Persevering Grace

Persevering Grace

by Mike Ratliff

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 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. (Romans 8:35-39 ESV)

Probably the number one thing that I have learned while presenting the doctrines of grace is that there are people who simply will not believe nor back away from their own conception of Soteriology. For instance, I have friends, acquaintances, and relatives who smirk and roll their eyes back when the topic of Persevering Grace comes up. I heard one fellow say once that God writes those who are saved in the Lamb’s Book of Life in pencil and that pencil has an eraser. Where in the Bible is that one?

Let’s look at some things that we do not mean when we say that God’s People are secure in their salvation through Persevering Grace. First, this doctrine does not mean that Christians are exempted from all spiritual danger just because they are Christians. Look at the passage I placed at the top of this post. All those bad things can happen to God’s people, but none of them can separate them from the Love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Perseverance does not mean that Christians are always kept from falling into sin, just because they are Christians. This is a tough one for some people. When they sin they believe they may have lost their salvation. No, it means that they sinned. Sin is serious business and Christians should be about mortifying it, but as long as we are in these bodies we will struggle with sin. Look at Simon Peter.

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31-32 ESV)

Right after Jesus told this to Peter, he told our Lord that he would die before he would deny Him. Of course we know that Peter failed that very night by denying our Lord three times. Jesus told him that after sinning then repenting that he must strengthen his brothers (the other Apostles). So, we do sin and God uses our failures in our sanctification.

Perseverance does not mean that those who merely profess Christ without actually being born again are secure. This should be obvious. Religiosity buys us nothing. We are told in scripture to make sure we are truly saved.

Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. (2 Peter 1:10 ESV)

What a horrible thing that would be thinking that one was a sheep when all along we are actually a goat whom Christ does not know. Also, many who profess Christ are actually Satan’s seed. These are the ones who actually persecute God’s people, but believe they are serving God much like the Pharisees of Jesus and Paul’s day.

and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. (Matthew 10:22 ESV)

As we are persecuted, perhaps even unto death, those who are genuine will endure to the end because God perseveres with them. The only genuine proof that one has been chosen by God and truly born again is his or her perseverance to the end.

Perseverance of the Saints is true because of God’s Persevering Grace. This doctrine does not say that God’s people can live as reprobates and hope to be ultimately saved. This isn’t, “Once Saved, Always Saved and we can live any way we want.” No, the ones who endure to the end as God’s genuine children are living sacrifices that have presented themselves to God, holy and acceptable as true spiritual worship.

Here are some passages that support this doctrine:

The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.
(Psalms 34:7 ESV)

the LORD appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you. (Jeremiah 31:3 ESV)

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. (Jeremiah 32:40 ESV)

And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. (Ezekiel 11:19-20 ESV)

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.
(John 5:24 ESV)

I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” (John 6:51 ESV)

For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. (Romans 11:29 ESV)

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; (2 Corinthians 4:8-9 ESV)

knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. (2 Corinthians 4:14 ESV)

For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. (Hebrews 10:14 ESV)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:3-5 ESV)

And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. (1 John 5:11-13 ESV)

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:6 ESV)

This passage tells us that God finishes what He started. Genuine Christians are undergoing God’s good work within them. What a blessing this is to know that God will preserve us and perfect us according to His will.

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will 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 the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:27-30 ESV)

Our Lord identifies His sheep as having been given to Him by God the Father. The Father elected them and because He loved them, He gave them to the Son. These are the same sheep for whom Christ died. (John 10:15) These sheep are the objects of the atonement. Christ died exclusively for them. He took upon Himself the penalty for their sins. Then by the efficacious work of the Holy Spirit, these sheep repent and believe in response to God’s irresistible grace. These sheep not only listen to their Lord’s voice, but also follow Him.

However, this passage primarily speaks of God’s persevering grace. Just as real sheep are always in danger from predators and the consequences of their own stupidity, our Lord’s sheep are being threatened with being snatched away from salvation. However, our Lord tells us that His sheep are absolutely secure. The promise of their eternal security is emphatic here. First, He gives His sheep eternal life. This eternal life endures forever through the persevering Grace of God. Second, Jesus says that His sheep will never perish. This is speaking of eternal life not life here in the temporal. Again, this depends entirely on God’s persevering Grace. Third, Jesus said, “no one will snatch them out of my hand and no one is able to snatch them our of the Father’s hand”, which are wrapped around His own because our Lord and the Father are one.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 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. (Romans 8:35-39 ESV)

Who is more powerful than God? No one! What is more powerful than God? Nothing! Therefore, once we come to Christ, nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. If you count the threats to our salvation in the passage above you will see that Paul listed 17. None of them poses even the slightest threat to a genuine believer’s eternal security. Why? God’s Persevering Grace keeps them eternally secure.

Now before we close this post I want to make it clear that even though Christians are eternally secure in their salvation, this is not a promise that they will escape from suffering.

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.(1 Peter 5:10 ESV)

Believers will experience suffering. However, what is the duration of it? It can be no longer than this life. How long is this life in comparison to eternity? In eternity, this suffering here and now will be replaced by an eternal glory.

I have only scratched the surface of this very deep subject. A blog is not the best place for teaching these truths. However, the point of this was to direct you to dig for this treasure yourself. There are many good books by godly men on the doctrines of grace, but the best place to learn the truth is from God’s Word. The good books should be tools to use to direct us to God’s Word. It is the only absolute truth that we have in this sin-sick world.

I wrote another post on this back in April, 2007. Here is the link to it.

SDG

14 thoughts on “Persevering Grace

  1. My favorite thought on this subject is from Hebrews 12:2. If Jesus truly is the author of our faith, then He will perfect it.

  2. Amen, Mike! This was an doctrine that I did not understand. I was of the Arminian persuasion until earlier this year. I had questions since last year, but I finally studied for myself. It came down to my helplessness before Christ – I am nothing without Him. I can do nothing without His help. I am being sanctified through his power, not my own. It’s like, once I accepted what scripture said, there has been no wavering. It is comforting that God does not turn things over to us so that we can work out the salvation, but that “it is God who works in [us] both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Phil 2:12-13). It is God Who does the work. I am so thankful for that.

    Thank you for this series of teaching!
    Melissa

  3. Melissa,

    I rejoice that you have been drawn into the light of God’s truth. We are sinners and nothing at all, but Christ is our all-in-all. When that truth becomes true in our hearts it is if God is magnified beyond all comprehension as we see how huge and powerful He is and that He loves us and will preserve us through His grace as He perfects us for His glory. Amen!

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  4. I, like Melissa, came out of Arminian beliefs earlier this year. I confess, as I was getting ready for the day this morning I thought about this perservering grace and how I think on the warnings Christians have in the N.T. letters. Why be warned if we can’t fall away? Then I read this article. Cleared up! As to the Lord writing our names in the Book of Life-it could be because of the Psalm of David who asks the Lord to erase his enemies names from the Book of Life. But that is not the same Book! There is the Book of Life and there is the Lamb’s Book of Life. David was asking the Lord to take away the life of his enemies, not that their names be erased from eternal life, if they indeed had that. Rev.3:5 shows God’s faithfulness to His own. Concerning the Romans passage-could all our trials and tribulations be so that we understand God’s perservering grace (even if it is because He is chastising us)? I know that good times witnesses His grace, but the troubles of this life reveals God is holding on to us during them. It increases our faith in our faithful God. I don’t like the trials I go through but they prepare me for future ones that may be even worse in that I have more confidence that God will get me through and so I am able to trust God in them.

  5. Sherry C.,

    Well said sister! Yes, I agree, our trials and test and tribulations are used by God to increase our faith. I don’t enjoy trouble or pain any more than you do, but I know God is working through for my best and His glory.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  6. Mike,

    I have an email acquaintance, someone I care very deeply about, who twists the Romans 8 passage around. When I presented her with the fact that “nothing can separate us from the love of God…” she says that there’s nothing in that list about ourselves. She says that she believes that nothing can separate us from the love of God except ourselves. She believes that she can separate herself from the love of God. I am so heartbroken for her.

    I tried pointing out to her the passage in John 10. If God gives us eternal life, that means eternal. If it could be cut short, by anyone, then it wouldn’t be eternal. If it could be cut short, by anyone, then God is a liar. It is my understanding that when He says, “…they shall never perish,” the word “perish” means “destroy” and it is in the middle voice. So, in English it must be rendered, “…they shall never destroy themselves.” Can you elaborate on that when you get a chance, Mike? You’re better at Greek than I am.

  7. Carol,

    As I posted this last night those very thoughts came to mind for I have heard that from someone I know as well. You are right, if what they say is true then they are making God out to be a liar. These people are in unbelief. They refuse to beleive God’s own words that He has given us to show the permenance of our salvation. I will try to do so my sister.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  8. EXCLNT Mike! Praise God He does the holding. He does it ALL. We come empty handed I believe. Why us? We still shake our heads and wonder why. We don’t deserve Him. We serve a Mighty Mighty God. You try to think about all of what He is and does to much, and you’ll get a head ache!! Your brain goes ’tilt’. Like that one song says……..He’s undescribible. (sp)

  9. I used to think that Christ will never leave nor forsake us, but we can leave and forsake Him. It came about after my study of Hebrews and all of its warnings. It is rare to hear sermons on the Book of Hebrews. Is it all that hard to understand?

Comments are closed.