All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will 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 the Father’s hand.
For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
(1 Peter 1:3-5)
We conclude this series by covering the final doctrine, the last letter ‘P’ of the TULIP acronym! When God effectually calls His people by His saving grace, they will never fall away, but will persevere until the very end. This is grounded in the fact that God never leaves His work incomplete, but instead continues and completes it to perfection (Phil 1:6). God has given His sheep over to Jesus and He protects them firmly, so that none of them will perish and be eternally lost (John 10:27-29). He seals the Spirit in each one of these sheep (Eph 1:13-14), so that their inheritance to eternal salvation is secured (John 6:40).
Perseverance of the saints, then, is a doctrine that brings glorious assurance and comfort to all Christians that nothing can separate them from the love of God (Rom 8:38-39). Again however, many people have misconstrued this doctrine in the past, so let’s explore more deeply to ensure we understand this teaching correctly:
1. True Christians can
still doubt and temporarily drift away from God. Christians continue to sin
in their lifetime, and some may even depart from the faith for a brief
period. The possible reasons for these
temporary departures are many. Sometimes Satan intrudes on our minds to get us
to doubt the goodness of God in our lives and turn against Him (Gen 3:1-4). The
cravings of the flesh can overwhelm us and cause us to stumble into grievous
sin (Rom 7:23; Gal 5:19-21). The many cares and worries of this world can
distract us from what is truly important, choke our relationship with God and
prolong our state of spiritual infancy (Mark 4:18-19).
Nevertheless, true believers who temporarily drift away will eventually be brought back into saving faith in the end. Their doubts and godless habits will be overcome by the gradual work of sanctification by the Spirit.
2. Not everyone who professes faith in Christ will possess true persevering faith. We’ve witnessed family and friends who used to be devout believers in Christ but are now departed from Him and don’t look like they will be coming back anytime soon. We might ask, ‘These people have fallen away from God, could true Christians fall away as well?’
Jesus in the Parable of the Four Soils teaches us that some who receive Him with joy, will believe for a short while but fall away at the time of testing (Luke 8:9-14). The apostle John also revealed there were many false teachers that professed the faith and communed with the church, but later departed from the faith. John explains that their departure from God’s people shows that they were never really part of God’s people to begin with (1 John 2:19).
This is a fair description of many of our apostatised friends, who through their persistence in rebellion against God, have shown that they do not possess true saving faith and have never truly shared in the fellowship of God’s community.
3. Consequently, Christians mustn’t be complacent about the presence of sin in their lives. Just because you have professed faith in Christ and trust that God will guard all His people to the very end, it does not mean that you are encouraged to be idle in your spiritual walk with Him. There are countless warnings in Scripture that teach us that if we do not hold fast to Jesus, we can be eternally lost in the end (Rom 8:13; 1 Cor 15:1-2; Gal 5:19-21). There is a constant divine battle to be fought against the enemies of the flesh, the world and Satan Himself (Eph 6:10-20), so we must stand firm and not fall into the snares of sin. True saving faith is faith that perseveres and bears fruit through obedience to God.
4. God is the one who perseveres for us. Now we might feel discouraged by the number of times we’ve stumbled in our faith. We have disobeyed God time and time again. We might even begin questioning whether we really belong to Him. But we mustn’t think that God observes our obedience to Him and saves us only when we have passed the finish line. The ultimate reason for our resilience in God is not because we persevere in trusting Him in all circumstances, but because God perseveres for us – He safeguards us from anything that threatens to snatch us away from Him. When God predestines His people unto salvation, they are inevitably drawn into Him, bestowed with the cloak of righteousness, and raised to new resurrected life with Him in the new heavens and earth (Rom 8:29-30). In every step of this redemptive process, the triune God has shown Himself to be the sole initiator, the achiever and the applicator. We do not contribute anything in this process, for it is God alone who perseveres in ensuring the work He started is finished to perfection.
5. God equips us through His Word and the Spirit to persevere in our faith. Our fight against sin is not a lonesome one, for God has richly provided His Word of divine power to assist us in killing sin in our lives (2 Pet 1:3-4), so that we confirm for ourselves that we are of the elect (2 Pet 1:10). Alongside the Word, God also works in us to will and to work for His good pleasure, so that we can work out our salvation in the process of sanctification (Phil 2:12-13). He does this by the Spirit who puts to death our sinful desires of the flesh (Gal 5:16) and bears the fruit of God that reveals a genuine faith in Him (Gal 5:22-25).
6. Lastly, we persevere together as God’s community. God uses the ordinary means of His people to encourage and edify one another as they continue to live in obedience to God in faith in this present age. Through mutual accountability, we can be better guarded against the deceitfulness of sin, and ensure that we do not become hardened against God and fall away (Heb 3:12-13). God also gives to each and every one of us gifts that ought to be used for the edification of the church as a whole (1 Cor 12; Col 3:16). We do not persevere alone in our walk, but we persevere together as the church. We reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of Jesus as the body! (Eph 4:11-13)
So how does the implications of this last doctrine shape our view of:
a) God? God is the preserver of our faith and perseveres on our behalf. He will never leave us nor forsake us, but He will raise us up on the last day to be glorified with Him in the abundance of eternal joy!
b) Ourselves? This doctrine should give us tremendous assurance that we will complete the long marathon of life, while still clutching tightly to our eternal treasure, knowing God sustains our grip to the end of the finish line.
We don’t need to do anything to merit His love for us, for it is given gracefully to us! Therefore, we don’t need to be intimidated by anything that threatens to snatch the love of God away from us! This should also motivate us to consider how we can use our gifts to serve our brothers and sisters in love and good works, and remind them to hold fast to Christ as the Day of the Lord is coming (Heb 10:24-25).
c) Salvation? Without God’s persevering grace, there really is no guarantee that any of us will continue to follow Christ when we wake up the next morning. Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones writes:
“God does not merely initiate the work and then leave it, he continues with it; he leads us on, directing and manipulating our circumstances, restraining us at one time and urging us on at another. Paul’s whole conception of the Church is that it is a place where God is working in the hearts of men and women.”
Our faith is sustained through His ongoing work of sanctifying us to become more like His Son day-by-day, because He who began a good work in us will bring it to completion (Phil 1:6).
d) Worship? From beginning to end, God is the worker of salvation in every step of the way. This means that there is no other name that is more worthy of praise and worship, than God Himself. The amazing thing about all this is that this was God’s very purpose for redeeming His people: so that His excellencies will be made manifest through all of creation, by the grace He has given to undeserving sinners. We were saved to worship God in all His wondrous glory.
e) Mission? It can be discouraging to witness some of our family and friends who used to walk alongside us in the faith, who have now taken different and destructive paths away from God. But while they may be far away from God at the present, the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints brings great hope that they can certainly turn back to God in repentance and be in communion with Him again. Those who are part of God’s chosen can never be truly lost. So, continue to call your friends to repentance and pray that they will turn back to the King and once again swear allegiance to Him, knowing full well that the King has sovereign power to draw them back to Him!
This concludes our series on the Doctrines of Grace. These doctrines helped me to see my own corruption and evil and that my righteous works can never merit the love of God. It has shaped my view of the sovereignty of God; that He chose me all along to be in communion with Him and with His redeemed people, and that He planned all this to happen before I was even born. The fact that He didn’t leave me in my moral depravity to atone for my sin but instead gave His Son to die for my sins perfectly and completely, gives me liberating joy to know that my debts to God are really paid! Not only that, but He even made certain that these blessings of salvation will be efficaciously applied to me, by giving me a brand-new heart to hear His words of the gospel and to receive them with joy. Furthermore, He undertook precautionary measures to ensure I continue to hold His hand firmly by the power and His Word and Spirit, and that I will finish the long marathon together with the awesome Christian family He has given me to push me and remind me of the eternal inheritance that awaits me at the finish line.
My hopes and prayers to you, members of ACG, is that these marvellous truths will also radically change the way you see the world and enrich your view of our God, just as it has done so for me. Join arms with me and stand in awe at the wondrous love of God that should compel us to worship and praise Him with the entirety of our hearts, souls and minds!
If you enjoyed these series, take note that these doctrines only skim the surface of Reformed theology. For the adventurous ones who want to explore deeper into the grand chamber of truths found in Scripture, we would highly recommend reading the Westminster Confession of Faith, which is the doctrinal subordinate standard within all Reformed Presbyterian churches worldwide. It has stood the test of time to be a prime systematic work of doctrines that is considered by many to be the best statement of dogmatic truths formulated and declared by the Church.
If you have any questions regarding the series, please feel free to pop that question through ‘Ask ACG’ and we will do our best to answer them!
Click here to read the previous doctrine of grace: Irresistible Grace