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Perseverance of the Saints and II Peter 2:17

by Bryan Sharp

In II Peter 2:1, Peter warns of false teachers from within the Church "who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction." In II Peter 2:17 Peter says these same people "are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm. For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved." The New King James Version renders the "gloom of utter darkness" as the "blackness of darkness forever." It is an obvious reference to hell. So Peter is telling us there are some people who will go to hell even though the Lord bought them. Some people will lose their salvation.

The Westminster Confession of Faith states, "They whom God has accepted in His Beloved … can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace…" (Chapter 17, Paragraph 1). This Calvinistic teaching of Perseverance of the Saints, or more commonly, "once saved always saved", is a common belief among American denominations. So in this lesson we will see how this doctrine connects with the rest of Calvinism, then discuss Scripture relating to the doctrine. Finally we will examine some specific consequences of the doctrine as they relate to our love for God and motivation for obedience.

Perseverance of the Saints is another logical consequence of Total Hereditary Depravity. Consider the following progression of TULIP: People are born so evil that they cannot even want to do what is right (Total Hereditary Depravity). Because we cannot even want to do good, God must override our will and force us to be saved (Irresistible Grace). Because God is forcing us to obey Him, we can do nothing to damn ourselves (Perseverance of the Saints).

Supporting this doctrine is the same misconception of God's sovereignty that supports the doctrine of Irresistible Grace. Calvinism holds that God specified each and every thing that would ever happen before the creation of the world and that these decrees are unchangeable. In fact Calvinism equates affirming free will to denying God's sovereignty. Thus the Westminster Confession of Faith states, "This perseverance of the saints depends not upon their own free will but upon the immutability of the decree of election …" (Chapter 17, Paragraph 2).

Our text is not the only biblical example of saints losing their salvation. Acts 8:13 tells us that Simon was a baptized believer, yet in Acts 8:23, after Simon sinned, Peter describes him as being "in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity." In II Corinthians 5:20, Paul implores Christians to "be reconciled to God." In Galatians 5:4, Paul warns the Christians who are forsaking the gospel for the Law of Moses that they "have fallen away from grace."

Not only do Bible examples show Christians losing their salvation, but the ramifications of this doctrine make it untenable. Instead of motivating us with reasons to serve God, it engenders an acceptance of our situation and a lack of caring. If we are lost, we cannot be saved. If we are saved, we cannot be lost. Either way, there is nothing we can do to change our situation. Rather than bettering ourselves, we blame others and wait for them to fix our problems. All of our tribulations are a product, not of our own shortcomings, but of God's eternal decree. We cannot fight God, so we should just accept ourselves as we are while blaming God for anything bad that ever happens. The logical end of such a position is that instead of growing to love a just and merciful God, we grow to hate an unjust and unappeasable tyrant.

Thousands of years ago, Satan lied to Eve promising her she would not die if she ate the forbidden fruit. Believing the lie, she ate and received the very thing she had, until that time, successfully avoided, death. Calvinism consists of an elaborate series of falsehoods, each purporting to glorify God by denying man's free will and ascribing complete control of every action to our Creator. Just as happened to Eve, if we believe this lie and act accordingly, we will accomplish the very thing we seek to prevent.