Wednesday, 22 July 2015

What About the Calvinistic Doctrine of “Perseverance of the Saints”?

The Doctrine Concisely Stated:1

“You cannot lose your salvation. Because the Father has elected, the Son has redeemed, and the Holy Spirit has applied salvation, those thus saved are eternally secure. They are eternally secure in Christ. Some of the verses for this position are John 10:27-28 where Jesus said His sheep will never perish; John 6:47 where salvation is described as everlasting life; Romans 8:1 where it is said we have passed out of judgment; 1 Cor. 10:13 where God promises to never let us be tempted beyond what we can handle; and Phil. 1:6 where God is the one being faithful to perfect us until the day of Jesus' return” (Matt Slick, “What is Calvinism?,” The Calvinist Corner [2012], <https://carm.org/calvinism>).

A Biblical Response:

     Jesus’ “sheep” are those who listen to him and follow him (John 10:3, 4, 16, 27) = obedience. As long as this condition is met, “they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand” (v. 28; cf. 8:12, 31, 51).2 However, sheep can and do go astray (Matt. 18:12; 26:31; 1 Pet. 2:25), and when sheep stop listening to and following the Shepherd, they are vulnerable and lost (John 6:66, 70-71). See also 1 Thess. 3:5; Jas. 5:19-20. While the Lord provides adequate assistance (1 Cor. 10:13; Phil. 1:6; 4:19; Heb. 4:16; et al.), maintaining salvation also requires endurance and continued faithfulness (Matt. 24:13, 42, 44-51; cf. 1 Cor. 9:27; Heb. 3:14; 4:11; 6:11; 10:23, 36; 12:1-7).
     Among those “sanctified in Christ Jesus” at Corinth (1 Cor. 1:2) was a wayward Christian needing to be disciplined by the church, “that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord” (5:1-5, 11). Paul’s admonitions were to be heeded lest “the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died” (1 Cor. 8:11; cf. 2 Cor. 2:15). These Christians were saved by the gospel conditionally: “if you hold fast that word which I preached to you – unless you believed in vain” (1 Cor. 15:1-2; cf. 2 Cor. 6:1).
     The addressees of Paul’s letter to the Galatians are reminded: “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal. 3:26-27). Nevertheless, having been influenced by false teachers regarded as anathema [accursed of God], these “sons of God” were in the process of “turning away … from Him who called you in the grace of Christ” (1:6-9). In fact, the situation was so dire that if they continued on their current path, Paul contends: “you have become estranged [severed] from Christ … you have fallen from grace” (5:4). See also 1 Tim. 1:19; 4:1.
     Peter’s epistles are addressed to the “elect” of God (1 Pet. 1:2; 2 Pet. 3:1), wherein warnings are issued of “destructive heresies” leading to “destruction” (2 Pet. 2:1-3), involving those who “have forsaken the right way and gone astray” (v. 15). False teachers “allure … the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error” (v. 18). “For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them” (vv. 20-21).
     Perhaps more than any other writing in the New Testament, Hebrews affirms and warns against the possibility of apostasy (2:1-3; 3:12-13; 4:1; 6:4-8; 10:26-38; 12:15, 25). These warnings are directed to those in the process of drifting away from Christ and heading toward complete separation from God. Conversely, for those sincerely striving to live in accordance with the Lord’s directives, perhaps more than any other New Testament document Hebrews offers great reassurance (3:6, 14; 4:16; 6:11, 17-20; 7:19; 10:19-22, 39; 11:1; 12:1-3; 13:5-6).
--Kevin L. Moore

Endnotes:
     1 True Calvinists prefer the descriptive expression “perseverance of the saints” rather than commonly misappropriated terminology like “eternal security” or “once saved always saved.” See Dewayne Bryant, The Perseverance of the Saints, in Gospel Advocate 151:6 (June 2009): 24-25. Wayne Grudem states the Calvinist perspective as follows: “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 … only those who persevere until the end have been truly born again” (Systematic Theology 788).
     2 Scripture quotations are from the NKJV.


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