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TEXT: Matthew 10:22

SUBJECT: Evangelism and the Five Points of Calvinism #5: Perseverance of the Saints

Today brings us to the last sermon in our study "Evangelism and the Five Points of Calvinism". The Five Points correspond to the word, TULIP. Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and the Perseverance of the Saints. The doctrines are of God. They support His work of evangelism.

They do--that is--if they're properly understood and applied. The goal of this study is to help us understand the doctrines better--not as an end in itself, but to stimulate our efforts to reach the lost for Christ.

The Fifth Point of Calvinism is "The Perseverance of the Saints".

What is it?

In Article XVII, Section I, the Westminster Confession of Faith explains it quite clearly.

"They whom God has 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".

This teaches two things: Firstly, that believers are put into a state of grace now--our lives are changed for the better. Secondly, that believers cannot fall from grace and be lost in the end.

Do we persevere as a result of self-discipline? No, says Section II, but by God's grace.

"The perseverance of the saints depends not upon their own free will, but upon the...free and unchangeable love of God the Father...upon the merit of Jesus Christ...[and upon] the abiding of [God's] Spirit".

This mean Christians are perfect or nearly so? It does not. Section III says

"Nevertheless, they may through the temptations of Satan...of remaining corruption...and the neglect of the means [of grace] fall into grievous sin, and for a time continue therein...be deprived of...their graces and comforts; have their hearts hardened...hurt others...and bring temporal judgments upon themselves".

This, in short, is the Reformed Doctrine of Perseverance. "Once saved, always saved".

Is it true?

It is. The Bible teaches it in so many ways. The unchanging purpose of God, for example, makes salvation secure. "The gifts and calling of God are without repentance" says Romans 11:29. If, therefore, He has given you the gift of eternal life, He won't ever repent of it; He won't change His mind and take it back. The Father is no "Indian Giver".

The direct promise of Jesus Christ also secures it. "I give them eternal life, and they will never perish; no one can snatch them out of My hand" (John 10:28). How emphatic He is! The thought never occurs to Him that some of His people might end up lost.

The work of the Holy Spirit guarantees the salvation of every believer. When we trust Christ, we are "sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise". A "seal" identified a letter and protected it from snoopers who wanted to know what was in it. In the same way, the Holy Spirit identifies us as belonging to God and keeps us safe from those who'd like to pry us loose from Him.

Peter assumes his readers were secure. They had, after all, "An inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for [them] who are kept by the power of God for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time". And not only he knew that. So did they--for "In this [they] greatly rejoiced, [even though they] were now grieved by various trials". Surely, these were perfect people? No, they weren't. They had the same problems we do--"fleshly lusts, corrupt rulers, cruel bosses, loud-mouthed wives, thoughtless husbands, bad neighbors, and domineering pastors.

Believers died in confidence that they were truly saved. Stephen died saying, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit". Paul died saying, "Now is laid up for me a crown of righteousness". Balaam wants to "die the death of the righteous"; but believers do. Why? Because they're

"Safe in the arms of Jesus".

Salvation is real; it is forever.

How does the doctrine affect evangelism?

If rightly understood, it spurs evangelistic zeal. How? I thought of four ways:

Firstly, it exalts Jesus Christ as an all-sufficient Savior. Evangelism is not bringing people to church, to Sunday School, or to VBS. It's bringing people to Christ. What Christ?

Every believer can say, "the willing Christ". He "takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but [prefers them] to turn and be saved". He proved this by "receiving sinners"--welcoming crooks and hookers and demoniacs and so on. We ought to say this: "Sinner, if you come to Christ, He will take you--just as you are".

He is willing; every believer knows that. But we know more than that, don't we? We know "He is able to save sinners". We can tell the lost that He not only offers "the forgiveness of sin", but also "Gives repentance". The One who died for us also lives for us! He enables us to resist temptation, to mortify sin, to know the truth, to pursue holiness, and to "persevere to the end".

In sum, we can tell the sinner that he needn't go it alone; he needn't start with Christ and grow on his own. No! For He "became our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption".

"In Him we are complete".

Nothing will spur evangelism more than a Savior, "able to the uttermost".

Secondly, it encourages the sinner to trust the Lord Jesus. No one wants to make a fool of himself; nothing is more shameful than professing Christ and then falling away. It's like the man who began work on his house--and ran out of money before it was finished--it makes people laugh.

What do we say to the sinner? That he needn't persevere? Or, that he must endure, but may not? No! We tell him that the Christian life is a cooperative effort! In living it, we are "workers together with God". The Lord is with us; the One who justifies us, also sanctifies us by His Word and Spirit.

Martin Luther was a remarkable man--learned, brave, holy, and zealous. Yet he knew he wasn't alone.

"Did we in our own strength confide,

Our striving would be losing;

Were not the right Man on our side,

The Man of God's own choosing".

We can tell people with the worst and most fixed habits that they can live lives honoring to God, for by His grace they will "endure to the end".

Thirdly, the doctrine helps us to help others persevere. To persevere in the faith, one needs help--human help, most of the time. That's why our Lord created a church and sustains it to this day. We need each others' prayer, example, encouragement, reproof, and so on.

The efforts, though, often seem wasted. You pray for someone and he only gets worse. You gently rebuke him and he quits the church. What do we do? We keep on doing these things in faith, knowing that they aren't wasted, but that all of God's people will, in time, be helped by them.

"Be steadfast, immovable

Always abounding in the work

of the Lord; for you know your

Work is not vain, in the Lord".

Lastly, the doctrine consoles us when--after we've done our best--people fall away.

To see people fall away from Christ is a painful experience. But, the pain needn't be guilty. If you've prayed for others and honestly tried to help them, you're not to blame for their apostasy. It's not your fault.

"They went out from us,

for they were not of us;

For if they had been of us,

They would have doubtless

continued with us; but they

went out from us, that it

might be manifest, they

were not of us".

This is the dark side of perseverance. If all believers "endure to the end", it means those who don't "endure" were not believers at all. Should we be grieved for them? Yes. Weep for them? Pray for them? Of course. But not be eaten up with guilt. For if we've done what we could, they must

"Bear their own burdens".

Close

"Evangelism and the Five Points of Calvinism". The two are not always easy to square. But where we cannot understand, let us obey. If God is sovereign, let us submit to His rule by obeying His word. Let us renew our efforts to "Preach the Gospel to every creature". God help us to do so. For Christ's sake. Amen.

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