Perseverance of the Saints

by Al Maxey


According to the Canons of Dordt (Fifth Head of Doctrine -- Article 6), "But God, who is rich in mercy, according to His unchangeable purpose of election, does not wholly withdraw the Holy Spirit from His own people even in their grievous falls; nor suffers them to proceed so far as to lose the grace of adoption and forfeit the state of justification, or to commit the sin unto death or against the Holy Spirit; nor does He permit them to be totally deserted, and to plunge themselves into everlasting destruction."

Article 8 states: "Thus it is not in consequence of their own merits or strength, but of God's free mercy, that they neither totally fall from faith and grace nor continue and perish finally in their backslidings; which, with respect to themselves is not only possible, but would undoubtedly happen; but with respect to God, it is utterly impossible, since His counsel cannot be changed nor His promise fail; neither can the call according to His purpose be revoked, nor the merit, intercession, and preservation of Christ be rendered ineffectual, nor the sealing of the Holy Spirit be frustrated or obliterated."

Article 9 states that true believers may rest assured that "they are and ever will continue true and living members of the Church, and that they have the forgiveness of sins and life eternal."

"The elect are not only redeemed by Christ and renewed by the Spirit; they are also kept in the faith by the almighty power of God. All those who are spiritually united to Christ through regeneration are eternally secure in Him. Nothing can separate them from the eternal and unchangeable love of God. They have been predestinated unto eternal glory and are therefore assured of heaven" (Steele & Thomas, The Five Points of Calvinism, p. 56).

"By the term 'perseverance of the saints' we mean that if a person is once saved he is always saved and can never slip from God's saving grace. When we confess the perseverance of the saints we confess that there are no ifs or buts about the certainty of our salvation. What a glorious comfort the knowledge of this fact brings to the one who is a Christian. For he can know that if he really has put his trust in Jesus as Saviour, then he can never slip away and be lost, whether because of his own sinful weakness and tendency to unbelief, or because of the wiles of the Devil" (Dr. Edwin H. Palmer, The Five Points of Calvinism, p. 59).

"The Christian Reformed Church teaches that by virtue of their election ... God will not suffer those who are joined to Christ in true faith to totally fall from faith and grace; and that by reason of the continuous abiding of the Holy Spirit the believers will persevere in the way of salvation to the end" (The Christian Reformed Church -- What It Teaches, Tract #86, p. 13-14).

"According to Calvinism, not only does God elect those who are to be saved, not only does He descend on them with irresistible grace, He also makes them persevere so there is utterly no chance of them ever losing their salvation" (Jerry Moffitt, Calvinism: Let It Argue With The Bible, "Firm Foundation," December 9, 1986).

This doctrine is known by a host of different names. The following are just a few:


Is Calvinism's doctrine of the Preservation of the Saints a valid teaching in light of God's Word? As with the four previous doctrines of Calvinism, let's ask several important questions and seek their answer from the Scriptures.

Is Calvinism's doctrine of the eternal security of the believer a true teaching, or does the Word of God teach that a Christian can fall from a state of grace? Once IN a state of grace, can one FALL from it?

  1. Galatians 5:4 ..... Paul, in writing to the "churches (the called out ones) of Galatia" (Galatians 1:2), says, "You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace." You cannot be severed from what you were not first joined to, and you cannot fall from a position you had never attained.

  2. I Timothy 4:1 ..... "But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons." "Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall" (I Corinthians 10:12).

  3. Hebrews 6:4-6 ..... "For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance."

  4. Hebrews 3:12-14 ..... "Take care, brethren, lest any of you have an evil and unfaithful heart and fall away from the living God. Encourage one another daily while it is still 'today,' so that no one grows hardened by the deceit of sin. We have become partners of (or "partakers of") Christ only if we maintain to the end that confidence with which we began."

  5. II Peter 3:17 ..... "You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard lest, being carried away by the error of unprincipled men, you fall from your own steadfastness." II Peter 2:1 speaks of those who will "deny the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves."

  6. Luke 8:13 ..... (Parable of the Sower) --- "And those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word in joy; and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away."

  7. Luke 12:46 ..... In this parable we find a servant of the master who has been placed in charge of all the master's possessions. For a time he had been considered "faithful and sensible," however he begins to say in his heart "My master will be a long time coming" and begins to act unfaithfully. "The master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him, and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and assign him a place with the unbelievers."

  8. Revelation 2:4-5 ..... "But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you, and will remove your lampstand out of its place -- unless you repent."

  9. Romans 11:22 ..... This speaks of the "rich root of the olive tree" and of branches being "broken off" and others "grafted in." Some are "broken off for their unbelief" (vs. 20). The believer should take warning that if "God did not spare the natural branches, neither will He spare you" (vs. 21). "Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God's kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off."

  10. Hebrews 12:15 ..... "See to it that no man falls away from the grace of God." In II Thessalonians 2:3 Paul says that the second coming of Christ will not occur until after "the falling away" (apostasy) takes place.

Is Calvinism's doctrine of the absolute "perseverance of the saints" true, or does the Bible teach that the salvation of the saints is conditional upon continued faithfulness? Can one lose his/her salvation by no longer remaining faithful?

  1. Revelation 2:10 ..... "Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life." "I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, in order that no one take your crown" (Revelation 3:11).

  2. Colossians 1:22-23 ..... "He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach -- if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard."

  3. I Chronicles 28:9 ..... "As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a whole heart and a willing mind; for the Lord searches all hearts, and understands every intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will let you find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will reject you forever."

  4. II Peter 1:10 ..... "Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never fall (stumble)."

  5. I Corinthians 9:27 ..... "What I do is discipline (buffet, bruise) my own body and master it, for fear that after having preached to others I myself should be rejected (cast away)."

  6. Matthew 5:13 ..... "You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how will it be made salty again? It is good for nothing anymore, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men."

  7. Hebrews 2:1 ..... "For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it." "My righteous one shall live by faith; but if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him" (Hebrews 10:38). "For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain terrifying expectation of judgment, and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries" (Hebrews 10:26-27). See also: II Peter 2:20-22.

Does the Bible teach that once you are in the faith that you are then safe from apostasy? Or does it teach that those who are in Christ Jesus CAN deny the faith, and that the faith of the saints CAN be overthrown or destroyed?

  1. I Timothy 4:1 ..... "But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith." "But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever" (I Timothy 5:8).

  2. I Timothy 6:10 ..... "The love of money is the root of all evil. Some men in their passion for it have strayed from the faith, and have come to grief amid great pain." "O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called 'knowledge' -- which some have professed and thus gone astray from the faith" (I Timothy 6:20-21).

  3. I Timothy 1:19-20 ..... "...keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith. Among these are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have delivered over to Satan, that they may be taught not to blaspheme." Concerning Hymenaeus, and another man named Philetus, Paul says, "they have erred concerning the truth ... and overthrow the faith of some" (II Timothy 2:18).

Can a person who is in the Kingdom of God sin in such a way as to be eternally lost? Once IN the Kingdom, is it possible to then be REMOVED from the Kingdom?

  1. Matthew 13:41-42 ..... "The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather from out of His Kingdom all stumbling blocks ("all who draw others to apostasy" -- NAB), and those who commit lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire."

  2. Matthew 13:47-50 ..... (Parable of the Dragnet). Those fish caught up in the net = those who respond to the Gospel. However, even some of these fish are excluded at the end because they failed to measure up to the standard of Jesus Christ.

  3. I Peter 4:17-18 ..... "For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And if it is with difficulty that the righteous is saved, what will become of the godless man and the sinner?" See also: Ezekiel 9 where judgment on the land begins at His sanctuary, and with the spiritual leaders.

  4. Revelation 2:5 ..... "Remember therefore from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you, and will remove your lampstand from out of its place -- unless you repent."

Scripture tells us that the names of the saved are written in the Lamb's Book of Life. Once those names have been written there, is it possible for them to be erased or blotted out?

  1. Exodus 32:33 ..... "And the Lord said to Moses, 'Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book.'"

  2. Psalm 69:28 ..... In regard to the unrighteous, David writes, "May they be blotted out of the book of life, and may they not be recorded with the righteous."

  3. Revelation 3:5 ..... "He who overcomes shall thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life." "If anyone takes from the words of this prophetic book, God will take away his share in the tree of life (KJV has "book of life") and the holy city described here" (Revelation 22:19).

In I Peter 5:8 we are warned to "be of sober spirit, be on the alert; for your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour." If Calvinism's doctrine of the "eternal security of the believer" is true, why is this warning given? What's the point?! And if the devil cannot devour a single saint, and already has been given all others, why does he even bother prowling about? Is he really that stupid and uninformed?!

Why do Jesus and the inspired writers repeatedly stress the need to "overcome" and "remain faithful" and "endure to the end," etc., if our eternal fate is already foreordained and forever fixed? If we are the elect, is not our election sure?! Why, then, the thousands of warnings to us?

Several biblical scholars have counted close to 2500 specific warnings to the people of God against apostasy (falling away). Why are any of these warnings even necessary if every saint is eternally secure? Why would God repeatedly warn His people against that which is an impossibility?! To almost every congregation Paul writes (read these epistles and verify this!) he warns them against falling away, and encourages them to stand firm in their faith, and to resist Satan's efforts to destroy them. Why the need for any of this ... what's the point? ... if their eternal fate is predetermined and unchangeable?!

EXAMPLE --- Paul was distressed that some of the Galatian brethren were "deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel" (Galatians 1:6). If it was impossible for these people to be lost, why is Paul so concerned? In Galatians 5:4 he writes, "You have been severed from Christ, you who have been seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace." Paul obviously doesn't know what he's talking about, since he here states an impossibility --- impossible, that is, IF Calvinism is true. Second, why should he really care if they go back to law? After all, once they are in Christ they are eternally secure regardless of whether they go back to law or not!! .... or, so says Calvinism!

In light of these, and literally hundreds and thousands of other passages, it ought to be very obvious that Calvin's doctrine of the perseverance of the saints is not consistent with the teaching of the Word of God. It also makes a mockery of God who repeatedly warns us in the Bible against doing that which, according to Calvinism, He has already decreed to be impossible!!

Home Page TULIP Files