Perseverance and Security
Course: A Guide to Christian Theology
Lecture: Perseverance and Security
This is the 29th lecture in the online series of lectures on a Guide to Christian Theology by Dr Breshears. Recommended Reading includes: Biblical References from the Course and Study Guides 1 – 39.
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One of the most difficult questions for people to deal with is whether or not you can lose your salvation. A friend of mine whose wife developed cancer, a very strong Christian and a person involved in church. So his wife died thus causing him to lose energy in his Christian life and then became involved with people at his work, non-Christians. He stopped going to church and his overall commitment to Jesus seemed to disappear and he no longer identified himself as a Christian. He didn’t give any answers as to why he stop believing but said that he no longer believed in God. So the question now is whether he has lost his salvation or not. There are many stories like this of people falling away from the Lord and even denying Christ.
II. Points of Agreement
One of the points of agreement in this area is that God will never reject a believer. As long as somebody is casting himself on the mercy of Jesus Christ, belief in the Cross, God will never reject that person. Another point where there is agreement is not even Satan can steal a believer away from God. Most everybody agrees with the above. Beyond this, there isn’t a lot of agreement. Therefore, can a true believer lose their status of being a Christian? Now we must say that we never know the heart of a person as to whether or not they are a true believer or not. So can a person through apathy or apostasy fall away from the Lord? There are all kinds of views on this. Some people say that once you are in, you are then in; it is impossible for you to lose your salvation. Some think that if you ‘backside’ then eventually you will return to God if you were really saved in the first place. Others say that the elect are saved but we can’t be sure whether people are the elect or not. There may be those who are part of a nominal faith but not the elect. Then there are those who say yes you can’t lose your salvation but you have to reject it.
III. Perseverance of the Saints
One phrase that is used in regard to this idea is the perseverance of the saints. This is the idea that God will never let his elect children go. He that has begun a good work in you will complete it in the day of Jesus Christ. This is a typical Calvinist position. It is God who elected you and it is God who will see you home. It is through perseverance, God’s way to accomplish his goal. Another aspect is the perseverance of the elect, however there could be people that are part of the community and not be part of the elect. This ends up being eternal insecurity at one level. This would be the ideas of some of the more extreme Calvinists. Then there is the perseverance of the believer; as long as you persevere in your faith in Jesus, you will be kept in salvation, but God honors free will and if I make a choice not to follow Jesus then I can lose that status of being a Christian. So this is perseverance of the believer. Another view is the perseverance of the confessor. Here, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ is sufficient for all sin but we must confess the sin in order to be forgiven. So the argument is that we have to confess our sins in order to be forgiven those sins.
IV Scripture Passages
A. John 10:27
John 10:27 says that Jesus knows those who follows him and they will never perish and no one can snatch them out of my hand. There are no conditional statements here, it is all factual. So there is an unconditional guarantee here. They are under the protection of the Father and Jesus. So, many would say that we have absolute security in salvation. But others would say that you can still deny Jesus and turn from him yourself.
B. John 15:1
John 15:1 says that ‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Then verse 6, it says that if anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. So those who say you can lose your salvation, this clearly supports them.
C. Romans 8:31
Then we have Romans 8:31, ‘if God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justified. Who is to condemn?’ In verse 35, ‘Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?’
D. Hebrews 5:11
Hebrews 5:11 talks about people who ought to be teachers but aren’t and then in 6:4 it goes on to say that for it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. This is a difficult passage for everybody. It seems here that if they fall away they are then gone.
V. God Stops Blessing Those Who Turn Away From Him
Hebrews 3:7 tells us not to harden our hearts as in the rebellion in the wilderness. This story is from numbers 13 and 14 where the spies gave a damming report to everyone and made them afraid. The whole assembly rebelled against Moses and God got angry at the people for their doubt. Moses asked God to forgive the people and God forgave them but punished them by not letting them into Israel. They continued to have God’s protection and continued to have the manna and water and they died in the wilderness, not in the land of Israel. Afterwards they repented and entered the land and were killed. I think this relates to Hebrews 6 where people went against God and lost his blessings irretrievably, not their salvation. Even if they repent, those blessings are still lost. So I think he is talking about blessings in the lives of Christians. In Hebrews 10:26, it says that if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgement, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. Again, my thinking goes back to the Israelites in Babylon. God had warned the Hebrews for 300 years not to worship idols but they continued at it. But they wouldn’t listen and received fearful punishment. They deliberately sinned and there was no sacrifice that they could do to get themselves out of trouble. God desires obedience not sacrifice. In Isaiah 1, they were doing all the sacrifices but God told them that it wouldn’t work for they were to do something in their hearts. So what I think, for Christians who deliberately keep on sinning, there will be fearful punishment from God, often slow coming but nevertheless, it comes.
I believe for those who have been saved will not lose their salvation, but that person can lose blessings un-retrievably and that person can come under God’s server punishment. So back to my friend who has turned away from God and has even denies him. I think that a person who was with Jesus but no longer wants to be with Jesus, something is seriously wrong and I’m going to leave that to God. I will keep trying to encourage this person to come back to Jesus and I am going to worry that he is crucifying the very Son of God. Things that I can’t do; just because a person prayed a prayer at one time, I can say for sure that they are going to heaven, but if they are saved, that new heart will show itself in normal circumstances. If that heart hasn’t been regenerated, it will obviously not show later. My own assurance is in relation to my faith in Jesus. A believer is someone who wants to be like Jesus and that desire comes out of the heart. People who don’t like Jesus and don’t want to be like Jesus, something is really seriously wrong. I do believe that somebody who wants to be with Jesus will never be turned away.