“And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.” John 6:39
This is what the doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints or also known as the Preservation of the Saints, the last point in the Five Points of Calvinism speaks of. Those who are elected by God will never lose the salvation given to them nor fall away. So how is this doctrine a comfort to believers?
Preservation of the Saints
God by His grace eternally preserves those whose hearts He has regenerated. In John 10:28 “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” Without any condition, our gracious God gives us eternal life! Not only that, our Most Highest God pledges that He will preserve His sheep and nothing can stop God from bringing His people to heaven.
In the Old Testament, God didn’t forsake Israel even when Israel turned their backs on God, sinning against Him countless of times. In the book of Jeremiah, in chapter 32, Israel worshipped idols openly, provoking God to wrath! God called them to repentance again and again but Israel ignored God, the One who had been diligently “rising up early and teaching them”. As a result of Israel’s disobedience and sin, they caused Judah to sin too. But, God who is graciously merciful to His people, promised restoration to Israel and Judah and He will “cause them to dwell safely”. Despite Israel’s and Judah’s sins, God still brings His people back to Him. Why? Because He is their God! And in verse 40, God declares “And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me.” God works in the elect sinners’ hearts that we will always go back to Him. The fear that God puts in our hearts isn’t the kind of fear that causes us to be afraid of Him, but it is the kind of fear that causes us to look to Him in awe and in reverence and acknowledge Him as a merciful God. Also, we know we can come back to Him when we sin to ask for forgiveness. We will not continually sin and fall away but come back to Him to seek forgiveness and repent. (Jeremiah 32:29-40)
Here’s an analogy: Our life is like a rock wall. The rock wall has many different kinds and types of rocks mounted onto the wall. There are rocks which are easy to grab on which represents the prosperity in our lives, while there are rocks which are difficult to grab on represents the tribulations in our lives. When we are holding on to those rocks which are easy to grab, we find that ascending up the wall is easy; we are not tired at all. However, when we are holding on to those rocks which are difficult to grab, we find ourselves struggling to ascend. But whichever rock we hold on to, it helps us to ascend to the top of the wall, which is Heaven. As we mount higher, the climbing gets harder. We are faced with strong winds which try to blow us down, and we start to lose our strength and stamina. The wind blows us hard and our grip starts to slip. This is like our pilgrim journey on Earth. The battle with Satan gets harder each day. At times we find ourselves spiritually down, tired, and at the losing end; we think there is no hope left. However, we are not blown away from the wall; we know we will not fall. Why? Firstly, because we are supported by our Be layer. God is our Be layer! He is always supporting us, making sure that we never fall. Secondly, like the Rope that joins the Be layer to us, Christ death on the cross reconciles us with God. Christ is the Rope! We have the assurance of a sure and steadfast anchor (Hebrews 6:19). What a comfort we have!
We are actually fighting a winning battle! We know we have won because when Christ comes again, God by His great power will defeat Satan once and for all (Genesis 3:15)!
Perseverance of the Saints
On the other hand, although God sovereignly preserves His elected saints, His people are still responsible to live holy and thankful lives.
In 1 John 3:2-3 “Beloved, now are we the sons of GOD, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.” As children of God, we ought to ‘walk by faith and live in hope’ – taken from Matthew Henry. Walking by faith means trusting and having the assurance that God will deliver His promises – God will give us grace to press on until the second coming of Christ. Living in hope means believing that when Christ comes again, we will be glorified and be brought back to our Heavenly home. We know that our Lord is holy and pure. God and sin can never dwell together. Therefore, while waiting for Christ to come again, we should strive to lead holy and acceptable lives by using God’s word as the principles of our lives and fleeing from sin and temptation (2 Peter 2:11), thus growing in grace and holiness. In addition, the Bible teaches “…Be ye holy; for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:16 and Leviticus 11:44) This is what the Lord commands us to do. As regenerated children of God, we ought to “put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind;” (Ephesians 4:22-23). Also, we will be inclined to do so (2 Peter 1:10).
In Psalm 119:33 “Teach me, O Lord, the ways of thy status; and I shall keep in unto the end.” David is certain that when God teaches him His commandments, God will also give David grace and strength to keep them. Likewise, whether in times of prosperity or in times of tribulation, God will always give us grace to keep His statues. By God’s infinite grace, we are able to persevere!
After knowing the doctrine of Perseverance/Preservation of the Saints, how should we apply it in our lives? We know that we are preserved by God’s grace and we are only able to persevere by God’s grace too. Every day we are battling with sin. In Matthew 26:41 “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit is indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” We need to constantly look to God in prayer, asking Him for grace to help us say no to sin. Thus, when we pray according to God’s word and seek to do His will (Luke 11:9, Jeremiah 33:3), God delivers us and we see His power and glory and His love for us. This strengthens our faith as we trust on Him more. However, this takes time. We have to continuously study God’s Word to seek His will and pray without ceasing. And God according to His sovereign plan will answer us. It is through prayer that God helps us. Therefore, prayer is apt in a Christian’s life.
Secondly, by listening and reading the word of God, God preserves His people. In 2 Timothy 3:16-17 “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” God’s exhortations, admonitions, encouragements, are all used to keep us from straying. Thus, reading of God’s word is important. In addition, listening to the preaching of God’s word during worship services or through audio sermons is equally important. In John 10:27-28 “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” Therefore the more we should be diligent in doing daily devotions and keeping the Sabbath day holy.
Relation to the other four points
God preserves the elect because He, by His sovereign will, without any condition chose them (The Doctrine of Unconditional Election). God preserves those whom He has chosen because Christ has died for them (The Doctrine of Limited atonement). God preserves them by giving them an efficacious and irresistible grace so that nothing at all can separate them from having eternal salvation (The doctrine of Irresistible grace). They need this grace because without it, they are unable to do any good at all, much less able to obtain everlasting life because they are totally depraved (The Doctrine of Total Depravity). May we guard this truth dearly in our hearts.
Press on! We have this peace and comfort which assures us that by God’s grace, He will preserve us and we will be able to persevere in whatever circumstances we face (Philippians 4:7). Psalm 18:49 “Therefore will I give thanks unto thee, O LORD, among the heathen, and sing praises unto thy name.” All praise and glory go to our one and only sovereign Lord! Soli Deo Gloria!
Written by: Lim Tze Yan | Issue 7