The Last of the Five Points of Calvinism
We have finally made it to the last point of the Five Points of Calvinism, the perseverance of the saints. This Reformed teaching can easily be summed up in a nutshell: if God saved you, no one can separate you from His grasp.
To paraphrase John Calvin, the power of the Holy Spirit is so effective it MUST keep us on a continual path of faithfulness to God (Calvin’s Commentary on 1 John 3:9). That’s a truth we can firmly hold on to.
Who is a Saint?
Before we go further into explaining the beautiful doctrine of perseverance, we must address the elephant in the room. When we say the “perseverance of the saints,” we don’t mean the kind of saints you see being honored in the Roman Catholic church with their halos and candles.
Rather saint here merely refers to any member of God’s people, past or present. The words Christian and Saint have often been used synonymously throughout history. Think of the doctrine more as “the perseverance of Christians.” If you are a Christian, you are a saint. This means that God has and will protect and preserve His people throughout the ages till eternity.
What Does it Mean to Persevere?
Often when we think of persevering, we think of the human determination to stay the course and win the race. But in Reformed theology, perseverance is something God does, not something that we do.
The Apostle Paul tells us that “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it” (Philippians 1:6). This means that when God starts something, He makes sure to finish it. It means that once you become a Christian through God’s irresistible graceand divine election, He will never leave you or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).
This act of preserving is totally an act of God and not of man. As the Westminster Confession of Faith explains, “This perseverance of the saints depends, not upon their own free will, but upon the immutability of the decree of election, flowing from the free and unchangeable love of God the Father; upon the efficacy of the merit and intercession of Jesus Christ; the abiding of the Spirit,” (WCF 17.2). It is all Him, not us.
What About People Who Used to Be Christians?
We all know someone who used to go to Church and now doesn’t. Does that mean they weren’t preserved? This is a difficult question, and Reformed theologians have had debates about it for centuries.
Instead of trying to give a complete answer, we must remember two principles. First, final salvation is in God’s hands alone. Perhaps that person you knew who left the Church may one day, by God’s grace, return to the Faith. This in itself is an act of God’s preserving them.
Second, we must remember that while those who God elects, He will preserve, and those who fall away were predestined to fall away (1 Peter 2:8), we must handle this truth with extreme caution. In Romans 9, the Apostle Paul rebukes those who try to play God and speculate from an eternal perspective. Some things are for God to know and not us. Instead of trying to figure out who is really saved and who is not, we are called to live by faith in God and His promises alone.
When God saves us, when we are baptized into His people, when He bestows His grace upon us, we can be sure that His promise to persevere us is also given to us. He has given us nothing less than Himself, which is the greatest gift of all. So instead of worrying, cling to Him and His promises.
What Does This Mean for You?
The Bible tells us that if we abide in Jesus, He will abide in us (John 15:4). Jesus says, “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand,” (John 10:28).
Notice that Jesus doesn’t simply promise a temporal life, rather, He promises eternal life. This means that as long as we are in the hands of God, nothing can separate us from Him even death (Romans 8:38-39).
The sole reason for our perseverance in faith lies in God’s promises to us. This should give us great confidence. It is Christ who sustains us, not ourselves. By His power, we can rest assured that even in the valley of death, we will be safe in His hand.
The Five Points of Calvinism Show Us God’s Love
The Five Points of Calvinism all work together to show us God’s great love for His people. He doesn’t just elect totally depraved people, He atones for our sins, He leads us to Him by His grace, and He perseveres us to the end.
If you learned anything from this series, we hope that it is the great truth that God is God, and you are not. This is a wonderful thing because it ensures that God’s work in us cannot fail because His promises to love us will never fail. So cling to Him.