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The Perseverance of the Saints

Question: Can salvation be lost once it is gained?

Answer: I would lose my salvation within the hour if I were left to my own resources. Thank God, my salvation is in the hands of a mighty Saviour who has promised to remain faithful forever. The Scriptures comfort God’s children - “Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).

Having said that, I must add that although a person may be truly saved, he may be troubled by many uncertainties and doubts about salvation. On the other hand, someone may not be saved at all, and yet have a false assurance. The teaching about "eternal security" and "the perseverance of the saints" is often misunderstood and abused. A fool may reason, “Since ‘once saved, always saved’ - sin doesn’t matter. I can live as I please, and still go to heaven at the end.” The thought is as absurd as it is disgusting. This mentality is proof positive that he is a stranger to God’s grace. “He who says, 'I know Him,' and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:4).

We can summarize the Bible’s teaching on “eternal security” under three headings:

  1. God’s people are kept secure by the power of God

  2. God’s people persevere to the end (they continue to believe)

  3. Many who profess to believe are not really saved (they have a counterfeit, temporary faith)

1. God’s people are kept secure by the power of God

The Word of God clearly teaches that the Lord protects His people and brings them safely to glory. This blessed truth is proved by the following scriptures:

  • This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day (John 6:39,40).

  • My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone 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 My Father’s hand. I and My Father are one” (John 10:27-30).

  • For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38,39).

  • In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory (Ephesians 1:13,14)

  • Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (1 Peter 1:3-5).

  • Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to God our Savior, who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen (Jude 1:24,25).

Salvation is secured by:

  1. The Father ("no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand").

  2. The Son ("neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand").

  3. The Holy Spirit ("you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance").

The believer's security is grounded on:

  1. The purpose of God ("This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing").

  2. The power of God ("kept by the power of God").

  3. The promise of God ("I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish").

2. God’s people persevere to the end (they continue to believe)

Just as it teaches God’s protection and preservation of His people, the Bible is equally emphatic that only those who endure to the end, who abide in Christ and His Word and continue in the faith, will be saved (please read Matthew 24:13; John 8:31; John 15:6; 1 Corinthians 15:1,2; Colossians 1:22,23).

Ignoring these and similar scriptures, some argue that it doesn’t matter whether you continue to believe or not, for God will keep you saved forever. That is not true. We cannot accept half the Bible and ignore the rest. The total picture is this: God protects his children and therefore they will remain faithful to the end. As Peter says, they are “kept by the power of God (that’s God’s protection) through faith (and not, as some say, with or without faith).” As Christians, we are painfully aware that our faith is often weak and faltering. We can only persevere in faith because of the intercession of Christ. Peter was bitterly beaten by Satan when he denied the Lord three times. Yet even then, Peter’s faith could not fail because His Saviour would never deny one of His own. “But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail” (Luke 22:32). It’s the same with every other child of God; Jesus “is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25).

3. Many who profess to believe are not really saved (they have a counterfeit and temporary faith)

What about those who leave the church and deny the faith? They heard the Gospel, believed, were baptised, became active members of the church, began to live a decent moral life, and witnessed to others about Christ. But now they deny Christ and would have nothing to do with Him or the church anymore. What does the Bible say about them?

Well, they are hypocrites unmasked. They had played their part quite impressively - deceiving others and themselves that they were genuine Christians. Their apostasy uncovers their phoney faith. The apostle John writes: "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us" (1 John 2:19).

These people were once considered as true believers. But at one point they left the Christian church. The apostle does not conclude that genuine Christians can lose their salvation. On the contrary he judges that they were “not of us.” If they were true believers they would have continued; their departure is proof that in fact they were not true believers to start with.

There are serious warning in the Bible to such people (see Hebrews 6:4-6 and 2 Peter 2:20-22) who have heard the Gospel, and after an initial response, they turn away from Christ. Their defection reveals that their hearts were never changed - Peter compares them to a washed pig returning to the mud, and the author of Hebrews, to a field that produces thorns and thistles after it receives the rain.

Nobody is saved by saying they have faith. Only true faith saves, the kind that continues to the end. God makes certain that the believer will remain safe for time and eternity. “For the LORD loves justice, and does not forsake His saints; they are preserved forever, but the descendants of the wicked shall be cut off” (Psalm 37:28).

© Dr Joseph Mizzi