I want to start this off by saying that perseverance or preservation of the saints is not the same thing as eternal security or once saved, always saved. Matt Slick has a really great explanation about the differences between the 3 and I will link that below for you so you could see more from it. I also wanted to note that I waited until today to add resources that cover Calvinism as a whole to a post. The reason for that is I didn’t want to get ahead of myself by putting these resources up potentially too early. I’m going to have it divided up into podcasts, books, and articles. There are more resources and Bible verses to support Calvinism than what I have put in these posts, but I hope these have facilitated some good study!
What is it?
So, the P in TULIP actually has two different meanings that are used interchangeably, perseverance of the saints (most common) and preservation of the saints. You can see here that I tend to use preservation, I like it because it reads more that God is preserving/keeping you; whereas, perseverance gives more of an indication that there’s action on our part. That said, both are perfectly valid ways to read the P and I think both are needed. Preservation of the saints is the doctrine that if we are truly one of the elect, we cannot lose our salvation and that “he who started a good work in you will see it through to the day of completion” (Philippians 1:6).
But doesn’t this just give us license to sin?
There’s 2 main routes that are taken in objections to preservation of the saints. The more scriptural argument against preservation of the saints is largely based on a passage in Hebrews (5:20-6:11) that warns against falling against the faith (it’s not the only one that talks about it, this is just the most glaring). This passage is actually a great lesson in paying attention to the context of what’s written. It is written to condemn and warn about apostasy, which still happens, even if God already knows who the elect are. We have to understand going in that there’s two things working simultaneously together in this passage. The first is that God knows things we don’t know and has ordained things we can’t know until they’ve already happened. And like yesterday’s post dealing with the effectual call, we cannot know who the elect are, but we can encourage those that are part of the visible church to stay strong in the faith and have courage (and call them to repentance and remind them not to fall away). If you actually continue into verse 12, the writer says that they don’t want us to become lazy, “but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised” (ESV).
Later on in Hebrews (ch 7), the writer also acknowledges the permanent state of those who are in Christ, saying:
Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.
This is also a good time to give a reminder that the epistles are letters that were read all in one sitting and not broken up into chapters and verses, so when the church was hearing this, they did hear the full context, which is a call to piety and obedience, even as Christians.
The less scriptural objection, but so much more damning, is the pushback that if preservation is true, we do not need to obey because God will continue to give grace. To that, I say in the words of the apostle Paul in Romans 6, by no means.
Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?
I want to be super clear on this point because I have gotten pushback on multiple posts of mine calling me an antinomian because people did not give me the opportunity to elaborate my points when I say that obedience is not salvific. It is not. Our obedience will not bring us salvation, only God will do that. And God has more grace than we could ever exhaust for when we do inevitably sin. But this does not mean that we do not need to obey and it does not mean that we should not obey. The last week of this month, we’ll be taking a look at the law gospel distinction and how it plays a role in our lives, so I don’t want to leave you with an incomplete picture of the reality of the Christian life.
So to the person who genuinely asks why a Christian’s life should look different after becoming regenerate, I have a question that I want to ask back with as much grace as I could possibly have. Why would a Christian want to sin?
Scriptural Support for Preservation of the Saints:
- Matthew 7
- Hebrews 1:3, 7:25
- Philippians 1:6, 29
- John 6:28-29, 38-40; 10:27-29
- Colossians 1:17
- Nehemiah 9:6
- 1 Corinthians 8:6
- Ephesians 4:6
- Isaiah 41:10
- 1 John 2:19
John Calvin Speaks About it in the Institutes:
- Book 3, Chapter 2, Section 40
- Book 3, Chapter 14, Section 6-9
More Resources to Learn:
- Canons of Dort Heads 5 https://bit.ly/33JMDfE
- PRCA outline of Preservation of the Saints https://bit.ly/33GyLm1
- Doctrine and Devotion https://bit.ly/3dirtbt
- Ligonier https://bit.ly/30ORmum
- Monergism resources https://bit.ly/2SFFgPK
- CARM Perseverance of the Saints https://bit.ly/36LBcWx
- A Puritan’s Mind https://bit.ly/3nvX4ev
Resources on Calvinism:
- Theology Gals Episode: https://bit.ly/3nvMnZs
- The Reformed Brotherhood https://bit.ly/34wU9ta
- Simply Put (Ligonier) https://bit.ly/3nvUTrc
- Humble Calvinism by J. A. Medders https://amzn.to/3HGDndI
- What is Reformed Theology by RC Sproul https://amzn.to/3Lg6RRT
- Chosen by God by RC Sproul https://amzn.to/34sl9hC
- For Calvinism by Michael Horton https://amzn.to/3oDsFgt
- Putting Amazing Back into Grace by Michael Horton https://amzn.to/3Lg7niN
- A Defense of Calvinism by Charles Spurgeon https://amzn.to/3uyYVoR
- TGC https://bit.ly/30NlgPY
- TGC Church History Courses https://bit.ly/2FbX6qu
- Ligonier Reformed Theology Resources https://bit.ly/2FdnaSa
+ These include affiliate links that we may make a small commission off of.