Perseverance of God’s Saints
Salvation By Grace Completed
God’s people know that all of salvation, which includes our preservation, perseverance and final glorification, is conditioned on Christ our Surety according to God’s promise. We know the only true God who made the promise of eternal life conditioned on Christ, and we know the only true Christ who merited for us all grace here and all glory hereafter. We are fully persuaded that what God has promised, HE IS ABLE TO PERFORM. Our confidence is not in ourselves, nor in our obedience, nor is our confidence in the fruit of the Spirit and what the Holy Spirit enables us to do. OUR CONFIDENCE IS IN GOD OUR SAVIOR, BASED UPON THE MERITS OF THE ATONING BLOOD AND IMPUTED RIGHTEOUSNESS OF CHRIST, APART FROM ANYTHING DONE BY OR DONE IN US.
We are encouraged and motivated by the absolute certainty of salvation conditioned on Christ alone which produces true love and loyalty to Christ and His sheep. This causes us to delight and be diligent to obey God from a spirit of adoption and in the use of all the means which God has provided for our preservation. This brings us to the blessed Gospel doctrine of THE PERSEVERANCE OF GOD’S SAINTS. This teaches that if God has chosen sinners absolutely and unconditionally to eternal life, and has conditioned all of their eternal salvation upon His Son; and if Christ, the Son became incarnate and met every condition for their eternal salvation; and if God the Holy Spirit effectively applies to them all that God had purposed for them and all that Christ had merited for them, then these without fail shall be saved and preserved unto final glory. THEY CANNOT FALL AWAY, LOSE THEIR SALVATION AND BE FINALLY AND TOTALLY LOST.
If God has accepted us in Christ, the Beloved, and we have been sanctified and called by His Spirit, brought from condemnation unto justification and life, then we will persevere and continue, and we can never be condemned again or brought back under God’s just wrath. Being preserved by the grace of God, based on the imputed righteousness of Christ, we will persevere and continue by faith on to final glorification. The idea that any justified sinner could ever be lost again, unjustified, comes from an ignorance of the imputed righteousness of Christ, the only ground of justification, and the false notion that salvation is conditioned on the sinner. We all by nature, knowing that sin against God brought us into our lost state, believe that obedience unto God can regain His favor. Therefore, thinking that obedience can gain it back, we by nature think that sin can lose it. This is the religion of works, inspired by Satan to keep sinners condemned. We must see that all who truly believe God’s Gospel and truly rest in Christ for ALL of salvation believe this blessed truth of perseverance unto final glory, and that it is impossible to believe otherwise if we truly believe God’s promise of salvation by grace, salvation conditioned on Christ alone.
I. THE HEART OF PERSEVERANCE IN THE FAITH.
We must first see that perseverance is perseverance IN THE FAITH. Faith here is the faith of God’s elect. It speaks of saving, justifying faith which believes God’s Gospel — God’s promise of eternal salvation and final glory conditioned on Christ and based on His righteousness alone, according to God’s Word. Perseverance in the faith is continuing to believe that God is faithful to save us, keep us, bless us, and bring us to glory based on the righteousness of Christ. Saving faith sees that our final glory is not conditioned on our perseverance, therefore, saving faith cancels out perseverance as being a condition of our final glory. Our persevering in the faith is an evidence, not a condition, of the certainty of our being finally glorified. All of the “if” passages in the Scripture concerning the believer’s final glory, such as Colossians 1:23 and Hebrews 3:6,14 do not teach that believer’s will stay saved and be finally glorified if they meet the condition of perseverance. These passages show that one of the main evidences of their salvation and of the certainty of their final glorification is that they continue to expect all grace and all glory based on the merits of Christ. This is the hope in which believers abide.
Here we see that the heart of perseverance is the absolute certainty of eternal salvation and final glory based on the righteousness of Christ. If we are in Christ by imputation and by faith, we are “dead to sin” (Romans 6:2) and “dead to the law” (Romans 7:4). This means we are dead to the guilt and defilement of sin. Sin can no longer bring us under condemnation, because Christ has satisfied God’s law and justice for us. He has removed the guilt and defilement of sin by making an atonement for all our sins. Being dead to sin has nothing to do with our character and conduct. We still have to struggle with the presence, power, and influence of sin in everything we do. But sin can no longer bring us back under guilt and condemnation, nor can it defile us so as to block our free access to God. This is all based on what Christ has done. To be dead to the law means that the law of God can no longer curse us because we no longer owe a debt to the law. Christ has paid that debt in full, and the law can demand no obedience from us for the purposes of saving ourselves, keeping ourselves saved, making ourselves holy and fit for God’s presence, or for making our final glory certain. The law demands obedience and love from us, but not for these reasons. It demands obedience and love as we are motivated by the absolute certainty of final glory based on the righteousness of Christ.
The heart of perseverance in the faith then is believing that we are certain for heaven’s glory as if we were already there based on the merits of Christ. This is not presumption because it is not based on anything we do or anything we do not do. It is based on what Christ has done. This means that believers are to see themselves as complete in Christ (completely forgiven and pardoned, completely fit and qualified for God’s presence, and completely entitled to the whole inheritance of grace) (Colossians 2:9-10)before we take the first step in obedience and perseverance. If we take any step in obedience and perseverance while thinking that it will make more saved, more fit or holier, or more certain for heaven, then it is all legal and against faith. Again, we are to persevere in believing that our whole salvation is certain based on the righteousness of Christ. Any person who claims to believe in Christ, who claims their salvation is by grace, but who believes we can lose that salvation by our sinning, does not believe salvation by grace. They believe in a cleverly disguised system of works, and all their obedience and perseverance is legal, dead works, fruit unto death, as it is the result of self-righteousness. They deny the true Christ (Galatians 2:21; 5:1-3). If there is any possibility of condemnation, then nothing we do can be of faith and be pleasing unto God. Any assurance of salvation a person has under such thoughts is presumption because it is not based on what Christ accomplished alone. Again, a person can only persevere in the faith as that person sees the whole of salvation completed and accomplished and certain in Christ.
II. PERSEVERANCE CONSIDERED IN SEVERAL POINTS OF TRUTH.
A. FROM A CONSIDERATION OF GOD’S REDEMPTIVE CHARACTER — God has made a promise to save and to glorify all who come to Him for eternal life based on the blood and righteousness of His Son. He has engaged Himself (every attribute of His character) to fulfill that promise. He redemptive glory is engaged in this great salvation, and He is faithful and powerful to fulfill all that He has promised, including bringing His elect to final glory (Malachi 3:6; John 10:27-30 Romans 8:28-39; Philippians 1:6; 2 Timothy 1:12; 4:18; Jude 24). God will preserve His people by His free and sovereign grace.
We who believe the Gospel know the God who has made the promise, and we know the Christ who has merited for us all grace here and all glory hereafter. We are fully persuaded that what God has promised, He is able to perform. Romans 4:20-22 — The promise of God to Abraham was eternal salvation conditioned on Abraham’s Substitute, the Lord Jesus Christ. God had promised Abraham that He would justify the ungodly based on the merits of Christ’s whole work of redemption on his behalf, NOT BASED ON ABRAHAM’S WORKS. Abraham believed God’s promise, and all the merits of Christ’s whole works of redemption, His very righteousness which would be established, was charged to Abraham’s account. To believe that any whom God purposed to save, for whom Christ died, and to whom the Holy Spirit has applied the benefits of redemption could ever lose that life, that salvation, is to deny God’s faithfulness, power and love, all His attributes engaged in the fulfillment of His promise of salvation conditioned on Christ alone. It is to call God a liar.
B. FROM A CONSIDERATION OF CHRIST’S WORK OF REDEMPTION.
Romans 5:9-10, 21; 8:30-34 — Again, any notion that a true believer could ever lose salvation comes from ignorance of Christ’s Person and His righteousness as the only ground of salvation. Sinners are saved and kept saved not based on their obedience, but based solely upon the obedience and death of the Lord Jesus Christ. HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS DEMANDS THE ETERNAL JUSTIFICATION AND LIFE OF EVERY SINNER WHOM HE REPRESENTED, FOR WHOM HE DIED. To believe that any sinner for whom Christ died or to believe that any saved sinner could lose salvation is a denial of both Christ’s Person and His righteousness. On the other hand, any notion that a justified sinner cannot lose his salvation that is not based on the imputed righteousness of Christ is self-righteousness and works salvation. For example, I used to believe “once saved always saved” when I was ignorant of the only ground of salvation. What I believed was that I was saved and kept saved based on what I thought the Holy Spirit had done and was doing in me rather than what Christ had done for me. This is just as deadly as openly saying that a believer can lose his/her salvation.
Christ and all whom He represents, for whom He died, are eternally accepted before God based solely upon the satisfaction He made as our Substitute. He paid the sin debt in full and secured by His righteous obedience all grace here and all glory hereafter for us. God the Father chose us and conditioned all of our salvation and all that it includes upon Christ who became incarnate and fulfilled every condition so that we might receive and keep forever the eternal inheritance of grace.
Hebrews 2:17-18 — God the Son became incarnate in order to faithfully fulfil His duties as our High Priest. He did and suffered everything God required of us to make reconciliation for our sins. This reconciliation is the actual accomplishment of our redemption, the actual bringing in of that righteousness which enables God to just and Justifier of the ungodly. Christ did not become incarnate, suffer, and die in order to make salvation possible for those who would meet certain conditions. He came to save a people, and when He established this righteousness, reconciliation was made for their sins. HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS, THEREFORE, DEMANDS THEIR JUSTIFICATION AND ETERNAL LIFE, ACCORDING TO STRICT LAW AND JUSTICE. God would be unjust to eternally punish those for whom Christ was punished. He is just to save them based on Christ’s righteousness alone. CHRIST IS OUR SURETY to bring us to the state of grace AND to all future blessedness. And God has excluded every other way of saving us, keeping us saved or blessing us.
Justified sinners are comforted by Christ’s greatness and power along with His goodness and love. He performs ALL of His duties on our behalf. If someone were to claim that His love and compassion for us might turn to anger because of the greatness and frequency of our sins, which is what those who believe we can lose salvation are saying, look at the alternative. What could we do to pacify His anger and regain His favor? All our righteousnesses are as “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6)when it comes to the ground of salvation. At our best state, we are all unprofitable servants. Future reformation will not pay for past sins. Repentance will not pay for sins. God has excluded all atonement for sin except the precious blood of Christ, and all other ways are legal and mercenary, self-righteous ways that deny God and Christ and oppose grace. There is no other alternative which will glorify God, exalt Christ, and remove all ground of boasting in sinners (Hebrews 10:18).
C. FROM A CONSIDERATION OF THE WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.
Philippians 1:6 — The good work here is the new birth which includes regeneration and conversion, evidenced initially by justifying faith and repentance from dead works and former idolatry. It is begun when the Holy Spirit imparts a new nature, the very nature of Christ, and causes us to believe God’s truth. He convinces us of the impossibility of salvation conditioned on the sinner, and of salvation based upon anything other than the imputed righteousness of Christ. It is performed or finished when we are brought to final glory, when Christ brings us to Himself to heaven, and we are free from the presence, power and influence of sin forever. If God is the Author of this work, it will not fail. It will be finished.
Ephesians 1:13-14 — Sealed means confirmed in our minds by the absolute certainty of salvation conditioned on Christ alone. Regeneration is a radical and supernatural change of the inner nature, through which the soul is made spiritually alive, and the new life which is implanted is immortal. The nature of the change which occurs in regeneration and conversion is a sufficient guarantee that the life imparted shall be permanent.
Hebrews 11:15 — We have repented of former idolatry and dead works, and we see that only eternal death and everlasting misery is the portion of all those who either refuse or forsake God’s promise of salvation based on the imputed righteousness of Christ. Thank God we also see that our character and conduct is totally excluded from the ground of saving us, keeping us saved or even recommending us unto God. Our good works do not make us more saved, and our sins cannot bring us back under God’s wrath (Romans 6:14). All these blessed truths and more cause us to love Christ and trust Him more and more.
1 John 2:19-20 — These who have this unction are those in whom God has been glorified, who by faith plead Christ’s righteousness as the only ground of salvation and have repented from dead works and former idolatry. They have taken sides with Christ, to the glory of God, and with God’s people against the world. This is our being sealed as justified sinners by the Holy Spirit shedding abroad in our hearts the love of God, and our receiving, as children of God, not the spirit of bondage but the Spirit of adoption and love which the world cannot recognize. This unction is evidenced by our having been convinced that God will justify no sinner based on anything other than the imputed righteousness of Christ. It is one of God’s means as a preservative against our falling away. Having been sealed into the truth, we continue and persevere by faith based on the absolute certainty of salvation conditioned on Christ alone.
Compare this with “They went out from us.”
How could they leave?
They were not convinced that there was no other hope for sinners other than the merits of Christ, even though they themselves agreed to the truth and had separated for a time. They had not repented from dead works and idolatry. They changed doctrines but they had never changed gods. But those who have this unction have repented from dead works, and they are joint-heirs with Christ and have no connection with antichrist. We want nothing more to do with idols and will not cry peace to any who worship a god who cannot save. Having been convinced by God the Holy Spirit, we cannot be unconvinced by natural conscience or Satan’s deceits.
D. FROM A CONSIDERATION OF THE BELIEVER’S STATE.
Romans 6:14 — Under grace means to be justified based on a righteousness that answers the demands of God’s law and justice. Therefore, it means salvation is not conditioned on the sinner who by nature has no such righteousness, but on Christ alone who brought and provided such a righteousness. Any sinner who believes salvation conditioned on himself is under law, void of righteousness, owing a debt to law and just he cannot pay. The law curses him and demands his eternal death. Any sinner who is justified by the blood and righteousness of Christ is under grace, and since they are not under law, they cannot be condemned for having violated God’s law. The law cannot justify any sinner based on that sinner’s character and conduct, but the law cannot condemn any sinner based on the righteousness of Christ imputed. So, those who are saved are under grace and further sin cannot possibly cause them to perish because they are not charged to them (Romans 8:33-34).
As long as anyone believes that they can gain salvation based upon their do’s and don’t’s, based upon anything other than the blood and righteousness of Christ, they are under law. As long as anyone believes they can lose salvation based upon their do’s and don’t’s, they are under law. Those who have been born again have been justified freely by His grace in Christ, based on His righteousness which is unchangeable and everlasting. They are under grace and can never be brought back under law. If they are under law today, they have always been under law, and under the wrath of God. Once God’s wrath has been removed by the blood of Christ, according to strict law and justice, that wrath can never be brought back, according to law and justice. Those born of God, justified by the righteousness of Christ could no more be condemned than Christ could be condemned. Those adopted into His family, could no more lose their sonship than Christ, who is the Son of God by nature, could lose His.
E. FROM A CONSIDERATION OF THE NATURE OF ACCEPTABLE OBEDIENCE.
Romans 12:1 — Every exhortation for justified sinners to obey God and avoid sin is given based upon the absolute certainty of salvation and final glorification conditioned on Christ alone. Since all acceptable obedience is motivated by that absolute certainty of salvation conditioned on Christ, and since the very nature of saving faith is the full expectation of salvation and all that it includes as sure and certain based on the imputed righteousness of Christ, then we must see that whatever is not of faith is sin and not pleasing unto God. Good works are works performed by justified sinners not aimed at saving themselves, nor receiving blessing from God, nor keeping themselves saved. They are works performed based on the fact that all these things have already been attained by the obedience and death of the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, acceptable obedience in the obedience of a willing, loving bondslave, not an unwilling, legal mercenary.
We must see then that any sinner who thinks that salvation can be lost, cannot serve God acceptably or please God (Romans 8:7-8), because all of His obedience is aimed at saving himself and keeping himself saved. He is yet a servant of sin, yet in unbelief, under the bondage of the law. All his efforts and attempts are fruit unto death as they are motivated by a legal spirit, opposed to the promise of God in Christ and, therefore, to the very glory of God in salvation. God will not receive nor accept any sinner based on dead works, so apart from assurance of final glory based on the imputed righteousness of Christ, it is impossible to please God and to serve Him acceptably.
CONCLUSION — A WORD CONCERNING DOUBT.
We know that true believers can be and are beset with doubts and misgivings, especially when we see ourselves with so much remaining sin and self-righteousness and when we confront things in providence we do not understand. But the sad things is that many who claim to believe salvation by grace promote such doubts and misgivings as if they were evidences of humility. They are not. We who truly believe the Gospel should treat such doubts and misgivings as we would any other sin. We should be ashamed of them and run to Christ and to God’s Word for help and encouragement. It is God the Holy Spirit’s work to establish our hearts with the absolute certainties of God’s grace in Christ (Hebrews 13:9). When Paul, in consideration of the greatness of his sin in Romans 7:14-25, grieved over his own sinfulness, it was not to promote doubts and misgivings concerning his salvation. Remember how he quickly wrote — “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). His whole point was that we as justified sinners are always dependent upon God’s grace in Christ. We are always in need of Christ’s blood and righteousness for our whole salvation, and we can never have any confidence in the flesh. We must always say with the hymn writer —
My hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ, the Solid Rock, I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.
When we as believers are caught up in doubts and misgivings, it is because we are looking to ourselves and not to Christ. True perseverance shows us that we must never take our eyes off of Christ. We must rejoice in Him alone and have confidence in God our Savior. We must realize that “If we believe not, yet He abideth faithful: He cannot deny Himself” (2 Timothy 2:13). This is why the believer’s motto and confession in perseverance is — “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Galatians 6:14).