Monday, April 27, 2009

Tripping TULIP Part 6: Perseverance of The Saints

Please find Part 5 here.

Here’s what GraceNET has to say about this doctrine: Once God has saved elect sinners, he continues to keep and preserve them by his power and grace and will never let them go. Thus, they persevere to the end and can never be lost. If God did not do this, we would inevitably turn back again to the world, because of the sin that is around us and within us. Thus God enables his children to continue in faith and obedience throughout their earthly lives, then to pass into God's presence forever.

This doctrine is not to be taken as a license to go on sinning, as if the believer is free to act in any way he chooses now that he is eternally secure in Christ Jesus. The true believer will show signs of a growing desire for holiness and an increasing loathing of sin. The one who attempts to use the grace of God as an excuse for sinful living is in all probability not a true believer, for where there is spiritual life, the fruit of the Spirit will become evident.

Scripture references: 1 Peter 1:5; James 4:6; Philippians 1:6,19; John 6:39; John 10:28-29; Romans 8:38-39; Romans 8:8; Galatians 5:13-26

My initial thoughts on TULIP’s Perseverance Of The Saints: It is clear in Scripture that the believer is “Eternally Secure” and this means that if someone is saved through faith in Christ they are in fact eternally saved. Nothing can change the fact that they have been “baptized into” Christ’s death and resurrection. Romans 6.

The issue with this doctrine is not that it teaches security, but the method of the security. What does Scripture say the wages of sin is? What does Scripture say will happen to the soul that sins? Sin brings forth what? Death, death and death. Christians do not get changed into people are good enough for Salvation, and then are kept that way through the power of God’s Spirit. It is evident that the most devote Christian still sins. Sin requires death. The Christian, having placed his faith in the Christ of the Gospel, has been baptized into Christ’s death. In this the Christian has died in accordance with the Law of Sin & Death. Ezekiel 18 We have died, in Christ, in accordance with the just requirements of the Law. So now the Law has no hold on us. We have died in accordance with it already, having been found guilty.

Since we have died, the price has been paid. That cannot change, therefore we are eternally secure. While Limited Atonement hides the true issue that it is believed a person must be “good enough” to be saved, the doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints openly displays that a person must continue to be good enough in order to finally be saved. The Calvinist will take issue with that statement, saying that God will maintain the goodness of the true convert by good works and faithfulness unto the end.

The author’s words about the difference between true believers and those who are not true is performance. The Calvinist will claim that salvation is “all of God” and “only by Grace” but then will focus the rest of their life on how “good” they are. They look for security in themselves and not in the finished work of Christ.

Our security comes from the same question that Paul asked the Corinthians who had come to reject part of the Gospel they had received – is this Gospel true? If it is true then we have the greatest hope, if it is not then we have all of us preached and believed in vain. Our security, and assurance must only come from the fact that Christ died for our sins and was raised from the dead on the third day all in accordance with the Scriptures. Salvation truly is all of God because He did it, not us, and there’s nothing we can add to what He finished. Ours is simply to have faith in Him having done that for us.

The Spirit surely does work in believers to change them and conform them into the image of Christ, but this is not how God keeps people saved. People stay saved because Christ really did die for their sins.

The problem is illustrated nicely right in the title of the doctrine. Christians are “preserved” unto Salvation we do not “preserver” unto it.

Let’s look at the Scripture references used by GraceNET:

1 Peter 1:5

The inheritance is kept or reserved, the believers are being guarded. This does not state that the believers are being guarded from sinning so much that they would have to loose their salvation. It says merely that believers are being guarded. This is the preserving that God does for us. This passage does not talk about the performance of the Believer, either enhanced by God or not, therefore it does not support the doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints.

James 4:6

This is a rebuke about personal failure in the life of the Believer, and instruction on how to gain victory again. It does not say that God keeps Christians from sin so they will be saved in the end. It instructs Christians on how to overcome the sin they so easily fall into. Therefore it does not support the doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints.

Philippians 1:6,19

Verse 6 is a promise of God’s continued discipleship of the Believer unto the end. This Salvation is deliverance from the chains Paul was in. Paul knew his call, and knew that God would deliver him so that he could finish it. The rest of the chapter is witness to this fact. Neither of these verses even suggest that God’s method for keeping a person saved is through perseverance. Thus these do not support the doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints.

John 6:39

We have discussed this statement by Christ several times. There is no need to repeat. This does not indicate that God’s method for keeping someone saved is through perseverance. Thus it does not support the doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints.

John 10:28-29

This is security but it does not speak of the method of security, except to say that no one is able to take the sheep from God. It surely does not indicate that the sheep become very good sheep and so they stay saved. Thus it does not support the doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints.

Romans 8:38-39

Again this is security. It doesn’t say that God will keep these things from happening in the Believer’s life, but that they do not have the power to separate us from Him. This is preserving, not persevering. Thus it does not support the doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints.

Romans 8:8

Nothing done in the flesh can please God. This is true, of course because it is written in the Word of God, but people don’t stay saved by pleasing God. We do not “earn” or “maintain” our salvation, either by ourselves or through the effective working of the Spirit in our lives. We are saved on the basis of the Gospel and that is it. Anything else makes God a liar when He says that the Gospel is His power unto Salvation. Thus this verse does not support the doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints.

Galatians 5:13-26

My first thought at seeing this reference was joy at seeing a citation that didn’t pick and choose verses here and there in a chapter.

The whole point of this teaching by the Apostle is that Christians must live in the Spirit, not their flesh. The doctrine under discussion indicates that God keeps Christians from living in their flesh and instead has them persevere faithfully unto the end. The very first verse of the citation invalidates the doctrine. Verse 13 is instruction not to use our liberty as excuse. If we have liberty then we do not need to have God ensure we stay on the straight and narrow. It is because we can, and often do, stray off the straight and narrow path that the Apostle was led by the Spirit to write this instruction to us. It is dishonoring to God every time we stray. Our flesh wants nothing but to stray, but the Spirit of God living in us wants nothing but fellowship with God. We choose which we abide in, and the results are either God honoring or dishonoring. This doesn’t say we are kept living in the Spirit so that we “persevere” but that we must choose to in order to be fruitful. Thus this passage does not support the doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints.

My closing thoughts on TULIP’s Perseverance of the Saints: Mankind in the flesh tends to look for fleshy things to find confidence and security in. God is absolutely clear that it is impossible to please Him except by faith. When we look to ourselves for proof of our salvation we are not having faith. We are not trusting that He who began a good work with complete it to the end. Are you saved? Have you believed the Gospel – yes or no? Is the Gospel your hope for salvation - yes or no? If you died right now would your salvation be absolutely secured no matter what things you’ve done in life, even your life as a believer – yes or no? All yeses and you are saved because God said you would be and I’m not going to argue with God Almighty Who cannot lie. If you said no to something then you have some issue of misunderstanding at best which means you need discipleship. Or you have not trusted God at worst which means you are not saved.

If the Gospel is true then nothing about us has anything to do with being saved.

Please find the conclusion here.

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