We come to the last of the five points of Calvinism –
Perseverance of the Saints. This
doctrine as we shall observe, does not stand alone, but is a necessary
conclusion to the previous 4 points.
Especially the election by God, the atonement of Christ, and the
effectual call by the Spirit.
They, who God hath
accepted in his Beloved, effectually called and sanctified by his spirit, can
neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace: but shall
certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved. The
Westminster Confession of Faith, Ch. XIX, Sec. 1
The term perseverance of
the saints emphasizes that Christians will persevere in trusting in Christ as
their savior. They will not turn on and
then turn off, but they will continue believing forever. Thus, they will always be saved forever. Edwin
Palmer: The Five Points of Calvinism.
act or quality of persevering; persistence; steadfast pursuit of an undertaking
or aim; steadfastness. Continuance in a
state of grace until it is succeeded by a state of glory.
persist in any enterprise undertaken in spite of counter influences or
oppositions. Webster’s New Collegiate
These definitions describe the state of the believer. From them we can glean to following points:
The perseverance of the saints is established by the work of
the Godhead securing the saint’s salvation.
Once eternal salvation has been given to the saint, it can
never be lost by the saint, or taken back by the Lord.
Regardless of outside opposition, the saint will persist in
trusting Christ and never deny Him.
eternal security. Perseverance and eternal security are like two sides to a coin. On one side, the person who has placed his
or her faith in Jesus Christ is eternally secure. They demonstrate that they
have been chosen, saved, and called to eternal life; and they will never loose
On the other side, perseverance says that new Christians
have a changed life, and will persevere in that salvation. No amount of temptation, discouragement, or
spiritual setback will cause them to take their eyes off of their Lord. God has secured their salvation, and they
will continue in that salvation.
The Arminian Position.
In contrast to the position of eternal security, the
Arminian argues for what is termed conditional
security. In other words, the
Christian, who accepts Christ, must remain obedient and faithful to Christ or
that Christian risks the danger of falling away, and forfeiting his
salvation. Thus, the believer is saved
on the condition he remains faithful to Christ.
When we examine some key biblical passages, it is clear that
the Bible teaches eternal security. The
believer is never in danger of falling away, and he can remain confident that
he has eternal life.
This passage has been studied before, but it would do good
to review it once again in light of the believer’s eternal security.
Work of the Godhead in Salvation
In this long sentence, penned by the hand of Paul, the
apostle highlights the work of each member of the Godhead in bringing salvation
As we have seen in our study, each member of the Holy Trinity
has secured the saint’s salvation. It
is to be understood, then, that if each person of the Godhead has established
the Christian’s salvation, then those same Persons will secure the Christian so
that their salvation will be completed unto eternal life.
The Father (1:4-6)
The Father has chosen His people. The choosing was done before the foundation of the world.
His chose us to three states: holiness, blamelessness, and
adoption. (vss. 4-5)
Holiness implies a
separation unto the Lord; set apart. The
Christian has been chosen to be set apart, by God, for God’s use.
Blameless is translated from a
root word meaning without
or without fault. Those chosen have no blemishes to incite
Paul goes on to state that the Father predestinates
Christians for adoption. (vs. 5)
the place and condition of a son given to a person who does not naturally
belong to that family.
As we saw when studying unconditional election, the Father
does this according to the pleasure of His good will. He has marked out His people for election. That marking out secures them.
The Son (1:7-12)
There are two key works the Son has done on behalf of the
First, Christ redeemed
them (1:7). Redemption means that we have been purchased by Christ’s
death. Remember that the word redeem
means that we had our dept paid in full. Christ actually redeemed us completely, not
merely made us redeemable.
Secondly, Christ has bestowed upon them an inheritance (vs. 11). Inheritance implies a possession that is
granted to a son, or family member.
Because of what Christ did with reconciling the elect to God by His
death, the elect have obtained an inheritance, a special possession – eternal
life. The inheritance is so certain,
that Paul speaks of it as being already received.
The Spirit (1:13-14)
The Holy Spirit is said to have sealed the believer. Sealed means ownership. Just as a
document would be sealed in wax by an owner’s signature, so too is the
The Holy Spirit is called the earnest or guarantee for
the believer. A pledge that assures the believer that they will be saved,
and receive eternal life.
Looking at the work of the Trinity in regards to initiating,
supplying, and securing man’s salvation, it is unreasonable to believe that men
have to maintain their salvation on condition of faithfulness to Christ.
With this passage, Paul explains the place of saving grace
the believer currently, at this present time, experiences.
Note the following words: raised (3:1), died
(3:3), hidden (3:3). They are all in
the past tense.
The believer has been raised
(already) with Christ. He has died (already) to the tyranny of sin,
and his life is hidden (right now)
in Christ. What Christ has done for
them, and what they currently experience, cannot be undone by a lack of
faithfulness on the part of a believer.
1 Peter 1:3-5
A third passage that expands on the Christian’s security is
found in the first chapter of 1 Peter.
First, we have been begotten
to a lively hope (1:3). Begotten means to give birth. God
has brought us forth into salvation.
The Christian is begotten into a living/lively
hope – a hope that is living.
Secondly, Peter uses the word inheritance and describes it thus:
– It cannot suffer decay.
– It can never be rendered polluted, unclean, or unholy.
not fade away – It never ceases to loose its luster, or whither.
– It is kept and guarded for the heir.
Thirdly, not only does the Christian obtain this unchanging
inheritance, but he is also kept by
the power of God.
Kept is translated
from a word that means, to guard, watch over, and preserve. The power of God keeps the Christian
of Conditional Security
How then can a
believer forfeit his salvation? Especially when God has done all of this
on his behalf?
As we saw earlier, the Arminian position teaches that a
Christian must remain faithful to Christ.
If a Christian removes himself from faith, he then could be in danger of
loosing his salvation.
One particular denomination, The Free-Will Baptist, writes
this in their official doctrinal statement:
There are strong
grounds to hope that the truly regenerate will persevere unto the end and be
saved, through the power of Divine Grace which is pledged for their support; but their future obedience and final
salvation are neither determined nor certain, since through infirmity and
manifold temptations they are in danger
of falling; and they ought, therefore, to watch and pray lest they make shipwreck of their faith and
be lost. (FWB Treatise, Ch. 13) [emphasis added].
This statement represents clearly the position of
conditional security. At its core, the
position is problematic in several areas, as well as begins with a handful of
security elevates men, and their “free will,” over the sovereignty of God in
completing salvation. The Arminian
will believe in God’s sovereignty in all things, except the eternal destiny of men.
That is the one area in creation where God has no control. God is only allowed to make a way for men to
be redeemable – through Jesus Christ. God, however, cannot force people to
choose that way, nor remain in that way.
God must yield to the free will of men. It is the exercise of a man’s
free will that brought him to believe in Christ, it is the further exercise of
his free will that allows him to reject Christ.
security brings about a works oriented salvation. The conditional securist
will argue for salvation being a “free gift” and through Jesus Christ alone;
but their understanding of eternal security, being dependent upon the free
choices of men, places them into the “salvation by works” camp. It is the faithfulness (essentially, “good
works”) of the believer that maintains his salvation, not the work of God
alone. If the believer is faithful,
watching over his salvation, then God will impart to him more grace. If the believer neglects this duty, then he
can forfeit that salvation.
The amount of sin
a Christian can do to forfeit salvation is ambiguous. In other words, there is no clearly defined
limit as to exactly how many sins will bring a believer to the point of
“shipwrecking” his faith. Is it two?
Four? Maybe Ten? Are some sins worse than others? Will one particular sin bring
a Christian further away from Christ than another? There is just no clear indicator given by the eternal securist as
to what degree of sinfulness permanently shipwrecks a believer’s faith. Usually, any willful unbelief made by a
Christian constitutes forfeiture of faith.
However, willful unbelief is a mark of those opposed to Christ, not some
one who loves Him and has chosen to follow Him.
security brings serious ramifications upon the doctrine of regeneration. The doctrine of regeneration teaches that
God imparts spiritual life to a sinner, so that he is given a new heart and
experiences a spiritual resurrection.
If a believer, in a willful act of disobedience, can forfeit his
salvation and be eternally lost once again; then the implication is that the
believer can undo God’s heart changing work.
Such thinking on the part of a
conditional securist seriously effects how we look at salvation. A person, who has been born again, can
essentially commit “spiritual suicide” by becoming dead again in trespasses and
sins. He can replace the heart of flesh
give to him by the Lord with another heart of stone. This belief not only twists the meaning of scripture, but also
makes God’s promises to save and sanctify a person a lie.
The doctrine of eternal security has the most problematic
passages with which to answer.
Most of these passages will contain the words, fall, fell, or fallen; or
phrases such as, will endure, must endure, or contend earnestly, etc.
Arminains will appeal frequently to these passages in order
to bolster their contention that eternal salvation is conditioned upon
Christian faithfulness. If a person’s
salvation were eternally secure, they argue, then there would be no need for
warning passages admonishing Christians to remain faithful lest they fall.
It is true that scripture exhorts and encourages believers
to take heed of their personal walk.
That doesn’t imply, however, a loss of one’s salvation as a result of
To conclude these passages warn of a believer loosing his
salvation is not only sloppy exegesis, but also failure to consider the context
of the passage. On top of that, it
ignores other biblical passages where eternal security is clearly taught.
How are we to understand these warning passages?
Christians are exhorted to “take heed” for the following
1). In order to alert
believers to the infiltration of false teachers and their heretical error that
would disrupt the fellowship. 1
Timothy 4:1-5; 2 Peter 2; Jude 3. The
bulk of the warning passages address this issue.
2). In order to
stimulate spiritual growth in the believers and the local church. Phil.
2:12-15; Eph. 4:14-15; 1 Timothy 4:16.
3). In order to prevent bringing reproach upon Christ and the church. 1
Cor. 9:24-27; 1 Peter 3:14-17
The faulty assumption of
The conditional securist naively equates a person’s “confession of
Christ” with saving faith.
It is understood that any
person who makes a profession of faith in Christ is considered saved. If the new “convert” attends church and
exercises religious duties, but then, after a period of time, leaves church and
returns to the life of his previous worldliness; this departure is viewed as
falling away and loosing salvation.
This assumption is fueled by a faulty evangelistic methodology.
Evangelists plead with
people to walk an aisle, raise a hand, sign “decision cards,” or give some
other visible indication that they are “saved.” These visible indicators are
mistakenly highlighted as the moment a person is “saved.” Thus, the person has a false assurance of
What does the Bible teach?
however, is clear that an expression of conversion does not necessarily equal
true saving faith.
say, “Lord, Lord” will not be known by Jesus – Matt. 7:21-23.
believed upon Jesus, but eventually they left off following Him. – Jn 2:24,
exhorted the Corinthians to “examine yourselves” to see whether they were in
the faith or not – 1 Corinthians 13:5 ff.
traveled as a missionary with Paul yet left the ministry all together – 2 Tim.
that some people had left the church because they were “not of us.” – 1 John
The most problematic
passage for eternal security:
For it is impossible for those
who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and were made
partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the
powers of the world to come. If they shall fall away, to renew them
again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the son of God afresh,
and put him to an open shame.
This is probably
the one passage that is most frequently appealed to by those who believe
Christians can loose their salvation.
Here is described for us a believer who falls away, after he or she has
believed in faith upon Jesus Christ.
Those who believe this passage teaches a
forfeiture of eternal life ignore the majority of other passages that clear
teach the opposite. As we have learned from the handful of
passages we studied, each member of the Godhead has an active role in securing
the salvation of the Christian. The
majority of passages that clearly teach eternal security must be considered as
we try to understand what is being discussed here.
The condition that causes the falling
away is not stated in the passage. The writer does not state what exactly
caused these individuals to fall away.
Nor is it clear as to what brought them to this position, or how they
arrived at falling away. Is it a
specific sin that brings them to falling away? Was it a willful, disobedient
act? The passage does not answer why they fell away.
The author moves from addressing the
Hebrews personally – “you,” “us” and “we” – to speaking in generalities –
“those” and “they.” That is significant, because none of the
readers are being specifically warned.
The author is not saying, “you believers are falling away, or some of
you have fallen away;” but he speaks impersonally.
How should this
passage be understood?
interpretation of this passage is that it describes a professed believer who
was never really saved, then returned to a former life of worldliness.
These are people
who are “enlightened,” who have knowledge of salvation, but have not truly
experienced it. They have simply
“tasted” the good word of the Lord, and have not “eaten” of Christ’s flesh and
blood, (John 6:53-56). And they are
mere “partakers” of the Holy Ghost, not possessors of Him.
The main problem
with this interpretation is that the words emphasized as showing a lack of real
salvation, “enlightened,” “tasted,” and “partakers,” are used else where in
Hebrews to describe genuine salvation:
10:32 – where the enlightened
experience persecution for their faith.
– 2:9 – where Christ is said to have tasted
Partakers – 3:1,14 – where the readers are called partakers of the “heavenly calling,”
is nothing in the meaning of these words that suggests these individuals
in Hebrews 6:4-6 are anything but genuinely saved.
is the Arminian view of conditional security vindicated here? No, lets apply our principles of
hermeneutics to our passage.
is the purpose of the letter to the Hebrews?
we understand why the letter to the Hebrews was written, it will help shed
bright light upon 6:4-6. As the title
of the letter reveals, the recipients of Hebrews were Hebrews; Jewish converts
to Christianity. Though it is true some
gentile readers were present with them, the specific discussion of OT images
and theology show that the book is intended largely for Jewish Christians.
more, it is important to keep in mind that Jewish
converts struggled with a complete departure from Judaism through out the
initial foundation of the Church.
> The Apostles were hesitant to take the
gospel to the Samaritans (Acts 8)
> Peter had to have a divinely given
vision to go see Cornelius (Acts 10).
> When Peter returned to report the
gentile’s inclusion into the church, the Christians at Jerusalem were reluctant
to believe him (Acts 11).
> Paul rebuked Peter himself, because he
had fellow-shipped with the gentiles, up until other Jewish Christians arrived
from Jerusalem to witness what was happening (Galatians 2).
> A council was convened in Jerusalem to
address the issue of how “Jewish” gentiles must become, in order to have saving
faith (Acts 15).
> Paul even wrote an epistle rebuking the
notion of adding Judaism to Christian faith (Galatians).
How is that applied to
Hebrews is studied, the book emphasizes the superiority of Christ over
is greater than angels (1-2); He is greater than Moses (3-4); He is the greater
high priest (5-7); and Christ has a greater ministry than that of the OT – He
has made a New Covenant (8-10).
purpose of Hebrews then, is to exhort the Jewish Christians to totally make a
break with Judaism. In a manner of
speaking, to get out of the temple.
warning passages would be understood as an exhortation for Jewish believers not
to fall back into Judaism. The reason
is that Judaism cannot bring true salvation.
Context of Hebrews 6:4-5
verses are part of a larger passage exhorting the Hebrews to mature in their
section could be broken up like so:
Rebuke for spiritual
immaturity – (5:11-14)
section begins with a rebuke for not growing.
The readers are still dependent upon “spiritual milk.” They are not
ready for true meat. Though they should
be teaching others, they are actually unskilled and in need of being taught.
spiritual maturity – (6:1-3)
Hebrews are then exhorted to lay aside the elementary principles of salvation. Apparently, where they lacked growth was
with solidifying the doctrines of saving faith in their hearts and minds. Coming from a Jewish background, these
believers would perhaps struggle with how much of the OT doctrines of salvation
carried into the NT.
A warning regarding
apostasy – (6:4-8)
being rebuked for immaturity and then encouraged to maturity, the Hebrews are
told of a dangerous situation. A
scenario is presented describing the result of abandoning Christianity and
returning to Judaism. If a Christian
were to return to Judaism, there would be no way to renew them to repentance,
because Christ would have to be crucified again, and that is impossible.
illustration is drawn from nature. When
it rains, good ground will produce fruit; bad ground will produce thorns and
thistles. In like manner, the ground
pictures the heart of the hearers.
Their positive response to these truths regarding Christ and Judaism
indicates the fruitful condition of their heart. The rejection of these truths indicates their worthless response
to God’s work.
this passage is difficult to grasp, I believe what the author intends to show
is the futility of these Jewish believers abandoning the New Covenant and
returning to the Old Covenant. The
warning of apostasy is hypothetical. If
these wavering Jewish believers leave the greater New Covenant for the lesser
Old Covenant, they have then removed themselves from the place of genuine
5:4 is a brief summary of Hebrews 6:4-6.
Paul writes there that if the Galatians mixed their faith in Christ with
the rituals of the law, then they have removed themselves from grace. It is not that they have lost their
salvation, but that they have separated themselves from the effectiveness of
true, saving faith.
is important to read further into Hebrews 6.
Once the scenario of 6:4-6 is presented to the Hebrews as a warning, the
author writes, but, beloved, we are
confident of better things concerning you, yes, things that accompany
salvation, though we speak in this manner, (6:9). He is confident that the Hebrew believers were not in danger of
leaving their faith. The severe
description has been employed for the sake of argument, and thus is hypothetical.