Lucy and Linus, now famous little people in Charles Schulz’s cartoon Peanuts, are staring out the window. The rain is pouring down. Lucy speaks: “Boy, look at it rain . . . what if it floods the whole world?” Linus answers: “It will never do that. In the 9th chapter of Genesis, God promised Noah that would never happen again, and the sign of the promise is the rainbow.” Lucy is looking directly at him as he is speaking. She turns back toward the window, smiles big, and announces: “You’ve taken a great load off my mind.” To which Linus responds: “Sound theology has a way of doing that.”
Allegedly, in 1789, Ben Franklin said, “Nothing is certain but death and taxes.”
Let’s add one more certainty: the eternal security of every child of God. Like Linus, this should take a great load off your mind. People still carrying this load have lots of questions.
Is once saved always saved biblically true?
Is the person who made a profession but only came to church briefly really saved?
Does God kept us saved without our co-operation?
Do we have any responsibility in the matter of eternal security?
Which of the following statements by leading theologians would you say is true.
Baptist theologian A. H. Strong’s belief about perseverance
“Every believer, has a charge to keep; and the keeping of ourselves is as important a point of Christian doctrine as is the keeping of God” (A. H. Strong, Systematic Theology, Valley Forge: Judson Press, 1907, p.882).
Baptist theologian Millard Erickson’s belief’s about perseverance
While Hebrews 6 indicates that genuine believers can fall away, John 10 teaches that they will not. There is a logical possibility of apostasy, but it will not come to pass in the case of believers. Although they could abandon their faith and consequently come to the fate described in Hebrews 6, the grace of God prevents them from apostasizing . . . Consider as an analogy the case of parents who fear that their young child may run out into the street and be struck by a car. One way the parents can prevent that from happening is to build a fence around the yard. That would prevent the child from leaving the yard, but would also remove the child’s freedom. Try as he or she might, the child could not possibly get out of the yard. That is the idea some persons have of what perseverance is. Another possibility is for the parents to teach and train the child regarding the danger of going into the street and the importance of being careful.
This is the nature of the security which we are discussing. It is not that God renders apostasy impossible by removing the very option. Rather, he uses every possible means of grace, including the warnings contained in Scripture, to motivate us to remain committed to him. Because he enables us to persevere in our faith, the term perseverance is preferable to preservation (Millard Erickson, Christian Theology, Grand Rapids: Baker,1985, p.994).
Calvinism’s belief about perseverance
Calvinism’s position is represented by the Synod of Dort’s statement.
The Synod of Dort’s statement on perseverance of the saints in Dec. 17, 1618:
By reason of these remains of indwelling of sin, and also because of the temptations of the world and of Satan, those who are converted could not persevere in that grace if left to their own strength. But God is faithful, who, having conferred grace, mercifully confirms and powerfully preserves them therein, even to the end (Peter Y. De Jong, editor, Crisis in the Reformed Churches, Grand Rapids: Reformed Fellowship, 1968, p.254).
Also representing the Calvinistic doctrine of the perseverance of the saints is the Westminster Confession of Faith (1643-46).
Chapter 17: Of The Perseverance Of The Saints
1. 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 (Grudem, p.1187, 1188).
Arminianism’s belief about perseverance
The Synod of Dort’s statement was in response to the Arminian Remonstrant’s position against perseverance also presented at that meeting as follows:
“True believers are able to fall through their own fault into shameful and atrocious deeds, to persevere and to die in them; and therefore finally to fall and to perish” (Jong, p.228).
Roman Catholicism’s belief about perseverance in opposition to the Reformation is stated in the Council of Trent in 1545-1563
“If anyone maintain that a man once justified cannot lose grace, let him be accursed”
1. THE DOCTRINE OF THE SECURITY OF THE BELIEVER IS TRUE BECAUSE
A. The Doctrine of the Security of the Believer is True Because “We are Kept by the Power of God” (1 Pet. 1:3-5).
Dr. Robert Lightner sees a double security in verses 4 and 5.
Such is the heavenly possession of every believer. Peter added that it is “reserved in heaven for you.” “Reserved” means “closely guarded” or “preserved.” There are no conditions attached to this promise, no “ifs” or “buts” about it. Personal faith in Jesus Christ as personal Savior guarantees the recipient of God’s grace a secure inheritance. An inheritance reserved for the heirs and the heirs kept for the inheritance mean double security. Concerning those possessing the inheritance described in verse 4, Peter said, “who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (v.5). The word “kept” is a military term in the original . . . Since it appears in 1 Peter 1:5 in the present tense, the emphasis is upon the continual process of being garnished or guarded. How the child of God needs this protection! What assurance it brings to know each saint has it (Robert Lightner, Sin, The Savior, and Salvation, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1991, pages 236, 237).
How does God guard and protect believers by his power? “. . . through faith.” God energizes and sustains our faith.
How long will God energize and sustain our faith? “. . . unto salvation ready (prepared) to be revealed in the last time.” God will energize and sustain our faith until the final phase of our salvation, that is, our future glorification and all that is included in our future inheritance.
This is the answer to the Arminian objection that eternal life or the perseverance of the saints is dependent on the believer’s continued belief in Christ: God is the reason we continue to believe. “Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief” is our constant cry to which God continually answers.
B. The Doctrine of the Security of the Believer is True Because We are Kept by God’s Love (Rom. 8:31-39).
C. The Doctrine of the Security of the Believer is True Because We are Kept by God’s Obligation to Complete our Salvation (John 6:40).
“And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which sees the Son, and believes on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.”
“It seems hard to avoid the conclusion that everyone who truly believes in Christ will remain a Christian up to the day of final resurrection into the blessings of life in the presence of God” (Wayne Grudem, page 789). The Arminian response to this promise is voiced by Grant R. Osborne in Exegetical Notes on Calvinist Texts. Osborne states that John 6:35 conditions eternal life on the present tense of believing not just the initial act of believing for salvation (p.171).
Wayne Grudem answers this charge. While it is true that Jesus here speaks not just of initial saving faith but of a faith that continues over time, the verse does not go so far as to specify that ‘everyone who believes continuously until his or her death will have eternal life,’ but rather simply says that ‘everyone who is presently in a state of believing in Christ’ will have eternal life and Jesus will raise him up at the last day. The verse speaks about all who presently are in a state of believing in Christ, and it says that all of them will be raised up by Christ at the last day (Wayne Grudem, p. 789).
D. The Doctrine of the Security of the Believer is True Because We are Kept by God’s Answer to His Son’s Prayer (Heb. 7:25).
Does God the Father answer his Son’s prayers? Jesus in John 11:41 and 42 answers that question.
E. The Doctrine of the Security of the Believer is True Because We are Kept by God’s Promise for Trials and Temptations (1 Cor. 10:13).
F. The Doctrine of the Security of the Believer is True Because We are Kept by Christ’s Promise (John 10:28).
“I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” Nor can we pluck ourselves out of God’s hands or this promise is not foolproof. God knows that we are our greatest enemy.
G. The Doctrine of the Security of the Believer is True Because We are Kept by the Seal of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13, 14; 4:30).
The Holy Spirit is God’s “earnest” or down payment by which God commits himself to fulfill by giving us the rest of the inheritance in heaven. The God who said, “Owe no anything” (Rom. 13:8) will pay his debts.
H. The Doctrine of the Security of the Believer is True Because We are Kept by God in Order to Enjoy Assurance (1 John 5:13).
In Part 2, I will answer objections to the doctrine of the security of believers.