WCF Chapter 17: Of the Perseverance of the Saints—John 10:22–30

WCF Chapter 17: Of the Perseverance of the Saints—John 10:22–30

You must persevere. To be sure that you will never fall “be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election” (2 Peter 1:10). But the way saints persevere is not in their own strength. We fall and we fail. But we keep coming back to the cross. 

Many people suppose that “true believers are able to fall through their own fault into shameful and atrocious deeds, to persevere and to die in them; and therefore finally to fall and to perish.”[i] This opinion seems to be supported by Scriptural warnings against falling away, and examples in the Bible and in our own experience of people who negate earlier professions of faith.

But a right understanding of Scripture and experience suggests a different view. God’s beloved children can backslide. But those who finally fall away prove that they were not truly of the people of God (1 John 2:19). God’s children “can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved.”

The Truth of Perseverance

Perseverance is a vital part of the ordo salutis: Whom God predestines, he also calls, justifies, and glorifies (Rom. 8:30). If God “did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” including perseverance (32). Those who are born again have “an inheritance that is imperishable, kept in heaven for them. God guards them “through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:45). The outcome of genuine faith is actual salvation (9).

If God accepts a person in Christ, that person cannot be cast away. Paul expressed confidence about the saints at Philippi: “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6). Those who are genuine partakers of grace God will surely make pure and blameless at the day of Christ (7, 10). This was Jesus’s conviction. Our Lord gives his sheep “eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of [his] hand” (John 10:2728).

Those who will persevere are saints truly in a state of grace who actually love the Lord and diligently walk in his ways. “For good reason, we speak of the perseverance of the saints, not the perseverance of all who profess faith.”[ii] God never promises that those who make a bare confession of faith in Christ will persevere to the end. In fact, “Among those who hate Christ the most, some once professed to trust him. His claims are so exclusive, and his demands so pervasive that, in the end, you must either give yourself to him completely or give him up altogether. There is no middle ground.”[iii]

But the truth of the perseverance of the saints, of those indwelt by the Holy Spirit, is firmly fixed in Scripture.

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