Friday, August 28, 2009

The Perseverance of the Saints

We come now to the 5th and final point in the five points of Calvinism: Perseverance of the Saints. Let me begin tonight by giving you a working definition of this truth. When we talk about the perseverance of the saints, we are saying that “God preserves all the elect and causes them to persevere in faith and obedience to the end. None are continually back-slidden or finally lost.” In other words, those whom God has chosen, Christ has died for, and the Spirit has effectually called, will persevere in faith unto the end either death or the second coming of Christ. So all those who are spiritually united to Christ through regeneration are eternally secure in Him. Nothing can separate them from the eternal and unchangeable love of God. They have been predestined to eternal glory and are therefore assured of heaven. Romans 8:28-30 says, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.”

Definition of Perseverance from the Westminster Confession of Faith:

17.1 They, whom God hath accepted in His Beloved, effectually called and sanctified by His Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace; but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved.

17.2 This perseverance of the saints depends not upon their own free will, but upon the immutability of the decree of election, flowing from the free and unchangeable love of God the Father; upon the efficacy of the merit and intercession of Jesus Christ; the abiding of the Spirit, and of the seed of God within them; and the nature of the covenant of grace: from all which ariseth also the certainty and infallibility thereof.

17.3 Nevertheless, they may, through the temptations of Satan and of the world, the prevalence of corruption remaining in them, and the neglect of the means of their preservation, fall into grievous sins; and, for a time, continue therein: whereby they incur God's displeasure, and grieve His Holy Spirit, come to be deprived of some measure of their graces and comforts; have their hearts hardened, and their consciences wounded; hurt and scandalize others, and bring temporal judgments upon themselves.

Let me use terms we’re all familiar with: “Once Saved, Always Saved” or “eternal security.” Both emphasize the certainty of salvation of the elect. Those whom Christ effectually calls He saves. And those whom He saves He keeps forever. Jesus said in John 6:39, “This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.” It should be observed that the perseverance of the saints is logically connected with the preceding points. If man is totally depraved then he cannot respond to God; God must unconditionally elect man to salvation. For those who are elected, Christ has died to secure their salvation. God then irresistibly draws them to effect their salvation but also keeps them secure in that salvation to the end. There are two aspects to this definition. The first is God preserves all the elect and causes them to persevere in faith and obedience to the end. A good illustration is found in John chapter 6. Jesus had just fed the 5000. Before they could pursue making Him their king He dismisses them and the disciples and goes up the mountain to pray. After it became dark the disciples decided to cross the Sea of Galilee to Capernaum. While they were in the middle of the sea, a storm arose but all of sudden they saw Jesus coming to them walking on the water. Peter calls out and says if it is you bid me to come to you on the water, so Jesus said come. But when he saw the storm he began to sink and called on the Lord to save Him. The Lord took him by the hand and they both entered the boat and immediately the storm stopped and they were on the shore of Capernaum. The next morning the crowds went looking for Jesus. They found Him in Capernaum and began questioning Him as to when He got there. But Jesus knew the true motive of their hearts and said in verses 26-27, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, but not because you saw signs, but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.” After further dialogue, Jesus plainly states to them that He is “the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst” (v.35) but they were not interested in this spiritual bread only physical. Jesus even said in verse 36 that they had seen Him, and “yet [they] do not believe.” They didn’t understand that the One who turned the five barley loaves and two fish into enough food to feed 15-20 thousand people was the Messiah the prophets spoke of. All they saw Jesus as someone who could be their political leader who would deliver them from Roman oppression and provide their daily needs. But Jesus says something in verse 37 that is most revealing in regards to salvation. He says, “John 6:37, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.” John MacArthur summarizes this verse by saying, “This verse emphasizes the sovereign will of God in the selection of those who come to come to Him for salvation (cf. vv. 44, 65; 17:6, 12, 24). The Father has predestined those who would be saved (see notes on Rom. 8:29, 30; Eph. 1:3–6; 1 Pet. 1:2). The absolute sovereignty of God is the basis of Jesus’ confidence in the success of His mission (see note on v. 40; cf. Phil. 1:6). The security of salvation rests in the sovereignty of God, for God is the guarantee that "all" He has chosen will come to Him for salvation. The idea of "gives me" is that every person chosen by God and drawn by God (v. 44) must be seen as a gift of the Father’s love to the Son. The Son receives each "love gift" (v. 37), holds on to each (v. 39), and will raise each to eternal glory (vv. 39, 40). No one chosen will be lost (see notes on Rom. 8:31–39). This saving purpose is the Father’s will which the Son will not fail to do perfectly (v. 38; cf. 4:34; 10:28, 29; 17:6, 12, 24).”

Jesus makes two other statements similar to this one. Verse 44, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.” He also states this in verse 65, “And He was saying, "For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.” All three verses point to the sovereign, electing, predetermination of God in salvation. God elects, chooses, before the foundation of the world whom He will save and whom He will pass by and leave to unbelief and sin and rebellion. He does this unconditionally, not on the basis of foreseen faith that humans produce by a supposed power of ultimate self-determination (‘free will’).” Those whom the Father gives to Jesus will come. No one can come to Jesus unless the Father draws him or grants him. Notice the second half of John 6:37 tells us that “All that the Father Gives to Jesus He Preserves.” The last part of verse 67 is a reference to preservation. To understand this verse we need to understand the word “cast out” (ekballo) which means to “drive away or cast out.” D.A. Carson says, “In almost all of its parallel occurrences, it is presupposed that what is driven out or cast out is already ‘in’. ‘I will never drive away’ therefore means ‘I will certainly keep in’.” In other words, this last clause assures the eternal preservation of everyone that comes to Christ. Jesus says to the Father concerning His disciples in John 17:12, “While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name which You have given Me; and I guarded them and not one of them perished but the son of perdition, so that the Scripture would be fulfilled.”

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