Do the Saints Persevere?

“Calvinism” series: (post #6)

This post brings us to the last of Calvinism’s five foundational doctrines. The doctrine is known as “Perseverance of the Saints,” and it is the “P” in Calvinism’s famous T-U-L-I-P acrostic. And what does the term “perseverance of the saints” mean? It means that the elected/chosen individual (we would say, the Christian), having placed saving belief (faith) in Jesus Christ, will not lose that salvation for any reason or under any circumstances. In other words, “perseverance of the saints” refers to the eternal security of the believer, or as the often-used phrase puts it “once saved, always saved.”

I find it unfortunate that Calvinists chose to use the term “perseverance of the saints.” Why? It’s because Calvinism honestly doesn’t attribute eternal security to the power or ability of believers themselves. Remember that Calvinism makes salvation 100% of God. It even takes the matter so far as to assert that the saving belief (faith) the Christian exhibits must be granted to him by God as a result of God having unconditionally chosen him as one of the elect in eternity past. Therefore, if the God of Calvinism is exclusively responsible for saving the Christian in the first place, He certainly doesn’t expect the Christian to assume the responsibility of keeping himself saved. No, God takes care of that, too.

Really, if you correctly understand the first four points of Calvinism, this fifth point logically follows. What God Himself began, He will complete. He will see to it that the salvation that began in His mind and purpose will end in the full, eternal realization of that salvation. You see, to say that the elect can lose their salvation through their behavior is to say that works play some role in their salvation.

I mention this issue of the term “perseverance of the saints” because many non-Calvinists have (in my opinion) a bit unfairly criticized Calvinism for teaching that it is the saints, rather than God, who persevere — and in so doing keep themselves saved. For example, Curtis Hutson, who was a Baptist pastor as well as the editor of the Independent Baptist newspaper The Sword of the Lord, was a staunch believer in eternal security, but he wrote in his widely distributed pamphlet Why I Disagree With All Five Points of Calvinism:

The man who has trusted Jesus Christ has everlasting life and will never perish. But the eternal security of the believer does not depend on his perseverance. I do not know a single Bible verse that says anything about the saints’ persevering, but there are several Bible verses that mention the fact that the saints have been preserved. Perseverance is one thing. Preservation is another. No. The saints do not persevere; they are preserved.

Hutson then cites four passages that teach that the believer’s eternal security is God’s job, not the believer’s. Here are those passages (all from the N.K.J.V.), with me emphasizing their relevant sections:

  1. Jude, verse 1: Jude, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, To those who are called, sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ:
  2. 1 Thessalonians 5:23: Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
  3. 1 Peter 1:3-5: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
  4. John 10:27-29: “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone 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 My Father’s hand.

In regards to God being the one who keeps the Christian saved, I would add six more passages to these four. They are:

  1. Luke 22:31-32: And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.”
  2. 1 Corinthians 1:7-9: so that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless 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.
  3. Philippians 1:6: …being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;
  4. 2 Timothy 1:12: For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.
  5. Hebrews 7:22: Therefore He (Jesus) is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.
  6. Jude, verses 24-25: Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, And to present you faultless Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, To God our Savior, Who alone is wise, Be glory and majesty, Dominion and power, Both now and forever. Amen.

As you can tell, I agree with Calvinism’s teaching that the Christian cannot lose his salvation. And I also agree that it is God, rather than the Christian, who keeps the Christian saved. So, I really don’t have any issue with the fifth point of Calvinism’s T-U-L-I-P other than to say that the term “Perseverance of the Saints” isn’t particularly accurate because it doesn’t convey either what the Bible teaches or what Calvinists actually believe. With that understood, here’s a link to a post I wrote several years ago on the subject of eternal security. It provides even more scriptural evidence for “once saved, always saved.

This entry was posted in Backsliding, Calvinism, Eternal Security, Perseverance, Salvation, Series: "Calvinism" and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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