The Doctrine of Perseverance
Perseverance is perhaps best described using the three terms Preservation, Perseverance and Assurance.
I. Preservation - God will preserve by His great power and grace all those who have been truly born again.
Jesus anchors our eternal salvation in the will of the Sovereign Father
· 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. 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. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day."
· 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."
The Bible also teaches that the Holy Spirit has been given to us to ensure our preservation
· Ephesians 1:13-14 "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.
Peter describes our salvation as an eternal inheritance that every Christian will indeed get
· 1 Peter 1:3-5 "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."
II. Perseverance - Those who are truly born again will persevere in their faith until death.
Since God has promised that everyone who truly believes in His Son and is born again will be saved, it is not surprising to see that the New Testament is quick to point out that all true Christians will persevere. that is, they will live out their faith for their whole life until they die and are ushered into the presence of Jesus. In this sense, if someone perseveres, it is good evidence that the Lord preserved (hence, "truly saved") them.
· Colossians 1:21-23 "And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister."
· 1 John 2:19 "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."
A Crucial Consideration - Do Some People Lose Their Salvation?
Although some Christians have taught that a person genuinely born again can lose that salvation (namely, Wesleyan Methodists and the Salvation Army), they are wrong.
If a man or woman does not persevere in the faith by the grace of God, this is evidence that they were never truly born again. This is not just logic or human reasoning, but is everywhere supported in the New Testament. Besides John's words above, consider the testimony of others:
Jesus said there would be many who were self-deceived and who would presumably deceive others
· 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.'"
Judas certainly deceived the other Apostles (but not Jesus!)
· John 6:70-71 "Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil." He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the Twelve, was going to betray him."
· Luke 22:22-23 "For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!" And they began to question one another, which of them it could be who was going to do this.
Jesus said many would live in a way that looked very Christian
· Luke 8:5-8 "A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it. And some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it."
The Bible has many warning passages, not to cause fear in Christians that they might lose their genuine salvation, but to caution those who profess faith in Jesus but do not live for Him that they are not saved. They must turn from sin or else the church must conclude they were never truly born again. It is worth noting that they Bible always speaks of our current hope. not some action (such as walking an aisle or raising a hand) that we have done in the past. (See Hebrews 6 for an example.)
III. Assurance - The personal conviction that my sins have been forgiven and my soul is saved.
The Bible says that we will experience some level of assurance wrought by the Holy Spirit that we are truly born again if we really are born again.
· Romans 8:16-17 "The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs-heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him."
· 1 John 4:13 "By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit."
Assurance comes by several means: (condensed from Grudem, pp. 803-806)
1. Do I have a present trust in Jesus for salvation?
2. Is there evidence of the Lord's saving work in my life?
* The fruit of the Spirit - Galatians 5:22-23
* Positive influence on my church - Matthew 7:16
* Rejoicing in sound doctrine - 1 John 2:23-24
* Continuing vital relationship with Jesus - John 15
* Love for fellow Christians - 1 John 2:10 / James 2:17-18
* Obedience to God's Word - 1 John 2:4-6
3. Do I see a long term pattern of overall growth in my Christian life?
Assurance may increase and decrease through our Christian life particularly through the fluctuations of our "progressive" sanctification and our knowledge of God's Word.
A Final Warning
"Eternal security" or the classic "once-saved / always-saved" terminology can be deadly. Thousands have heard these terms and then gone on to live the life they please, thinking they are truly saved. The Bible always bases our salvation on our current hope in Christ though, not our historical hope! It is your current relationship with Jesus, not the glory days of the past that matter. The proof of God preserving you until the day of your death is your perseverance - your "not giving up" in this life. Don't be fooled to your own damnation!! If you died today, would you be ready to meet your Maker?