To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life:
Ro 2:7

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The Perseverance of God's Preserving Grace

Today, many in the world of Christendom believe in the truth of “once saved, always saved.” However, this truth is greatly misused and perverted. Many “preachers” and religious people, who claim the name of Christ, teach and preach that all one has to do to be a child of God is to make a profession of a faith, walk an aisle, believe a certain passage of Scripture, join a church, be baptized, or some other step or steps. Many of these same people also teach that the person who follows their set formula will be saved and can never be lost, no matter how that person lives. This type of preaching has produced churches with members who live in and of the world, neglect the assembling of themselves with the saints, deny the Word of God and godliness, and bring shame and disgrace upon the cause of Christ. Members of this type listen and receive the preaching of God’s Word “as the word of men” and not “as it is in truth, the word of God” (I Thessalonians 2:13). The reason we make this claim is because the Word of God does not work effectually in those who profess to be believers in the Lord and do not live as Christians.

            I believe that once a person is saved, he will always be saved, and I do not believe that the individual who is truly saved will live like the people of the world. Yes, God preserves His people and none shall be lost. However, those whom He effectually calls by His irresistible power are obedient and follow Him and live a holy life. The Bible teaches that God keeps His children, and the Bible teaches that God’s children shall endure until the end. It is a gross perversion of the Scriptures to teach preservation and not teach perseverance; likewise, it is equally wrong to teach perseverance and not teach preservation. Both are true!

            While the Scriptures teach that the Lord keeps His children from falling, that He might present them “faultless before the presence of His glory,” they also teach that the people of God are to “work out” their “own salvation with fear and trembling” (Jude 24; Philippians 2:12). The purpose of this article is to present the truth as it is in Christ Jesus, and to declare “all the counsel of God.”

            People who hate godliness and holy living desire the attention to be given to preservation and neglect perseverance. Those who stand secure in their own strength and despise those who depend upon God to keep them by His power delight to see all the space given to perseverance and deny preservation. But God’s Word gives the proper balance that all the glory is given to God.

            When preservation is stressed and perseverance is neglected, people are inclined to live licentiously and ungodly. And when perseverance is stressed and preservation is neglected, people are prone to be pharisaical and self-sufficient. Therefore, preservation and perseverance should be taught equally.

            When we speak of the doctrine of the perseverance of God’s preserving grace, we mean that all the elect will be in glory with God and none of them shall be lost. For those who desire a fuller definition, we mean that those who were chosen by God before the world was, who are the ones for whom Christ died and the Holy Spirit quickens, shall through God’s grace persevere in faith and holiness, and shall not lose their inheritance, but shall be kept by the omnipotent power of God and be preserved unto their final state of glory. Let us go to the Word of God and see if this teaching can be supported.

 

The Elect and Only the Elect are Preserved

 

            When we speak about God saving people once and for all, we do not mean that everyone who claims salvation is saved. According to Christ, in that great day He shall speak to those false professors and say those dreadful words “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matthew 7:23). In other places, the Bible speaks about wolves in sheep’s clothing, false prophets and teachers, natural believers, and deceivers who claim to be true believers. See Matthew 7:15; John 2:23-25; 8:30-31, 39-47; II Corinthians 11:13-15; Jude 4; etc. Because someone claims to be a believer or child of God, it does not mean that he is. However, every individual who was elected in Christ Jesus in the covenant of grace shall be saved. In fact, each Person of the Trinity is said to be active in keeping the children of God.

            That the elect are kept by the power of God may be seen by several passages of Scripture. we will direct your attention to only three.

            First, notice I Peter 1:1-5. It is seen that those to whom Peter was writing were elected according to God’s eternal purpose before the world began. Peter then says that through the operation of God they were given a living hope and consolation of an eternal inheritance in the heavens. Next, Peter tells them that they need not have any fear of losing this heritage as they had lost their earthly possessions because they were being “kept by the power of God.” Someone may object and say that the keeping was by their faith. Even though faith is active in preservation, it is active because it is God working “to will and to do” in the believer (Philippians 2:12-13). Therefore, the whole process, from beginning to end, is of God. What a great consolation it is to know that even the faith is an everlasting product of God and not a fickle work of man.

            Romans 8:33-39 is another place from which the child of God receives great strength in knowing that once he is in the love of God, he is always in the love of God. In verse 33, the Word of God asks the question, “Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect?” Notice it is God’s elect! The answer to the question is, “It is God that justifieth.” In other words, the only One who has a right to lay any charge against the elect of God is God Himself. Since it is God who justifies His own elect, can one claim be brought against any of His people? Not one! In the following verse, the same argument is presented with regard to Christ, and it is shown that nothing will separate the sheep of God from Him. Oh, what joy! It is the love of God that keeps us, not our love for God. What peace is there in believing that our love for God is what keeps us? Oh, the hard heart of man; that heart which is so deceitful and desperately wicked; that dull and often cold heart cannot be the source of any security of salvation. But the eternal and omnipotent love of God; that holy, pure, and immutable love which flows freely from the Heavenly Father is a source of perfect security.

            The third passage is Jude 24-25. Again we find that it is the power of God which keeps His sheep from falling. Yes, we stumble and trip and walk astray from time to time, but we never fall away from the faith and grace of God to be destroyed by Him. No, the children of God are kept by Him Who is able. Yet, notice another blessed truth. The believer is not only kept by that eternal power, he is also to be presented faultless before the presence of the glory of the Majesty on high. No wonder Jude closed his letter with such a doxology in verse 25.

            To study and meditate on these and other like passages causes the cup to overflow within the soul. What peace! What joy! What consolation! What glory! What security! These benefits arise because our salvation is in the power of Almighty God and not in the hand of sinful man.

            Now I will direct your attention to a few passages which show that the elect are also kept by the Lord Jesus Christ. I will try to be as brief as possible and consider the passages together instead of discussing each one separately. The passages for consideration are John 6:38-39; 10:27-30; Hebrews 2:13-17.

            These passages teach that Jesus Christ came from heaven, passed by the nature of angels and became a human being, and made reconciliation for sin. However, Jesus did not just die for sin, He died for people. The sacrifice and work of Christ do more than simply remove sin, they preserve those for whom He died. Jesus stated that He would not lose those whom the Father had given Him. Also, He testified that they would never perish.

            Think of it, Jesus Christ, the Divine Son of God, Who is equal to the Father, not only gave His word that the sheep will be kept, but it is He that keeps them. He to Whom all power in heaven and earth was given, He Who is the faithful High Priest, He Who is the effectual Savior is the One Who keeps the elect and sees to it that none is lost.

            How wonderful it is to know that we have a Savior Who saves and eternally keeps that treasure which He bought. What a glorious Rock of ages! What a wonderful great Shepherd! If Christ only paid the sin debt and left the rest for us to do, we would go to the place where the worm dies not and the fire is never quenched. But thanks be unto God Who giveth us the victory in Christ Jesus. Our salvation is in the strength and power of the Holy One of Israel and not in the hand of wicked man.

            Thirdly, the elect are preserved by the Holy Spirit. Again, in order not to make this article too lengthy, I will group the passages under this head as I did above under the work of Christ. The passages are Ephesians 1:13-14; 4:30; and John 14:16-17.

            These passages teach that the Holy Spirit is equally active in keeping the elect in the salvation of God as the Father and the Son are. It is the Spirit of God that comes and abides in and with the child of God for the purpose of preserving him. The Scriptures speak of the elect being preserved by the sealing ministry of the Holy Spirit. Christ stated that the Spirit would abide with His sheep forever.

            God’s Word teaches that a threefold cord is not easily broken, and that every word is established out of the mouth of two or three witnesses. Therefore, the threefold cord of the blessed Trinity and the Triune witness of God are consolations which give perfect peace. If the elect of God fall and are not kept by the power and work of God, then, none shall be saved. Salvation from beginning to end is the work of God; it is not the work of man.

 

The Whole Plan and Purpose of God Stands on This Doctrine

 

            Seeing that the people of God are kept by the full work of the Triune God, we are made to realize that the entire purpose of God stands or falls with this doctrine. If one person whom God elected, and for whom Christ died, and in whom the Holy Spirit abides, goes to hell, God will be defeated. II Timothy 1:9 teaches that salvation is according to the purpose and grace of God which was given to the elect “in Christ Jesus before the world began.” If God purposes something that does not come to pass, His purpose fails. This can never be!

            In Ephesians 1:4-10, it is seen that God’s plan and purpose pivots on the truth of the elect persevering and being preserved by the power of God. Here the Scriptures state that the sheep were chosen (elected) in Christ before the world was created, and that at “the fulness of times” they shall be “gathered together” in Christ. The Scriptures teach that this is according to the purpose of God which He “hath purposed in Himself.”

            Jesus Christ came to the earth for the purpose of saving His people (the elect). This was told to Joseph by the angel concerning the Child that Mary was carrying (Matthew 1:21). Jesus said that He came to the earth for the purpose of saving those whom the Father had given to Him (John 6:37-39). Jesus asserted this truth again in John 10:27-30. Here Jesus stated that He knows the sheep which are His, the sheep which the Father gave to Him, the sheep which are given eternal life. These sheep (the elect) are in the hand of the great three in one God. And there is not any power sufficient to remove one from the hand of God. Verse 29 states that “no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.” The word “man” was added by the translators which was indicated by it being printed in italics. The word “able” comes for the Greek word “dunamai” from which our English word “dynamite” comes. Today this Greek word would be equivalent to something like the atomic or neutron bomb. Therefore, in John 10:28-29, Jesus is saying that there is not any power sufficient to remove—even by force—any of the sheep out of the keeping power of God. What a great comfort to know that God, Who is omnipotent, keeps us according to His purpose which He has purposed in Himself.

            By this we find that if God’s purposes fail, we cannot receive any peace and comfort in the Word of God. The most misunderstood passage in the Bible, John 3:16, would not hold any consolation to a believing child of God if God cannot and does not perform that which He purposed. In fact, the Bible is full of the promises of God which He has given to His sheep, and if God loses one sheep His promises fall in all other things as well. How could there be any comfort in God’s Word if God’s Word proved not to be true?

            Jesus stated that He would not cast out those whom the Father had given Him, and He would raise them up at the last day (John 6:37, 40). If one is lost who truly comes to Christ, then he is cast out, and will not be raised in the last day to life everlasting. Oh! the folly of thinking that God will lose one of His sheep.

Think of the many passages in the Scriptures which would be misleading, untrue, and tempting if a person who comes to Jesus Christ for his hope and security is cast out, lost, and sent to hell. Banish the thought from your mind! God cannot fail! His purposes shall stand! He shall do all His will and counsel! He shall not fail nor be discouraged! (Isaiah 46:10; 44:6-7; 42:4.)

 

The Elect Shall Persevere

 

            While it is true the elect are preserved by God unto glory, it is equally true that they shall persevere in faith and holiness while they live here in this world. It is a heretical teaching that a born again child of God can live any way he chooses while living on earth. In fact, to teach that a child of God can live as before, follow after and love the world, rebel against God and His Word, deny Christ, and not walk after the leading influence of the Holy Spirit is not only to teach the belief of Arminians, it also denies the plain and true teaching of God’s Word. It denies the effectual work of God in the heart and life of His people.

            While the Arminian teaches that a person can fall away and go into perdition after being in the saving faith of God, he also teaches that it is up to the believer as to whether he will follow after Christ and be obedient to the end. The Arminians taught in 1610, that after a person is born again by the Spirit of God, then, he can either follow the Lord or not, depending upon whether he will use the power and grace given to him in the new birth. I quote the fifth article of the Remonstrance, which is the Arminian Articles, written in 1610:

 

That those who are incorporated into Christ by a true faith, and have thereby become partakers of his life-giving Spirit, have thereby full power to strive against Satan, sin, the world, and their own flesh, and to win the victory; it being well understood that it is ever through the assisting grace of the Holy Ghost; and that Jesus Christ assists them through His Spirit in all temptations, extends to them His hand, and if only they are ready for the conflict, and desire His help, and are not inactive, keeps them from falling, so that they, by no craft or power of Satan, can be misled nor plucked out of Christ’s hands, according to the Word of Christ, John 10:28: ‘Neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand.’ But whether they are capable, through negligence, of forsaking again the first beginning of their life in Christ, of again returning to this present evil world, of turning away from the holy doctrine which was delivered them, of losing a good conscience, of becoming devoid of grace, that must be more particularly determined out of the Holy Scripture, before we ourselves can teach it with the full persuasion of our minds.

 

            When I say that the child of God will persevere in faith and holiness to the end, I do not mean that he will live a sinless life or live in perfect obedience to the Word of God at all times. No, the saints of God, while living here, still war against their sinful natures and stray off the path from time to time. They often fail to maintain close fellowship and rich joy with the Lord. But in all of this, the whole tenor of their life will be to follow after the things of the Lord Jesus Christ.

            Also I do not mean to imply that each and every child of God will walk the same way, live to the same degree of holiness, or manifest the same level of faith. God’s people are not carbon copies so that they all look and act alike. While Abraham denied Sarah as his wife, Noah got drunk; while Elijah ran from Jezebel, Peter denied Christ; while David committed adultery and had Uriah killed, Lot dwelt in Sodom; and, while Thomas doubted, James and John wanted the chief seats. These saints were sinners, yet they did not live in sin and wickedness and show forth the characteristics of the world. Even Lot, who lived in Sodom because “it was well watered everywhere” and like the garden of Eden (Genesis 13:10), did not partake of the wickedness of the people of the city. The Word of God states that Lot’s soul was tormented because of the wickedness which he saw and heard. This is a far cry from those who would maintain that a true believer in Christ will be indifferent to the wickedness and sin of this world. Though Lot lingered, yet God by His effectual grace delivered “the godly out of temptations” (II Peter 2:7-9).

            That the elect of God or the true believers in Christ will persevere in faith and holiness is abundantly taught in God’s Word. So many passages could be brought to prove this truth that an individual would be overwhelmed and buried beneath them. To keep the article from being too lengthy, I will discuss a few passages and list others for your own study.

            First, let us consider Ephesians 2:10. After stating in verses 1 through 9 that we are saved by the grace of God apart from works, it is seen that God not only created us “in Christ Jesus unto good works,” but He also “ordained that we should walk in them.” Some may object by saying that the verse states that we “should” walk in good works and not that we “will” walk in good works. It is noted that the word “should” carries the same force here as it does in John 3:16. In John 3:16 states that God gave His Son that the believer “should not perish.” Therefore, if Ephesians 2:10 means that we ought to do good works but we may not do so, then, John 3:16 means that Christ died that the true believer ought not to perish but he may do so. This cannot be! All for whom Christ died shall be with Him in glory. Since the death of Christ is effective in delivering the sheep from perishing, then, the workmanship of God is effective in His elect by causing them to walk in good works. More could be said about this passage, but it would make the study too large.

            Next, notice John 10:27. Jesus said that His sheep not only hear His voice but they follow Him. Sometimes it is taught that a person who is not following Jesus Christ is just a “carnal Christian.” However, the Bible teaches that a Christian is a follower of Jesus Christ, and that His sheep do follow Him. The Scriptures do not teach that God’s sheep (the elect) might follow, but that they do follow. In Philippians 2:12-13, where the people of God are told to work out their salvation, it states that God works in them “both to will and to do.” Therefore, the reason the sheep do follow Christ is because of God’s effectual work. This shows that God’s people will follow Christ and live in faith and holiness while traveling in this world. The reason that the sheep follow Christ and persevere is because of the effectual work and strength of Almighty God and not the mere strength and power of weak and sinful man.

            Now I draw your attention to I John 3:6-10. This passage teaches that the individual who commits sin is not born of God. The word “commit” carries the idea of practicing or habitually walking in sin. John is not saying that a child of God will live sinless. If so, he would contradict what he had written earlier when he said, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (I John 1:8). John is saying that the true believer in Christ will not continue to live in sin and walk in the ways of the world. Earlier he said, “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (I John 2:15). And, why is it that the Christian will live holy? It is because of the divine “seed” which God placed in the individual at the new birth. It is because of the faith or divine life which is within the person. Later in this epistle John speaks to the little children who believe on Christ and assures them that they have overcome those with the spirit of antichrist because they have a greater spirit within them (I John 4:4). In I John 5:4, he writes that those who are born of God overcome the world and they do so because of the work of faith which God worked in them. Here we might also note that every promise given to the churches as found in the book of Revelation is given to the overcomer. See Revelation 2:7,11,17,26-28; 3:5,12,21; 21:6-8; 22:12-15. Yes, the child of God shall overcome the world and not live in sin because God’s grace is an efficacious grace. If God were only to give man life and then leave the him to either use or not use that life as he see fit, none would ever persevere. (Whosoever teaches this teaches Arminianism.) The Scriptures teach that salvation, from beginning to end, is completely the work of God and none of it is left to the work and strength of man. God commands man to work, yet He gives His sheep the desire and energy to keep His commandments (Philippians 2:12-13; John 14:23-24; I John 5:3; I Corinthians 15:10).

            I could go on and on with many more passages and show this glorious doctrine which is taught throughout the Bible. However, I shall give a few related passages for your own study and bring my remarks to a close. As stated before, time and space will not permit me to discuss nor list all the passages which teach this grand and glorious truth. Nevertheless, I present the following passages: II Corinthians 3:18; Romans 6:12-13,16-18,23; 8:1; I Corinthians 6:9-11; II Thessalonians 1:7-10.

 

Conclusion

 

            In this study I have shown that God is the Author and Finisher of our salvation. God not only begins our faith, but He completes it (Hebrews 12:2). In explaining the full work of God in keeping His sheep, I have to use both terms—preservation and perseverance. The work of God would not be fully portrayed if only one of them was used. What a blessed thought to know that God does not begin a work in us and leave us to finish it. No, I am “confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in” His people “will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6).

            Therefore, may the reader and writer always be mindful of the Word of God as found in I Thessalonians 5:23-24, “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He that calleth you Who also will do it.”

 

Jimmy Barber

Copyright 1973, 1991, 2000, 2007

 
  1/22/2007
 

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