Intro | Total Hereditary Depravity 1 | Total Hereditary Depravity 2 | Unconditional Election 1 | Unconditional Election 2 | Limited Atonement 1 | Limited Atonement 2 | Irresistible Grace 1 | Irresistible Grace 2 | Perseverance of the Saints 1 | Perseverance of the Saints 2
by William J. Stewart
In their book The Five Points Of Calvinism, Steele & Thomas capably state the Calvinist belief of the perseverance of the saints. They have written:
The doctrine of perseverance of the saints does not maintain that all who profess the Christian faith are certain of heaven. It is saints—those who are set apart by the Spirit—who persevere to the end. …Many who profess to believe fall away, but they do not fall from grace for they were never in grace. True believers do fall into temptations, and they do commit grievous sins, but these sins do not cause them to lose their salvation or separate them from Christ.
To uphold their doctrine, Calvinists must judge the hearts of men. If an individual seemed to serve the Lord faithfully for 30 years, but afterward turns away from the faith—they conclude he was never really a Christian. This is the only way they can reconcile their belief with reality. In fact, they reject the idea of falling from grace, despite the fact that Paul plainly says some in Galatia had fallen from grace (Galatians 5:4). He didn’t say they’d never been in grace, he said they had fallen from it.
Agreeing with the absurd idea that a Christian’s sins will not affect his eternal destiny, Baptist minister Sam Morris wrote:
…all the sins he may commit, from idolatry to murder, will not make his soul in any more danger. …The way a man lives has nothing whatever to do with the salvation of his soul.
(Do a Christian’s Sins Damn His Soul?)
You read that correctly—Calvinism affords the true believer in Christ the freedom to be an idolator, an adulterer and a murderer. If you are saved, it doesn’t matter what you do! Such an absurd position is completely consistent with their doctrine, but 100% inconsistent with the Bible.
Let’s look at some proof texts used to support the doctrine of perseverance (once saved, always saved).
My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone 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 My Father’s hand.
Eternal life is ours, if we hear His voice and follow Him. But what if we stop listening to His voice? What if we stop following the Shepherd? Eternal life and promise of not perishing are conditioned upon us continuing to hear His voice and follow Him.
Several Bible texts reveal the possibility of turning away from the Lord and His word (1 Timothy 5:15; 2 Timothy 4:4; Hebrews 12:25; 2 Peter 2:21; etc.). Jesus’ promise in John 10 is that no one is able to snatch us away; He did not say that we could not turn away. The Lord is able to hold us, but He will not hold us against our will.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: ‘For Your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.’ Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present not things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of Christ which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
What is “the love of Christ” in this text? Is it our love for Him, or His love for us? It is unreasonable to think that the Lord would turn His love away from those who are suffering for His cause. However, one might consider that in the midst of trials, we may grow weary and cold in our love to Him. It is not His love for us, but our love for Him that the apostle has in view here.
There is no external force that is able to separate us from Christ; not things in this physical world, nor in the spirit realm. We are able to endure and overcome. However, there is one thing that is able to separate us from the love of Christ—us. We are free to leave the Lord if we so choose. Notice this warning:
Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. (Hebrews 3:12-13)
The Hebrew writer didn’t teach “once saved, always saved.” He warned the Christians of the possibility of them turning away from the Lord, and encouraged them not to do so.
Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.
Based on this text, it is argued by Calvinist that eternal life is a present possession of God’s people, not future, and by its very nature must last forever (cannot be lost) else it is not eternal.
There are perhaps an equal number of texts that refer to eternal life in the present tense (John 3:36; 5:24; 6:54; 1 John 5:11, 13)as there are in the future tense (Mark 10:30; Romans 2:7; 6:22; Titus 1:2; 3:7; 1 John 2:25). How do we reconcile these texts? Is eternal life a present possession or a future hope?
Of John 5:24 and similar texts, Dana and Mantey say:
This use of the present tense denotes an event which has not yet occurred, but which is regarded as so certain that in thought it may be contemplated as already coming to pass.
(A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament, p. 185)
Eternal life will not start until eternity (Mark 10:30). However, those who live for the Lord are spoken of as having it, for it is a certainly for the faithful servant of God. That is key—the faithful servant of God. Several texts reveal that an individual who is saved can turn away from salvation (Matthew 13:19-22, John 15:1-6; 2 Timothy 2:17-18; Hebrews 2:1; 3:12-13; etc.).
Calvin’s doctrine of perseverance has nothing at all to do with perseverance. It is a golden ticket to heaven. The Bible teaches the need for true perseverance (Hebrews 10:35-39; Revelation 3:10).