The Doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints

by Mike Ratliff


37 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.” (John 6:37-40 ESV)

28 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. (John 10:28-29 ESV)

The Doctrines of Grace are a tremendous blessing to the believer since they teach us that our salvation is God’s work from beginning to end, top to bottom, and side to side. However, each of us from time to time, since we are only vessels of clay and a vapor that is here one day and then gone the next, will experience  a loss of joy born from life’s disappointments. We suffer this way because our focus is not perfectly fixed on God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit as the source of our fulfillment. God, in His omniscient wisdom, prunes us as He takes things out of our lives that our hearts cherished. It is as we struggle through these times that it is a good thing to review who we are in Christ and what He has done, and what He is doing for us. One such precious promise is the doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints.

Carefully read the two passages I placed at the beginning of this post (John 6:37-40 and John 10:28,29). In these two passages we read of our Lord’s promise to His Father (John 6:37-40) and then to His people directly (John 10:28-29) that He will keep them so that they never perish. The Doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints is better understood that the saints are actually preserved by God. Perseverance means continued adherence to a belief despite discouragement and opposition. However, the reason believers persevere in faith and obedience is not by the strength of their own commitment, but that Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit preserves them. Carefully read the following prayer by our Lord Jesus Christ, which He prayed at the close of the Last Supper.

1 When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4 I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed. 6 “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. 8 For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9 I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. 11 And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. 13 But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. 14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. 20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. 24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” (John 17:1-26 ESV)

Our Lord asked that all given to Him would be preserved to glory here and in Romans 8:34 and Hebrews 7:25. Our Lord’s prayers, since His will is lined up perfectly with the Fathers, will be answered just as perfectly. Never forget my brethren that our salvation is God’s good work and God will certainly complete the good work that He began in our lives (Romans 8:31-39).

The Westminster Confession says, “They, whom 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 (17.1).”

It is through regenerate believers persevering in faith and Christian living to the end that saves them as is clearly taught in the following passages from the Book of Hebrews.

5 Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, 6 but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope. (Hebrews 3:5-6 ESV)

11 And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, 12 so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. (Hebrews 6:11-12 ESV)

32 But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, 33 sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. 34 For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. 35 Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. 37 For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; 38 but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” 39 But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.  (Hebrews 10:35-39 ESV)

The Doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints does not teach that all who ever professed to be Christians will be saved. Our Lord taught us in Matthew 13:20-22 that any who tries to live a Christian life in his or her own abilities will fall away. He also taught that there are many who say to Him, “Lord, Lord,” but because they are false professors, will not be acknowledged (Matthew 7:21-23).  On the other hand, believers who pursue holiness of heart and love of those around them do show themselves to be regenerate and thereby are entitled to believe themselves secure in Christ. Despite what many teach in our time that belief in this doctrine leads to careless, arrogant, and presumptuous living, if properly understood, does the very opposite. It is quite humbling and leads the believer to seek to walk in repentance by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Does this doctrine teach us that believers never sin or backslide? No, Christians can and do sin when they do not diligently work with God in mortifying their sin. In fact, if they do not do so, it can only lead to a darkened soul.  Their flesh and the sins that cling so close conspire with our enemy to make the believer stumble and fall into sin. When this happens the believer is actually opposing his or her own new nature. The Holy Spirit then convicts them of their sin (John 16:8) and compels them to repent and be restored to righteousness. When regenerate believers manifest a humble, grateful desire to please the God who saved them, the knowledge that He has promised to preserve them in His secure hands forever increases that desire. This desire is not one geared to self-righteousness, but to humble, grateful obedience in the face of all this world, our enemy, and our flesh does to us.

Soli Deo Gloria!

4 thoughts on “The Doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints

  1. How about the doctrine of preservation of the saints?

    Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called: Mercy unto you, and peace, and love, be multiplied. (Jude 1-2)


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