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February 18, 2018 Perseverance of the Saints

 

“All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38     For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39          And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” [1]

 

This passage of Scripture reveals several themes that we have looked at in the past few weeks. “All that the Father gives me…” These words of our Lord inform us that there are some people that have been given to Jesus by the Father. These are the elect and their being given to Jesus was before the world was even created. Their election by the Father was not because of anything good in them but only because of God’s grace and mercy. These first six words reveal the theme of unconditional election.

 

The next words are: “…will come to me.” We first note that the giving by the Father precedes them coming to Christ. But, all that are given will come. This reveals the doctrine of effectual grace, sometimes called irresistible grace or invincible grace. Those that are given will come. They come when God’s grace, through His Spirit, softens their hearts and makes them desirous and willing.

 

Then Jesus says, “…and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” These words reveal the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. In verse 39 our Lord says that the will of the Father is that Jesus would lose none of those who have been given to him by the Father. But, they all, as a group – notice that he says he will raise “it” up on the last day, they all will be raised up. In verse 40 he repeats himself for emphasis: “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” They will be raised up collectively, yet they will still be raised up individually. It is a promise.

 

If one believes that Jesus can fail to accomplish the Father’s will then one does not believe in the perseverance of the saints. If one believes that Jesus cannot fail to accomplish the Father’s will then one does believe in the perseverance of the saints. They believe that all who have come to Christ are assured of eternal life and a future resurrection.

 

In order to avoid confusion it is good to understand at the outset what perseverance of the saints does not mean. It does not mean that everyone who professes to be a Christian is assured of eternal life. There are many who make a profession of faith but who do not possess genuine faith. It does not mean that genuine Christians cannot stumble into sin and even reach a low estate of life temporarily. It does not mean that genuine Christians cannot stumble away from the faith temporarily. Finally, it does not mean that genuine Christians who do not live faithfully in this life will not suffer disciplinary measures during the next age, even severe measures, before the eternal state. They can and some will.

 

What does it mean? It means this: “Those whom God has accepted in the Beloved, effectually called and sanctified by His Spirit…can neither totally nor finally fall from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end and be eternally saved.”[2]

 

Another way of saying this is: Perseverance is “that continuous operation of the Holy Spirit in the believer, by which the work of divine grace that is begun in the heart, is continued and brought to completion.”[3]

 

What are the reasons that the saints will assuredly persevere until the end?

 

[1.] They will persevere because of the sovereignty of God. The sovereign purpose of God is to provide eternal salvation for those whom he has chosen from before the foundation of the world. A major theme of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation is God’s purpose to save, by grace, those who believe apart from any worthiness on their part. God’s sovereign purposes cannot be defeated.

 

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29         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. 30             And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” [4]

 

This golden chain is unbreakable. It rests upon God’s predestination and it ends in our glorification. Those who have been justified will be glorified!

 

[2.] Christians will persevere because of the infinite power of God.

 

            “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29            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.” [5]

 

Jesus gives eternal life and those to whom he gives it “will never perish.” How much more explicit can our Lord be? He plainly says that they will never perish.

 

This phase in verse 28 – “they will never perish” – is actually a double negative in the original language. In English a double negative sometimes means a positive. For example, someone might say, “The price of the car is not insignificant.” It is another way of saying that the price of the car was significant, or expensive. Most of the time, though, double negatives in English are just sloppy ways of expressing a negative. However, in Greek a double negative meant emphasis on the negative or absolute assurance of the negative.

 

In the ESV quoted here you cannot tell it is a double negative because the translators translated it as a simple negative. Several translations try to express the double negative though.

 

And I give to them eternal life, and they shall by no means perish forever, and no one shall snatch them out of My hand. (Recovery Version)

 

28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never lose it or perish throughout the ages. [To all eternity they shall never by any means be destroyed.] And no one is able to snatch them out of My hand. (Amplified Classic)

 

28 And I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, ever. And someone will not snatch them out of My hand. (Disciples Literal)

 

28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish—ever! No one will snatch them out of My hand. (HCSB)

 

In verse 29 Jesus says again (as he did in chapter six) that the Father has given certain ones to him and that his Father is greater than all. This is a reference to the power of God! No one has greater power than God. Only if they did might they be able to take them out of Jesus’s hand. Both the power of Jesus and the power of the Father are keeping us in the hand of Jesus.

 

Also in verse 29 we see that “no one is able.” No one! That includes you. It doesn’t say, “no one except the one in the hand.” It says “no one is able!” Praise God!

 

[3.] Those who belong to Christ will persevere because of the love of God.

 

 

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36    As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;

we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37            No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38   For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39          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.” [6]

 

Those who are united to Christ are recipients of his love (vs. 35). They are also united as one with the love of God (vs. 39). Because God loves us we are more than conquerors. We are not merely survivors. Neither death nor life can separate us from his love (vs 38). Is there anything that is not included in either death or life? Do not the categories of death and life encompass everything?

 

From this point on, because Paul is writing to those who belong to Christ when they read his letter (including us), is there anything that is not included in things present or things to come? Do not the categories of present and future encompass everything from this point on? Do you live in the present? Will you live in the future? Obviously, the answer is yes to both questions. There is nothing in the present nor in the future that can separate the Christian from the love of God!

 

As if these were not enough the apostle then writes that neither “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.” Let me ask, is there anything that is not included in the word “anything”? I think not.

 

Jude reaffirms this link between the keeping power of God and his love for the elect:

 

“To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ:” [7]

 

Because God loves us he keeps us. (See also Isaiah 54:10.)

 

[4.] The saints will persevere because Christ died.

 

            “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9       Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.” [8]

 

Because Christ died his believers are justified. Those who are justified much more shall be saved from God’s wrath. Much more! If one has been justified then it is a certainty that that person will be saved from God’s wrath. (See also Hebrews 10:14)

 

[5.] The saints will persevere because of Christ’s present and continuous life. Verse 10 continues:

 

10         “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.” [9]

 

The resurrected Christ has become the life-giving Spirit and this ever-present life within the saint enlivens them, keeps them, and saves them.

 

[6.] The saints will persevere because their lives are hidden with Christ in God. If something is hidden the only person who can find it and take it is someone smarter or stronger than the one who did it.

 

“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3    For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4             When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” [10]

 

Because the saints are hidden in God when Christ appears they also will appear with Him in glory! These two things are inseparable. If one is hidden with Christ in God then they will appear in glory one day. It will happen!

 

[7.] The saints will persevere because Christ is praying for them.

 

34         “Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.” [11]

 

There is no one to condemn the follower of Christ because he died, was risen, and is interceding for them! For a child of God to be condemned would mean that Christ’s death was not effective enough, his resurrection life was not powerful enough, and his prayers were not answered.

 

            “Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” [12]

 

Because Jesus is praying for his own they will be saved to the uttermost. “Uttermost” is the very end. Those who Jesus intercedes for will be saved in the end!

 

[8.] The saints will persevere because they have been sealed by the Holy Spirit. In ancient times a wax seal was affixed to a letter by a king or other important dignitary in order to ensure the authenticity and authority of the contents. If the seal was not broken then the truth of the contents was ensured.

 

            “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14          who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” [13]

 

The Scriptures refer to three different inheritances. There are the land inheritances of Israel mentioned in the Old Testament. There is an inheritance of the kingdom which will occur during the next age. And, eternal life is also called an inheritance. This passage refers to eternal life. It says that the Holy Spirit guarantees this inheritance. The seal of the Holy Spirit means that it will happen because the seal can never be broken.

 

[9.] The saints will persevere because perseverance is part of the new covenant that distinguishes it from the old. Hundreds of years before Jesus instituted the new covenant God had promised this feature.

 

            “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27          And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” [14]

 

The members of the new covenant arte given a new heart and a new spirit. It is a spirit indwelt by the Holy Spirit who causes the members to walk in God’s statutes and makes them careful to obey the Lord. Those who do not walk in God’s laws nor are careful to obey Him for an extended period of time give evidence that they are not part of God’s new covenant people.

 

            “I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me.” [15]

 

The fear of God in the hearts of his children is part of the promise of the new covenant. This fear of God keeps his own from turning away from Him. A child of God may turn away for a short time, but the fear of God always brings them back.

 

[10.] The saints must persevere because this is the clear and unambiguous promise of the Lord through the apostles in the New Testament.

 

            “so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8      who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” [16]

 

Verse 8 plainly promises that the Lord Jesus will sustain his own “to the end.” Not only sustain them, but also hold them guiltless in the day of our Lord. The “day of our Lord” here is not a literal day but, rather, the entire period of time from the Lord’s return to the earth, his judgments, and including the millennial age.

 

“For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” [17]

 

This verse speaks of our Lord’s sacrifice. His sacrifice has perfected his chosen ones for all time! All time means all time! We are still being sanctified but in God’s eyes we are perfected because of His Son’s sacrifice.

 

 24 “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.”[18]

 

The one who believes in Jesus has – present tense – everlasting life. If the life we receive is everlasting that means it lasts forever. It doesn’t mean it lasts temporarily.

 

The saints must persevere because this is the clear and unambiguous promise of the Lord in the New Testament.

 

We see there are ten reasons why those who belong to Christ are preserved by God and will persevere to the end.

 

  • They will persevere because of the sovereignty of God.
  • They will persevere because of the infinite power of God.
  • Those who belong to Christ will persevere because of the love of God.
  • The saints will persevere because of Christ’s all-effective death.
  • The saints will persevere because of Christ’s present and continuous life.
  • They will persevere because their lives are hidden with Christ in God.
  • The saints will persevere because Christ is interceding for them.
  • The saints will persevere because they have been sealed by the Holy Spirit.
  • They will persevere because perseverance is included in the new covenant .
  • The saints must persevere because this is the clear and unambiguous promise of the Lord in the New Testament.

 

For a child of God not to persevere means that all ten of these divine truths would have to fail.

 

The truth of God’s invincible preservation of us until the end is a great comfort. When times are tough, when our own failures loom large and we feel like giving up, we must remember that God has promised to complete his work in us and, no matter how bad things get, our destiny is to live with our Loving Lord throughout the ages of eternity. No power in heaven nor on earth can prevent it. Praise God!

 

But there are still great dangers for children of the King and there is also the very troubling matter of a person thinking that they belong to Christ when, in actuality, they do not. For that person there is no perseverance because the promises do not apply to them. This we will address next time by God’s grace.

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Jn 6:37–40). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[2] The Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689; chapter 17, paragraph 1.

[3] Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 4th ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1949, ©1941), 546.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ro 8:28–30). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Jn 10:28–29). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ro 8:35–39). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[7] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Jud 1). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[8] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ro 5:8–9). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[9] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ro 5:10). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[10] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Col 3:2–4). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[11] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ro 8:34). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[12] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Heb 7:25). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[13] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Eph 1:13–14). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[14] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Eze 36:26–27). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[15] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Je 32:40). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[16] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Co 1:7–9). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[17] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Heb 10:14). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[18] The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., Jn 5:23–24). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.