TULIP ... Perseverance of The Saints
“I have been saved, I am being saved, and I shall be saved...”
Perseverance of the Saints (or preservation of the saints): Any person who has once been truly saved from damnation must necessarily persevere and cannot later be condemned. The word “saints” is used in the sense in which it is used in the Bible to refer to all who are set apart by God.
Perseverance: To persist in a state, enterprise, or undertaking in spite of counterinfluences, opposition, or discouragement
Saints: All who are set apart by God, chosen “in Christ”
Bringing up this subject could lead in many different directions. I have read so many thoughts in the blogosphere in regards to this subject.
1. One blogger says that the argument is a non-argument (losing salvation) because he doesn’t think that there is anything to lose yet. He doesn’t belive that we have obtained salvation. We are on a journey and as long as we are found “in Christ” when the time is up, then we will obtain salvation, but as long as we are still in these bodies, we are not truly saved yet.
2. Others (Arminians) seem to insist that somehow, you can change your mind about the Lord and fall away from Him by your own will, thus undoing any salvation that you may have had. It is as though the salvation in Christ rests upon your continuing decisions wholly. (I’m not sure what the difference between this view and #1 is).
3. Some say that once you hear the gospel and receive Christ, you are His and there is no way that you can ever then become not His. He gives you new life at the point of contact and you cannot ever die (or lose that life) by spiritual murder or spiritual suicide after receiving it, because it is eternal life.
4. Others seem to tie this doctrine to the issue of Lordship Salvation … in other words, salvation is more than just believing and receiving, but you must submit to His Lordship upon salvation or it is no real salvation at all. If you have not submitted to His Lordship, then you will not persevere in the good works which God has before ordained for you to walk in, and this is evidence that you really didn’t receive saving faith from the Lord in the first place.
I have always thought this fifth point of Calvinism to be the #3 belief above, but I may be wrong about that. My thinking that #3 was the doctrine was why I said I could accept it according to my understanding of the Scriptures. However, if I am wrong, and somehow it means something different, than maybe I am not even a “one-point Calvinist” either!
So … if Perseverance of the Saints means that once you hear the gospel, receive Christ, and are born-again, you are His … if it means that there is no way that you can ever, then, become lost again … that He gives you new life and you cannot ever die (or lose that life) by any decision or act of your own or another person or a demon. If that is what Perseverance (or preservation) of the Saints means, then I say amen to it! Here are the passages that would lead me to agree with that doctrine.
Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. (John 5:24)
I would here challenge the Arminian or the #1 position from above. One reason why I can’t accept the Arminian label is because of this idea that you can go in and out of salvation for whatever reason. How can you change from being destined for death into a person destined for eternal life and then back into being destined for death again?
All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. (John 6:37)
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. (John 10:28-29)
The Father gives the believer to the Son. We will never be given back. Why? …because of the greatness of God!
Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life? (Romans 5:9-10)
The believers’ reconciliation was wrought while we were His enemies … (have been saved) … God reached out to us sinners when we were not seeking Him … He sought us … once we become believers, how can we be unreconciled to Him? … by becoming unbelievers?
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. (Ephesians 4:30)
The reference to being sealed is that of the branding of an animal. I know people can try to have tatoos removed (but it is never truly removed), but … can you unbrand an animal? … neither can a believer become not one of God’s own. We have become His sheep (however the Calvinist and non-Calvinist differ on how we became those sheep, we can all agree that born-again Christians are truly His sheep, right?)
Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:2)
We are NOW the children of God.
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1)
I don’t believe that I was in Christ before I believed, (which is the logical conclusion of Unconditional Election), but now that I am in Christ, I am sealed there. There is no more condemnation to be charged against me. I am elect, or chosen of God by grace through faith, just like it says Ephesians. I have been chosen in Christ through faith in the gospel, and he has certainly predestined me to be conformed to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29) which will happen when I am translated (the shall be saved part of the sanctification process) upon the death of my body or the “rapture”. (We shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He is [1 John 3:2])
Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy … (Jude 1:24)
He will keep you from stumbling … (am being saved) He presents you blameless, (shall be saved/glorified) not you, yourself, because of your faithfulness or your good works.
Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died--more than that, who was raised--who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword … For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8)
Could we add our own lack of faith after salvation, our struggles with obedience, our lack of good works, our change of heart, our decisions, our rebellion, … to the list of things that can separate us? (These are all sins - Christ died for our sins after we are born-again, too!)
For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. (Romans 11:29)
I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge--even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you--so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (1 Corinthians 1)
And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:6)
I challenge those who would call questioners of Calvinism Arminian: I firmly refute the Arminian idea of falling from grace or opting out of Christ. I have heard certain Calvinists say that an individual who doesn’t hold to all five points aren’t really Calvinists. So if some are not Calvinists because of rejecting one or more points, then how am I an Arminian?
Now, here comes the difficult part. I have read different places where the idea of once saved always saved is sort of ridiculed … OSAS … and I have read several Reformed people who have said they don’t believe in Eternal Security. This makes me wonder if I understand the doctrine of P correctly. Then I read this:
R. L. Dabney: "We [Calvinists] do not teach that any man is entitled to believe that he is justified, and therefore shall not come again in condemnation on the proposition "once in grace always in grace," although he be now living in intentional, willful sin. This is a falsehood of Satan we abhor. We say, the fact that this deluded man can live in willful sin is the strongest possible proof that he never was justified, and never had any grace to fall from. And, once for all, no intelligent believer can possibly abuse this doctrine into a pretext for carnal security. It promises to true believers a perseverance in holiness. Who, except an idiot, could infer from that promise the privilege to be unholy?"
Traditional Calvinism has uniformly asserted that "no man is a Christian who does not feel some special love for righteousness" (Institutes 3.6) and has rejected carnal Christianity as a form antinomianism.
Carnal Christianity would be a person who has “received Christ” but who lives like the devil, simply put. Is this possible? The Bible says “God forbid.” Where is an example of such a person? It could be said that the opposite of the licentious approach to Christian living would be the approach of Lordship Salvation. Is this the true 5th point of Calvinism? I haven’t fully looked into the Lordship Salvation issue. But I can say this: the offer of salvation in the epistles, after the cross, seems to be one of reconciliation, of imputed righteousness, not Lordship. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ … does this imply a whole bunch of conditions that don’t seem to be on the face of it and other pasages like it? Believe and receive … and submit to Lordship? If we could submit to Lordship, then why do we need the cross and the sacrifice of Christ? I find this doctrine a bit confusing.
These verses are brought up (Hebrews 12:14b, Ephesians 5:5, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10). Hmmm … Christ is our righteousness; He will make us fully worthy when we enter the Kingdom of heaven. He will take the positional sanctification that we have as a regenerated individual and translate it into an undeniable, overwhelming reality as these bodies of corruption are put off. We don’t become perfect in this lifetime. To say that the works that we can do after we become born-again in some way contribute to our salvation … that would seem to me like saying that a snail can help me carry a wheelbarrow of dirt across my yard. (But maybe I misunderstand…)
Either way, if P means that we are to continually be looking at ourselves and other Christians to see if we are submitting to the Lordship of Christ and continually evaluating whether or not we have enough works to prove that we are elect in the first place, then I am absolutely a 0-point Calvinist. It seems that this truly is the view of many of the Reformed people that I run across. I guess the only real purpose of the doctrine is to cast doubt or bring assurance on your own salvation or that of others. Is this the widely held view of the Calvinist or is it #3 from above?
I prefer to just look at the perfection of Christ and to know that it is His righteousness and His alone that will see me into the Kingdom and God’s glorious presence. I don’t want to live in sin, but sin is ever present with me. I don’t go around willfully doing acts of sin, but what about sinful thoughts … jealousy … selfishness … are these not sin? Should I doubt my salvation because I am not over these problems? I dare say, no person could ever be saved if it depended on our perseverance in practical sanctification to save us, just because of the very nature of our fleshly mind that is still here. I believe the teaching of practical sanctification is definitely biblical, but it should encourage us, not become a tool for doubt. I refute doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind!
But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin. (Romans 7:23-25)
So am I a one-point Calvinist or not?