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Doctrines of Grace - Perseverance of the Saints

What do we mean by this doctrine?

"Those whom God hath accepted in the Beloved, effectually called and sanctified by His Spirit and given the precious faith of His elect unto, can neither totally nor finally fall from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end and be eternally saved..." (Baptist Confession of Faith, 1689).

Once having brought a person to walk the path of life in Christ, the path of faith, love, obedience and holiness, God will ensure that that person continues in that way until He takes him home to glory.

The necessity of perseverance

1. Perseverance in the faith is the acid test of Christian profession John 8:31; Hebrews 3:6-14
2. Jesus declared that only those who persevered to the end would be saved. Matthew 24:13
3. Perseverance is that which distinguishes the genuine believer from the false professor. 1 John 2:19.

There is such a thing as apostasy (Hebrews 6:1-9). In the light of what we shall consider below such people cannot have been truly in Christ in the first place. Remarkable religious experiences are not the real test of Christian profession. There is such a thing as false (temporary) faith (Matthew 13:20,21).

But true saints will persevere, and for the following reasons:

The purpose of GodThe salvation of any person comes about ultimately because of the purpose of God. His election is according to God's purpose (Romans 9:11); effectual calling is according is according to God's purpose (Romans 8:28). If a man's salvation is purposed therefore by God (compare Acts 13:48) that salvation will be effected, for God always fulfills His purposes. Isaiah 46:10,11; Daniel 4:35.

The power of God:  in John 10 Jesus links the believers security with both the purpose and the power of God, John 10:29. The Bible declares God to be Almighty (Genesis 17:1); we speak of Him as the omnipotent God. His power extends over things animate and inanimate. Because of the power of God nothing can separate the believer from the love of God, Romans 8:35-39.

The promises of God:  God has promised that His people shall have everlasting life. He has promised that they will be "kept" and brought before His throne. Notice John 10:28; 5:24; 6:39; Matthew 28:20; Titus 1:1,2. God cannot go back on His promises and He declares them to be "yea and amen" in Jesus Christ, 2 Corinthians 1:20.

The prayers of Christ:  the present ministry of Christ is that of intercession, Romans 8:34. Christ"s prayers are always granted by the Father, John 11:41,42. What is Christ praying for now? See John 17:24. Notice also Hebrews 7:25. This verse is of great significance. It is not enough that we merely begin the Christian life, we must "persevere or perish" (Spurgeon). We must be "saved to the uttermost"; and that comes about through the intercession of the living Christ.Christ is praying that supplies of grace be given to His people, that they might persevere. He is praying that their faith shall not fail (see Luke 22:32). His prayer will be answered!

The permanence of the Spirit's indwelling:  the Spirit of God is given to every believer to be in him and to be with him forever, John 14:16,17. Compare also Ephesians 4:30. None who are the temples of the Holy Spirit will end up in hell.

But note what this doctrine does not mean

It does not mean that so long as a person has "asked Jesus to come into his heart", that he is therefore saved even though his life is not in the least changed. We must understand that true faith always reveals itself by works and spiritual fruit. James 2:14ff; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Matthew 7:21-23; Ephesians 2:8-10; 1 John 1:6; 2:3,4; 3:9,14,24; 5:2-4.It does not mean that a true Christian may not experience periods of backsliding and spiritual decline. Compare Luke 22:31ff.It does not mean that a Christian sits back and does nothing but is nevertheless kept by God. Notice the "conflict" terminology of the New Testament, Ephesians 6:11-20; 1 Timothy 6:12; 2 Corinthians 10:4,5 etc.

Those who are careless and indifferent to spiritual things and disobedient to the Lord Jesus Christ can take no comfort from this doctrine. It speaks of the perseverance (i.e. the ongoing walk in faith, love, obedience and holiness) of the saints (i.e. those who are separated or committed to Christ). The expression "once saved always saved" is true only AS LONG AS OUR UNDERSTANDING OF "SAVED" IS BIBLICAL. If it is not then the popular expression can be highly dangerous and even fatal. Our forefathers were wiser in their terminology!

But this doctrine is both a stimulus (they must persevere) and a comfort (they shall be preserved) to all true believers. Grace shall keep them, protect them, enable them, strengthen them, preserve them and ultimately bring them home to glory.

"Through many dangers toils and snares
I have already come;
Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home"
(John Newton.)