66. What does the term “perseverance of the saints” mean, and does the bible teach it?
The term “perseverance of the saints” means that every true “saint,” or in other words, all who have actually been “sanctified by the offering up of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:10), will certainly persevere in faith until the end, and so be finally saved. The term does not mean that true Christians will never have seasons of doubt, nor ever fall into sin, but rather that God will always cause their faith to triumph at the last, and will never allow them to remain in gross sin indefinitely, but will continue the work that he first began in them, bringing it to perfection in the Day of Jesus Christ (see Philippians 1:6). Neither does the term mean that no one who makes a profession of faith will finally fall away: on the contrary, there are many false professions, and there are different kinds of false faiths that flourish for awhile but then wither away (e.g. Matthew 7:21-23; 13:1-23); but all who have been granted true faith, which God alone can give (e.g. Joh 3:27; Phi 1:29; 2Pe 1:1; Act 16:14; 18:27; Eph 2:8-10; Act 5:31; 11:18; 2Ti 2:25-26; 1Co 4:7), will continue in the faith until they reach their blessed end in heaven.
The scriptures clearly teach certain truths which, when conflated, definitely confirm the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. The bible teaches that, what God begins (especially concerning his work of grace in the hearts of the saints), he will certainly finish (Psa 138:8; Ecc 3:14; Isa 46:4; Jer 32:40; Rom 11:29; Phi 1:6; 2Ti 4:18); that of all whom he has called and brought to Christ, none will be lost (Joh 6:39-40; 10:27-29; Rom 8:28-31, 35-39; Heb 7:25; 10:14); and that, while his preservation of the saints is not irrespective of their continuance in faith and holiness (1Co 6:9-10; Gal 5:19-21; Eph 5:5; Heb 3:14; 6:4-6; 10:26-27; 12:14; Rev 21:7-8; 22:14-15), yet he himself is the one who sanctifies them, and causes them to persevere in true faith and godliness (Joh 15:16; 1Co 1:30-31; 6:11; 12:3; 15:10; Gal 3:1-6; Eph 2:10; Phi 2:12-13; 1Th 5:23-24; Heb 13:20-21; 1Jo 2:29; Jud 1:24-25).
A denial of the final perseverance of all true saints is a very serious error for a couple of reasons; first, it logically demands that we must continue by the works of the flesh what God has begun by his gift of the Spirit – a serious error Paul addresses in Galatians 3:1-6. If God saved us by his grace alone, which was given to us in Christ Jesus, then how can we say it is up to us to continue in the faith, or that his grace alone, which was sufficient to give us faith and the Spirit at the first, is not sufficient to keep us in the faith and preserve us by his Spirit? In other words, any position which denies that Christ will persevere Christians to the end is implicitly denying that Jesus' work on the cross is sufficient to save to the uttermost ... That we must somehow maintain our own just standing before God. No small error. And second, if the Holy Spirit does not preserve all whom the Father has elected and brought to Christ, then the persons of the Trinity are working in contradiction to each other, which is an impossibility given the precious unity of the Godhead.
For Further Study:
Can a Christian Lose His or Her Salvation? by Greg Johnson
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