Russ on Perseverance

Believe it or not, this post is near the 1,000 word maximum (woo hoo!!!). Since most of us will agree on this one (I haven’t seen too many Arminians involved in our discussions, so this should draw them out if they are out there), I’ll forego the beginning joke…just the fact that I’m staying in my word limit should make you smile :) .

In my last few posts, we began the process of looking at each of the components of TULIPS in order to see how well this model of salvation aligns with Scripture. In looking at Total Depravity, we agreed with much of the traditional position though we found no Scriptural evidence for regeneration prior to faith; an understanding that death means spiritual inability to act; and that the non-believer is unable to exercise faith. Thus, we stated that a person will never seek God in their sinfulness. However, through the conviction of the Holy Spirit, God seeks each individual making them aware of their standing before Him. It is at this point that a person does or does not exercise their faith in Jesus. Once they believe, they are given life which is the presence of God through the Holy Spirit living in them. All the benefits of salvation are immediately bestowed upon them (though final fulfillment awaits our resurrection).

In our overview of Unconditional Election, we found little in the Calvinist position that aligns with Scripture. There is only one individual in Scripture identified as elect – Jesus (all other identifications are of a group of people). {{Ephesians 1}} tells us that we are elect in Him (i.e. our election is by association not by decree) and that God foreknew this in {{1 Peter 1}} and {{Romans 8}}.

We completely disagreed with the position of Limited Atonement. Since Calvinists cannot supply Scriptural proof that Christ died only for the elect, we believe there is a universal redemption that has been paid for all mankind ({{1 Timothy 2:6}}, {{2 Peter 2:1}}). This redemption is applied to the unregenerate the moment that they place their faith in Jesus ({{Galatians 4:5}}).

We also completely disagreed with the position of Irresistible Grace primarily on the ground already defended in Total Depravity. Since Scripture clearly states in several places that faith is prior to regeneration and because there are passages that would contradict the idea of saving faith being a direct gift of God, we cannot support this point in Calvinism.

In this article, we will look at the fifth component of TULIPS – Perseverance of the Saints. I will follow the same model as I did with the last posts by defining Perseverance of the Saints from a Calvinist perspective, list some places where Biblical support is lacking, and make a suggestion for a position that better embraces Scripture.

Perseverance of the Saints from a Calvinist Perspective

Since mankind in his total depravity cannot in any way provide salvation, and since salvation is wholly based on what God did for us, there is no reason why our salvation would ever be lost. This not only includes external circumstances separating us from God but also includes ourselves

Nothing, including ourselves, can separate us from God ({{Romans 8:37-39}}). Those who do not persevere to the end of their lives show themselves to not have been saved to begin with.

Where I Think Calvinists Lack Scriptural Support

I appreciate that a vast majority of Calvinists have changed this position to be Preservation of the Saints rather than Perseverance of the Saints. The reason is that perseverance tends to focus on what I do, whereas preservation tends to focus on what God does. Preservation opens up the idea that a person may die either backslidden or in sin and yet still be a believer (since his/her salvation is not dependent on what they do). Perseverance does no such thing and thus negates any assurance of salvation. Here’s why.

If a person must persevere to the end in order to be saved, no one can with any certainty say that they will be able to persevere to the end. The only way to be certain is to die. Though this may sound extreme, I know Calvinists who hold to this (that they can never be assured of their salvation till death). I realize that there are many camps that Calvinists fall into and so I’m sure that there will be many who will state, ‘They don’t believe in REAL Calvinism,’ but the fact remains that this is a logical conclusion of perseverance.

Preservation, on the other hand, assures us that it is not what we do that maintains our salvation but what God has and continues to do in and for us. Thus, a person who has trusted in Christ can have full assurance of their salvation regardless of what they do.

This does not suggest that the Christian life is one in which we have no concern about sin since it does not affect our justification – actually, just the opposite ({{Romans 6:15-23}}). Thus, preservation, rather than perseverance, embraces the Scriptural teaching regarding the certain outcome of our salvation.

However, the Calvinist may balk at this. Since we have stated that the unregenerate can exercise faith and that the liberation from sin occurs at the point that they do so, can we not lose our salvation if we stop believing? No for I do not believe that the regeneration and indwelling work of the Holy Spirit in our lives will allow a person to lose all faith ({{1 John 5:1}}). A true believer may struggle with doubts – even doubting their own salvation – but that is a far cry from having no faith. Even though it is a dire place that a person gets to who believes that they are no longer saved, as someone who has counseled many, it is a world of difference from the person who has no saving faith at all.

So How Do We Understand “Perseverance” Based on Scripture

As long as we are willing to change this to Preservation of the Saints, I am in complete agreement with this specific point of Calvinism (though, clearly, not necessarily with the accompanying support of other parts of Calvinism). We cannot lose our salvation because once we have placed our faith in Christ, we are given the Holy Spirit – God in us ({{1 Corinthians 3:16}}) – as a promise that one day our life will be completely defined by God with us ({{Revelation 21:3}}). This regenerating of our lives sustains our faith such that although it may ebb and flow, it is never extinguished ({{1 John 5:1}}). All of this is because of God’s grace which is greater than any of our sin {{(Romans 5:20}}).

-Pastor Russ-

  • T – Total Depravity
  • U – Unconditional Election
  • (F) – Faith
  • L – Limited Atonement
  • I – Irresistible Grace
  • P -Perseverance
  • S – Sovereignty
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