Section 8A .. A Question Of Salvation/Calvinism

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Calvinism Part 2E - Perseverance of The Saints

According to this doctrine, God will enable truly regenerated believers to persevere to the end. What then are we to make of the innumerable passages that warn believers to be careful about not wandering from the faith?

Carol Brooks.

Index To All Sections

 Part 1: An Introduction to John Calvin and his Doctrines of Grace

Part 2Introduction to the acronym T.U.L.I.P - each letter standing for one of the five fundamental tenets of Calvinism.
  2A. Total Inability
2BUnconditional Election
 2C. Limited Atonement
 2D. Irresistible Grace
You Are Here 001orange 2E. Perseverance of The Saints

Part 3: When the Gospel Becomes a Lie
Part 4:
God.. God’s Sovereignty, Character and Will.
Part 5:
Hypocrisy Unlimited
Part 6:

Part 7: The Sins of Augustine. Early Church Theologians


On This Page

Perseverance of The Saints
Perseverance of the Saints emphasizes that truly regenerated believers will persevere, or keep on going in faith throughout their lives. fI the believer falls away it is a assumed that they were never truly saved in the first place.

The Warnings
On the one hand the threats are part of God's word and have to be taken seriously. On the other hand, if Calvinism is Biblical these verses are 'hypothetical' since they do not apply to the "saved" person.

Manipulation of Some English Translations
Does God "guarantee" that the true believer will not lose their salvation?

Proof Texts Commonly Used in Support
There are some Scriptural verses that (on the surface) seem to support the idea that believers will persevere to the end. 

1 John 2:18-19 - How Calvinists View Those Who Abandon The Faith
John called the defectors antichrists - a very harsh term quite unlikely to have been applied to people who had simply walked away

Isolated Verses or Scripture as An Integrated Whole
passages that speak of or have any bearing on the subject in question have to be taken into consideration. Consider the numerous exhortations for us to continue in our faith

More Confused Teachings

Perseverance of The Saints
is represented by the fifth letter of the acronym TULIP.

Perseverance means persistence under discouragement and contrary pressure.

The doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints is the belief that everyone truly regenerated by God's grace will never fall away and perish. Although it is similar to the doctrine of Once Saved Always Saved (both views have the final result of eternal security in salvation in common) they take dissimilar paths to get there.

Once Saved Always Saved
Proponents of Once Saved Always Saved believe that once a person has made the once and for all decision to "accept" Christ as savior, they are in the enviable position of being eternally secure in their salvation since there is not the slightest chance of slipping from His hand. Some carry this doctrine to ridiculous lengths even teaching that since the potential for being 'unforgiven' has been done away with, a believer can proceed to live the rest of their lives just as they please, and still remain saved. There will be no repercussions other than possibly losing a reward or two.

The Judgment Seat of Christ and Rewards in Heaven. Part VII of What And Where is "Heaven"?

Perseverance of the Saints
In contrast, Perseverance of the Saints emphasizes that truly regenerated believers will persevere, or keep on going in faith throughout their lives since it is God who, through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, keeps or preserves the believer. If the believer falls away it is a given that they were never truly saved in the first place. As explained by John Murray who was once professor of Systematic Theology at the Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. (Emphasis in Original)

    The doctrine of perseverance is the doctrine that believers persevere; it cannot be too strongly stressed that it is the perseverance of the saints. And that means that the saints, those united to Christ by the effectual call of the Father and indwelt by the Holy Spirit, will persevere unto the end. .. It is not at all that they will be saved irrespective of the their perseverance or their continuance, but that they will assuredly persevere. Consequently the security that is theirs is inseparable from their perseverance. Is this not what Jesus said? "He than endureth to the end, the same shall be saved."  [01]

Certainly if people are saved because God chose them to be, there is no sound reason to encourage anyone to stay faithful or warn them to persevere. Those who are genuinely saved cannot do otherwise

Yet, innumerable passages that warn believers to be careful about not wandering from the faith and falling from a secure position are liberally sprinkled throughout both Testaments. If the Father Himself is enabling believers to persevere, what exactly is the point of not only warning them, but doing so repeatedly and emphatically. The only possible reasons for all the warnings is because it is possible for believers to fall away. These are crucial warnings because perseverance is necessary for eternal salvation.

The Warnings
What we are supposed to make of Ezekiel 18:24 that speaks of a righteous man turning away from his righteousness and committing iniquity

    But when a righteous man turns away from his righteousness, commits iniquity and does according to all the abominations that a wicked man does, will he live? All his righteous deeds which he has done will not be remembered for his treachery which he has committed and his sin which he has committed; for them he will die. (Ezekiel 18:21-24 NASB)

Romans 1
The sequence in several verses in Romans 1 is clear - men who knew and acknowledged God chose to reject Him, which caused Him to give them up to whatever they had set their minds on. (All emphasis added)

    (21)  For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.  (22)  Professing to be wise, they became fools,  (23)  and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.  (24)  Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. (Romans 1:21-24 NASB)

Romans 11
Paul very clearly states that because of unbelief, the Jews or natural branches, were broken off from the tree. He warned the Gentiles that although they had been grafted in they were not to be arrogant supposing that the natural branches were cut off so that they could be grafted in. He warned that unless they walked rightly they too would be cut off.

    (17)  But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree,  (18)  do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you.  (19)  You will say then, "Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in."  (20)  Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear;  (21)  for if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either.  (22)  Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God's kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off.  (23)  And they also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.  (24)  For if you were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these who are the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree? (Romans 11:17-24 NASB)

Romans 14
Paul urged the Romans to not do anything that would result in their brother perishing. (Emphasis Added)

    For if because of food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love. Do not destroy with your food him for whom Christ died. (Romans 14:15 NASB)

On the one hand the threats are part of God's word and have to be taken seriously. On the other hand, if Calvinism is Biblical these verses are 'hypothetical' since they do not apply to the "saved" person.

This does not make an ounce of sense.

[For Countless Other Warning verses See Eternal Life: Personal Possession or Promise? ]

Manipulation of Some English Translations
Some Christians go as far as to say that God "guarantees" that the true believer will not lose their salvation as noted in the following excerpt from Got Questions Ministries. (All Emphasis Added)

    This wonderful truth is seen in Ephesians 1:13-14 where we see that believers are "sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchase possession, to the praise of His glory.” When we are born again, we receive the promised indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit that is God's guarantee that He who began a good work in us will complete it (Philippians 1:6). In order for us to lose our salvation after receiving the promised Holy Spirit, God would have to break His promise or renege on His "guarantee,” which He cannot do. Therefore the believer is eternally secure because God is eternally faithful. [02]

Sadly, the Calvinistic bent and clear bias, of the NIV and several other popular translations is nowhere more clear than in their rendering of three verses in which the Hebrew arrhabon has been translated deposit or guarantee when it actually means earnest

However, what is even more reprehensible is that, in some cases, they translated arrhabon into the English deposit, then added the word guarantee. Unknowingly, countless people have relied on these translations, believing that Scripture actually speaks of a guarantee when, in fact, it does no such thing. There is a world of difference between guarantee and earnest. [For Details See A Deposit Guaranteeing Our Inheritance?]

Note that this is not the only place where the English translation has been  made to reflect the preconceived and doctrinal bias of the translator(s). For example the word "hell" does not exist in the Bible and, in the New Testament, the Holy Spirit is never said to be a "He" which has to be assumed. See Sheol, Hades and Tartarus on THIS page, and Part 4 of Is God a Trinity? HERE

Proof Texts Commonly Used in Support
There are some Scriptural verses that (on the surface) seem to support the idea that all believers will persevere to the end. 

    John 6:35: Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.  (John 6:35 NASB)

The parallel structure of the two parts of the verse indicate that coming to Jesus and believing on Him are the same thing. To be noted is that the Greek words translated comes and believes are present active participles, a grammatical term that refer to an action currently taking place or which takes place repeatedly. This is why Young's Literal Translation renders the verse.. "And Jesus said to them, I am the bread of the life; he who is coming unto me may not hunger, and he who is believing in me may not thirst--at any time".

In other words this verse is not speaking if a one time event, but a continual state of believing. Salvation is not determined once and for all at the time of confession of faith but, limits it to those who do the will of the heavenly Father. If you stay believing, you will never hunger or thirst.

Similarly, Young's Literal Translation correctly renders Matthew 7:21

    'Not every one who is saying to me Lord, lord, shall come into the reign of the heavens; but he who is doing (Gk. poieo) the will of my Father who is in the heavens.  (Matthew 7:21 YLT)

The Greek word poieo is a present participle active verb which means it refers to an action that is currently taking place or which takes place repeatedly.

John 6:37-39
These verses are often cited as evidence that those who are chosen by God will persevere to the end.

    "All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. "For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. "This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. (John 6:37-39 NASB)

If as Jesus said, He loses none of those who come to Him, why did some of His "disciples" stop following Him as it says in John 6:66? In fact, Judas not only stopped following Jesus but went in completely the opposite direction. Yet he was not just someone who heard Jesus speaking and decided to follow Him, but someone that the Savior chose just as He did the other eleven, knowing full well that Judas would betray Him and cause Him to be killed (John 6:70) In fact, Jesus called Judas a diabolos or devil.

    Jesus answered them, "Did I Myself not choose you, the twelve, and yet one of you is a devil?" (John 6:70 NASB)

Without question Jesus chose Judas but, quite obviously, this choice had absolutely nothing to do with eternal life. It makes much more sense to realize that Judas' election was for a necessary purpose. And, as we know he played a crucial role as distasteful and abhorrent as we might find it.

John 10:27-29: Calvinists and other believers in "eternal security" argue that a born-again person cannot apostatize because Christ said that his sheep "shall never perish."

    "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand" (John 10:27-29).

But what Jesus says is that His sheep listen to his voice and follow Him and will be given eternal life. As Paul later did in Romans 8:38-39, Jesus endeavors to give the believer confidence that they can not be snatched out of the Father's hand... i.e. no outside power can separate them from the love of God and they can overcome any assault of the enemy.

However, if a person gets to the point where they cannot or do not hear His voice, they are not longer His sheep and these assurances do not apply to them. They cannot claim to have any blessing of God, much less eternal life.

The same principle applies to

Jude 1:24 Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy,

    If this verse means God will keep believers safe, it contradicts what Jude said just three verse earlier - keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. (Jude 1:21 NASB)

Jude’s short book has but one theme - to warn his readers that, unnoticed by them, "certain persons have crept in - ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. 

Philippians 1:6
, has long been one of the staple texts used to undergird both the doctrine of OSAS and Perseverance of the Saints. It says (Emphasis Added)

    being confident of this very thing, that he who began a good work in you (Gk. hymin) will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ:

In English we use the the personal pronoun "you" regardless of whether we are speaking to one person or a hundred. However this is not so with the Greek which has both singular and plural forms of "you". In Philippians 1:6 Paul uses the plural form (hymin) [03] which indicates he is not referring to any one individual, but to the Philippians as a corporate body.. the church.

1 John 2:18-19 - How Calvinists View Those Who Abandon The Faith

    Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us. (1 John 2:18-19 NASB)

In spite of the fact that they know absolutely nothing about the fallen one's onetime spiritual condition, Calvinists believe that their conversion could not have been genuine. They assume that although the person appeared faithful, their belief must have been flawed in some way and they never truly turned to Christ.  The apostle John's words are often used in support of this idea. There is little question that John definitely viewed the secessionists as never having really belonged to the Christian community.

However, those who simply fall away from faith usually do so individually, not in groups. If a number of people leave together it usually is because a different doctrine has been introduced into the church. In fact, there is strong indication that the first two of John's three epistles were prompted by the same or a similar situation.

Both letters referred to people who had withdrawn from the community and "gone out into the world".  It was not that these people had a minor difference of opinion, but that they did not acknowledge Jesus' earthly incarnation - a matter so serious that John called the defectors antichrists - a very harsh term quite unlikely to have been applied to people who had simply walked away

    Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also. (1 John 2:22-23 NASB)

    For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist. (2 John 1:7 NASB)

    Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God;  (1 John 4:1-2 NASB)

This teaching was so potentially damaging that John even warned against allowing the false teachers into their house (either private residence or the house where Christians congregated together), where they would have had ample opportunity to spread their false teachings. They certainly were not to acknowledge these false teachers as brothers.

    If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds. (2 John 1:10-11 NASB)

In other words, 1 John 2:18-19 is not a spiritual principle that can be applied to anyone who drifts away.

Isolated Verses or Scripture as An Integrated Whole
One has to remember that doctrine can not be derived from isolated verses, but Scripture as an integrated whole.

It would be impossible for the Bible to cram all it's teachings on a particular subject into one verse or paragraph. Therefore, not all the passages in the Scriptures that speak of God's promises expressly mention the conditions that have to be met in order for Him to keep those promises. This does not mean that the conditions do not exist and have not been made very clear... they just aren't in the same verse.

Therefore all passages that speak of or have any bearing on the subject in question have to be taken into consideration. Consider the numerous exhortations for us to continue in our faith 


11:23: Then when he arrived and witnessed the grace of God, he rejoiced and began to encourage them all with resolute heart to remain true to the Lord

14:22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, "Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God."  

20:28-32: Paul warned the elders of the church of Ephesus of "grievous wolves" that would enter in among them not sparing the flock, and that men would arise from among them to speak "perverse things" and "draw away the disciples after them" (Vs.20-21).

    If it were certain God would cause the believers in Ephesus to persevere to the end, then there was no reason for Paul to have spent three years warning them about false teachers who could, and would, lead them astray. He went on to tell them that now that he was about to leave them he committed them to "God and to the word of His grace, which was able to build them up and to give them the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. (Vs. 32 ) Note the use of the word able..

Romans 12:1-2: Paul urged his Roman readers to

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your reasonable service (or worship). Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect (Greek teleios) will.

    Everything that Paul exhorts these Christians to do is accomplished by them making a specific decision and commitment. They have to actively choose to present or offer their bodies as a living sacrifice (a metaphor taken from the Old Testament sacrifices offered on the altar), choose not to conform to the pattern of the world, and be transformed by the renewing of their minds. If God were the one renewing the minds of believers, they would automatically be transformed and would need to take no action whatsoever. 

1 Corinthians 15:1-2: Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.

2 Corinthians 13:5-6: Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you - unless indeed you fail the test? But I trust that you will realize that we ourselves do not fail the test.

Galatians 5:1-4: It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace

Colossians 1:22-23: very clearly states that Jesus will present the believer as holy, without blemish and blameless if the believer continues in the faith and does not move away from the hope of the Gospel

    yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach — if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard... (Colossians 1:22-23 NASB)

Colossians 4:12: And, while Paul was urging his Roman readers to perfection, Epaphras was praying that the church in Colossae would do the same

    Epaphras, who is one of your number, a bond slave of Jesus Christ, sends you his greetings, always laboring earnestly (Gk. agonizomai) for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect (Gk. teleios) and fully assured in all the will of God.  (Colossians 4:12 NASB)

    The Greek Agonizomai is the source of our English "agonizing", which accurately portrays the depth of Epaphras' fervent, earnest pleading that the saints in Colossae (V.1:2) would stand perfect before God.

    In Ephesians 4:13-14 mature (Gk. teleios) or perfect Christians are contrasted with children, who are credulous, easily influenced and easily led astray.. It is only the mature believer that becomes so convinced of the truth of their faith that they can withstand every wile of man or devil - the immature ones would be tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine.

    until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature (Gk. teleios) man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; (Ephesians 4:13-14 NASB)

1 Thessalonians 3: 5-6: ...when I could endure it no longer, I also sent to find out about your faith, for fear that the tempter might have tempted you, and our labor would be in vain. But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us good news of your faith and love, and that you always think kindly of us, longing to see us just as we also long to see you,

2 Timothy 2:11-13 It is a trustworthy statement: For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him;  If we endure, we will also reign with Him; If we deny Him, He also will deny us;  If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.

Hebrews 3:12-15: Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God.  But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called "Today," so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end, while it is said, "today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts, as when they provoked Me."

    As said in the previous chapter, one has to carefully note that this verse is addressed to the "brethren" - regenerate saved believers who are being warned against developing "evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God".  

Hebrews 6: 4-6:  For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit,  and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.

Hebrews 10: 26-27:  For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries.

Confused Teachings
John Piper's teaching on the 'warning verses' is extremely confusing. He refers to the "many warnings in Scripture that those who do not hold fast to Christ can be lost in the end", but winds up contradicting himself in two consecutive statements. (Emphasis added).

It follows from what was just said that the people of God WILL persevere to the end and not be lost. The foreknown are predestined, the predestined are called, the called are justified, and the justified are glorified. No one is lost from this group. To belong to this people is to be eternally secure.

    But we mean more than this by the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. We mean that the saints will and must persevere in the obedience which comes from faith. Election is unconditional, but glorification is not. There are many warnings in Scripture that those who do not hold fast to Christ can be lost in the end. [04]

Piper then quotes 2 Peter 1:10, adding that we should  "be zealous to make our calling and election sure". This brings up a number of questions...

    a) If no one is lost from the group that are foreknown, predestined, called, justified and glorified, then how can "glorification be conditional"?

    b) If "election is unconditional" surely there is absolutely nothing we can do to ensure that God's election stands firm, or isn't He capable of doing that?

    c) If "no one is lost from this group" why do we have to make our election sure?

    d) If "no one is lost from this group", why does Peter say "if you do this you will never fall". (2 Peter 1:10)

    e) Doesn't "no one is lost from this group" contradict "those who do not hold fast to Christ can be lost in the end"

End Notes

[01] John Murray. Redemption Accomplished and Applied. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, June 1984. Pgs 154-155

[02] Got Questions Ministries. Perseverance of the Saints - is it Biblical? http://www.gotquestions.org/perseverance-saints.html

[03] https://biblehub.com/interlinear/matthew/7.htm

[04] https://biblehub.com/interlinear/philippians/1-6.htm

[05] John Piper on the Five Points of Calvinism (The Perseverance of the Saints)


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