V. Perseverance of the Saints
The Bible teaches, and I believe in, the eternal security of the born-again believer. The man who has trusted Jesus Christ has everlasting life and will never perish. But the eternal security of the believer does not depend on his perseverance. I do not know a single Bible verse that says anything about the saints’ persevering, but there are several Bible verses that mention the fact that the saints have been preserved. Perseverance is one thing. Preservation is another. No. The saints do not persevere; they are preserved. The Bible states in Jude 1. “Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ…”
A Deliberate Misrepresentation
Calvinism agrees with Mr. Hudson, a moderate Arminian in spirit and theology, that the emphasis in Scripture is on Divine preservation of the saints, but does not negate the reasonability of the believer to persevere in the faith. What is unfortunate is a deliberate misrepresentation of the author as to what Calvinism teaches by turning the doctrines of grace into a system of salvation by works, or human effort.
If Mr. Hudson does not “know a single Bible verse that says anything about the saints’ persevering” in the Christian life, then it is kindly suggested he failed to understand the Bible, on this topic, and should have studied the following verses.
“For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:20).
“But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved” (Matt. 24:30).
“Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in anything ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you” (Phil. 3:13-15).
There are many more Bible verses that teach that good works, or perseverance in the sphere of saving faith, is one of three main witnesses of an authentic conversion experience. Charles Spurgeon writes:
“We have a vast number of evidences of piety: some are practical, some are experimental, some are doctrinal; and the more evidences a man has of his piety the better, of course. We like a number of signatures, to make a deed more valid, if possible. We like to invest property in a great number of trustees, in order that it may be all the safer, and so we love to have many evidences. Many witnesses will carry our case at the bar better than a few: and so it is well to have many witnesses to testify to our piety” (The Desire of the Soul in Spiritual Darkness).
There is a good reason the command comes to Christians to examine themselves, “whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” (2 Cor. 13:5).
By persevering in the sphere of saving faith, a person gives practical evidence of being converted. Calvinist do not persevere in the sphere of the faith in order to obtain salvation, but because they have salvation and know that God is working out in them the salvation HE has produced in their hearts.
Indeed, “a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works” (James 2:18).
Calvinism agrees with the moderate Arminian that the emphasis in Scripture is on Divine preservation of the saints, but does not negate the reasonability of the believer to persevere in the faith. “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in anything ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you” (Phil. 3:13-15).
The Calvinist would assert there are a number of souls whom God has determined to call, sanctify, and preserve. Because salvation is of the Lord, there will be an effectual salvation.
“Those whom God hath predestinated unto life, he is pleased in his appointed and accepted time, effectual to call, by his Word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death in which they are by nature, to grace and salvation by Jesus Christ; enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God; taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them an heart of flesh: renewing their wills, and by his almighty power determining them to that which is good, and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ; yet so as they come most freely, being made willing by his grace” (The Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689, Chapter 10, Effectual Calling).
“Those whom God has accepted in the beloved, and has effectually called and sanctified by His Spirit, and given the precious faith of His elect, can neither totally nor finally fall from the state of grace, but they will certainly persevere in that state to the end and be eternally saved. This is because the gifts and calling of God are without repentance, and therefore He continues to beget and nourish in them faith, repentance, love, joy, hope, and all the graces of the spirit which lead to immortality” (The Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689, Chapter 17, The Perseverance of the Saints).
“Work, for the night is coming,
Work through the morning hours;
Work while the dew is sparkling,
Work ’mid springing flowers;
Work when the day grows brighter,
Work in the glowing sun;
Work, for the night is coming,
When man’s work is done.”
Anna L. Coghill
First Thessalonians 5:23 says, “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly: and I pray God your whole spirit and soul, and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The other morning, I opened a jar of peach preserves. I don’t know how long those peaches have been in that jar. But the jar had been sealed some time ago, and the peaches were preserved. When I took out the preserves and ate them with a good hot biscuit, they were as good as they were the day they were placed in the jar. But wait a minute! The peaches had nothing to do with it. They were not fresh and good because they were persevered. They were good and fresh because they had been preserved.
The Bible makes it plain that the believer is kept. He does not keep himself. First Peter 1:4,5 states: “To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”
A Divine Certainty
The Bible says in John 10:27-29: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life: and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all, and no man is able to pluck them out of my Fathers hand.”
There is a definite certainty of the believer’s security when the Lord is followed as the Good Shepherd. Those who have been given to the Son shall never perish. While it is not possible to reconcile the two great thoughts which run parallel in Scripture, human responsibility and divine predestination, neither one can be denied. What is certain is that those who follow Christ by trusting and obeying Him, will follow the Lord to the end, because they have been given and drawn. And those who are not able to listen, and to follow Christ, shall remain in a state of inability and will perish because it has not pleased the Father to redeem them.
Now that doesn’t sound like perseverance of the sheep or the saints. Here the sheep are in the Fathers hand, and they are safe-not because they persevere, but because they are in the Fathers hand.
Charles Spurgeon once said, “I do not believe in the perseverance of the Saviour.” To be sure, the Bible teaches the eternal security of the believer. But the believer’s security has nothing to do with his persevering. We are secure because we are kept by God. We are held in the Father’s hand. And according to Ephesians 4:30, we have been sealed by the Holy Spirit until the day of redemption.
So, I disagree with all five points of Calvinism as John Calvin taught it. There is a belief that if one does not teach universal salvation, he must either be a Calvinist or an Arminian.
In this book, The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination, Dr. Loraine Boettner says on page 47,
“There are really only three systems which claim to set forth the way of salvation through Christ [And he names them]:
“(1) Universalism, that all will be saved. (2) Arminianism, which holds that Christ died equally and indiscriminately for every individual……., that saying grace is not necessarily permanent, but that those who are loved of God, ransomed by God, and born of the Holy Spirit may (let God wish and strive ever so much to the contrary) throw away all and perish eternally; and (3) Calvinism.”
“Only two are held by Christians.” That is Calvin’s position and Arminius’ position.” Calvinists would like to make people believe that if one does not teach universal salvation, he must either be a Calvinist or an Arminian. And since the Arminian position does such violence to the grace of God, many preferred to call themselves Calvinists. But a person doesn’t have to take either position.
Seeking an Identity
I am neither Arminian nor Calvinist. I believe in salvation by grace through faith in the finished work of Christ. I believe in the eternal security of the believer. I believe that Jesus Christ died for all men, and I believe what the Bible says, “That whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” But I disagree with all five points of Calvinism as John Calvin taught it.
An Ad Hominem Conclusion
In conclusion, let me say that Calvin and those who followed him claimed to believe and follow the Bible. They claimed to find at least a germ of the Calvinist doctrine in the Scriptures. But a careful student will find that again and again they go beyond Scripture, and that Calvinism is a philosophy developed by man and depending on fallible logic and frail, human reasoning, with the perversion of some Scriptures, the misuse of others, and the total ignoring of many clear Scriptures. Calvin did teach many wonderful, true doctrines of the Scripture.
It is true that God foreknows everything that will happen in the world. It is true that God definitely ordained and determined some events ahead of time and selected some individuals for His purposes. It is certain that people are saved by grace, and are kept by the power of God. That far Calvinists may well their doctrines by the Scriptures. But beyond that, Calvinism goes into the realm of human philosophy. It is not a Bible doctrine, but a system of human philosophy, especially appealing to the scholarly intellect, the self-sufficient and proud mind. Brilliant, philosophical, scholarly preachers are apt to be misled on this matter more than the humblehearted, Bible-believing Christian.
It is unfortunate that an unworthy, and emotional, assault is made against those who believe in the doctrines of grace. There is no reason to believe that individuals such as Charles Spurgeon, Adoniram Judson, Matthew Henry, William Carey, John Newton, John Bunyan, John Knox, Jonathan Edwards, John Owens, Isaac Watts, George Whitefield, A. W. Pink, Donald G. Barnhouse, or R. C. Sproul, engaged in “a system of human philosophy” because they were brilliant and studious in their study of the Word of God.
Perhaps Curtis Hudson is correct in the totality of his theology. Perhaps he is one of “the humblehearted, Bible-believing Christian” who has not been led astray.
What is certain, in a study of Church history, is that God has been pleased to honor those who have loved, and do love the doctrines of grace, and who seek to honor the Lord, and His Word. The Lord has used Calvinist to build His kingdom, and for that, the heart should rejoice.
God has also been pleased to honor and use Arminians, and moderates in between, such as Curtis Hudson, to advance His cause and kingdom. Eternity alone will shed the best light as to which position is most correct.
Let the final word be, for now:
“In Essentials Unity,
In Non-Essentials Liberty,
In All Things Charity.”