. Grammatically, a verb tense is used that shows that this is an action with a lasting effect. It is irrevocable.

áJohn 4:14 "But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life." How can a fountain of water springing up to eternal life cease and still be eternal life?

áJohn 6:51 "I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." He who eats or partakes of Christ and His saving work will live forever.

áJohn 11: 25,26 "Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?" Whosoever believes in the Lord Jesus Christ will never die.

áJohn 6:39 "And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day." God will lose none of those whom the Father gave Him, but raise them up at the Last Day.

áJohn 6:37 "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." All whom the Father has given to Christ will come to Him and none of them will be lost.

áJohn 10:27,28. "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any [man] pluck them out of my hand." None can snatch ChristÕs sheep from His hand. This is confirmed in verse 29 where Jesus says: My Father is stronger than all.

áRomans 8:29,30. "For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate [to be] conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified." Predestination inevitably leads to glory.

áThere are may more texts that show clearly the blessed doctrine of the perseverance of the saints: Romans 8:38,39. 1 Corinthians 1:8,9; Ephesians 1: 13,14; 4:30; Philippians 4-6; 2 Timothy 4:18; Hebrews 7: 23,24; 1 Peter 1:3-5.

Clearly we must conclude that the perseverance of the saints is a sound Scriptural doctrine and it affords great comfort to the children of God.

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