The Perseverance of the Saints

Calvinism 101: Session 14

The Perseverance of the Saints


[Perseverance] tis necessary to salvation as a necessary consequence and evidence of a title to salvation. There never is a title to salvation without it. Though it have not the righteousness by which a title to life is attained, yet none have that righteousness that don’t persevere…a temporary faith [does not] justify…Tis not a vanishing but a durable faith that justifies. – Jonathan Edwards, “Persevering Faith”


Preservation and Perseverance


We believe that all genuine Christians endure to the end. That their persevering attachment to Christ is the grand mark which distinguishes them from superficial, false “Christians.” That a special Providence watches over their welfare and they are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation. – Article XII “The Perseverance of the Saints” from our Statement of Faith


Two Things Can Be True at the Same Time


  • All of God’s elect will persevere because God is preserving.
  • See Phil 1:6; 1 Cor 1:7-8; Rom 8:30, 35-39; John 6:37-40, 44; John 10:27-30; Matt 24:24; Eph 1:13-14; 1 Pet 1:5; Jude 24-25; 1 Thess 5:23-24; Heb 13:20-21; Jer 32:40

  • You, therefore, must persevere or you will be destroyed.




Exhortations to Persevere

  • “When [Barnabas] came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose,” (Acts 11:23)

  • “And after the meeting of the synagogue broke up, many Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who, as they spoke with them, urged them to continue in the grace of God,” (Acts 13:43)

  • “…strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God,” (Acts 14:22)

  • “…keep yourselves in the love of God,” (Jude 21)

  • Recent Christians are not told that they will inherit the kingdom no matter what they do. Rather, they are urged to remain and continue in the faith,” (Tom Schreiner, Run to Win the Prize, 18).




  • “19 Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” 20 That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. 22 Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off.” (Rom 11:19-22)

  • “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him,” (1 John 2:3-4).

  • For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. 7 For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. 8 But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned. (Heb 6:4-8)


Popular Interpretations of Warning Passages:


  1. Arminian/Wesleyan: You can lose your salvation.
  2. Loss of Rewards: You cannot lose your salvation, but lose certain rewards in heaven.
  3. Classic Reformed: Those being threatened are in the Church, but not elect.
  4. Spurgeon’s View: God uses warnings as a sovereign means to keep His elect.


Charles Spurgeon: Final Perseverance (Hebrews 6:4-6)


“First, then, we answer the question, WHO ARE THE PEOPLE HERE SPOKEN OF? If you read Dr. Gill, Dr. Owen, and almost all the eminent Calvinistic writers, they all of them assert that these persons are not Christians. They say, that enough is said here to represent a man who is a Christian externally, but not enough to give the portrait of a true believer. Now, it strikes me they would not have said this if they had had some doctrine to uphold; for a child, reading this passage, would say, that the persons intended by it must be Christians. If the Holy Spirit intended to describe Christians, I do not see that he could have used more explicit terms than there are here. How can a man be said to be enlightened, and to taste of the heavenly gift, and to be made partaker of the Holy Ghost, without being a child of God? With all deference to these learned doctors, and I admire and love them all, I humbly conceive that they allowed their judgments to be a little warped when they said that.”


  • Spurgeon believes that the warnings of Scripture are addressed to real Christians, not just those in the Church, but not elect.
  • Yet, Spurgeon maintains that no real Christian will ever fall away—we may fall, but we cannot fall away.


“If Christians can fall away, and cease to be Christians, they cannot be renewed again to repentance. "But," says one, "You say they cannot fall away." What is the use of putting this "if" in, like a bugbear to frighten children, or like a ghost that can have no existence? My learned friend, "Who art thou that repliest against God?" If God has put it in, he has put it in for wise reasons and for excellent purposes. Let me show you why. First, O Christian, it is put in to keep thee from falling away. God preserves his children from falling away; but he keeps them by the use of means; and one of these is, the terrors of the law, showing them what would happen if they were to fall away. There is a deep precipice: what is the best way to keep any one from going down there? Why, to tell him that if he did he would inevitably be dashed to pieces. In some old castle there is a deep cellar, where there is a vast amount of fixed air and gas, which would kill anybody who went down. What does the guide say? "If you go down you will never come up alive." Who thinks of going down? The very fact of the guide telling us what the consequences would be, keeps us from it. Our friend puts away from us a cup of arsenic; he does not want us to drink it, but he says, "If you drink it, it will kill you." Does he suppose for a moment that we should drink it. No; he tells us the consequences, and he is sure we will not do it. So God says, "My child, if you fall over this precipice you will be dashed to pieces." What does the child do? He says, "Father, keep me; hold thou me up, and I shall be safe." It leads the believer to greater dependence on God, to a holy fear and caution, because he knows that if he were to fall away he could not be renewed, and he stands far away from that great gulf, because he knows that if he were to fall into it there would be no salvation for him.”


How the Classic Reformed Position Can Be Correct


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 it might become plain that they all are not of us. (1 John 2:19)

  • The difference between phenomena and noumena; what we see vs. what God sees.
  • Church discipline presupposes this framework (see Matt 18:15-20; 1 Cor 5).



  1. We should be confident of God’s preserving work in our life, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure,” (Phil 2:12-13)

  2. We should listen to warnings and “Strive…for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord,” (Heb 12:14).

  3. Remember that perseverance does not mean perfection. The book of James insists that we must have good works to give evidence of our faith, yet also tells us: “we all stumble in many ways,” (James 3:2).

  4. Remember that perseverance is not works-righteousness: “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me,” (1 Cor 15:10)

  5. Remember that perseverance is primarily a community project: “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.” (Heb 3:12-14).