Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 14, 1960
NUMBER 48, PAGE 9a-10

Perseverance Of The Saints

Herschel E. Patton, Shelbyville, Tennessee

Some people, in studying with us in this review, have said they do not believe some of the articles set forth in the manual containing these nineteen articles, though they belong to the group for whom these articles were written. They seem to think they can reject any of these articles that they do not believe and still continue to support the body which teaches these things without endangering their own spiritual welfare. The apostle John says "Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, bath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds" (2 John 9-11). Here we see that to encourage one who teaches error is to become guilty along with the false teacher. The Apostle Paul said in Romans 14:23 "And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin." This simply means that if man goes along with and encourages that which he does not believe, he is guilty of sin. Of course, the reference here is to eating meats, but the principle is the same whether we are talking about eating meats, believing an article of faith, or anything else. So, if a practice or doctrine is proven by the scriptures to be false, we are duty bound to throw it overboard and lend no encouragement to it or to those who promulgate it.

The article of faith to be studied at this time is article number eleven, which is entitled "Perseverance of Saints." but will endure unto the end," while Pendleton's Manual says "We believe that such only are real believers as endure unto the end." Of course, both statements convey exactly the same idea — the idea that a saved, regenerated, born-again person will not fall away and perish, and if he does, then he never was a true believer. Though not stated in this article of faith, it is believed and has often been affirmed in debate that it is impossible for a regenerated, born again person so to sin as to be finally and eternally lost. Some preachers of this faith have made their belief very clear by such statements as "I am just as secure right now as if I were already in heaven"; and "our souls do not sin, our souls are as perfect as God." One preacher of this faith clearly defined the belief when he said "We take the position that a Christian's sins do not damn his soul . . . all the churches to which he may belong, all the prayers he may pray, all the Bibles he may read, all the sermons he may practice and all the benevolent acts he may perform will not make his soul one whit safer in the sight of God and all the sins he may commit from idolatry to murder will not endanger his soul." This, my friend, is the doctrine affirmed in this eleventh article.

Scriptures Thought To Teach The Doctrine

We are cited to several scriptural references in connection with this article which are believed to teach the doctrine here advanced. We now consider these references: We are cited to John 8:31, "Then said Jesus, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed." You will notice, friends, there is an "if" in this passage. Jesus did not say "ye are my disciples indeed whether you continue in my word or not — whether you live a clean live or not." He said, "If ye continue in my words, then are ye my disciples indeed." What if one does not continue in his word? Is he still the Lord's disciple? Instead of this passage teaching that one will endure faithfully unto the end, it lists a condition which must be complied with or one will not be his disciple indeed.

Article No. XI

"We Believe The Scriptures Teach That Such As Are Truly Regenerated, Being Born Of The Spirit, Will Not Utterly Fall Away And Perish, But Will Endure Unto The End; That Their Persevering Attachment To Christ Is The Grand Mark Which Distinguishes Them From Superficial Professors; That A Special Providence Watches Over Their Welfare; And That They Are Kept By The Power Of God Through Faith Unto Salvation."

Explanation Of The Doctrine

Here we have affirmed a doctrine which is often discussed and over which there have been many debates. The doctrine is called here the "Perseverance of Saints" but is sometimes referred to as "The Security of the Believer," "The impossibility of apostasy," or briefly speaking "once saved — always saved." There is a little difference in the way this article is stated in Hiscox's Manual and in Pendleton's Manual. I have been quoting in these articles from Hiscox's Manual. The only difference in this article as stated in both manuals is in the beginning statement. Hiscox's Manual says "We believe the scriptures teach that such as are truly regenerated, being born of the Spirit, will not utterly fall away and perish, The next passage to which our attention is called is 1 John 2:27-28, "But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him. And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming." The anointing mentioned in this- passage taught them all things so that they needed not that any man teach them. In verse 20 John said "But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things." The word "unction" in this verse is translated "anointing" in the American Standard Version. Their anointing from the holy one enabled them to know all things, which would guard against their being deceived by seducing teachers. This passage does not teach continuous revelation, or that Christians are to be led by what some call "an inner light," but that God has given us means of knowing whether men sneak the truth. In other words, there is another fountain of knowledge so that they needed not the aid of the opposing teachers. Christ promised the apostles -that the Holy Spirit would guide them into all truth (John 16:13). The Holy Spirit was imparted to the apostles, and through them spiritual gifts were imparted to various ones in the early church. Among these gifts were wisdom, knowledge, prophecy, and power to discern spirits. This is the thing referred to as an anointing in this passage. These extraordinary gifts continued until the Holy Spirit had prepared the New Testament to guide the church, then they passed away. See 1 Corinthians 13:8. Now we have the Word of God, which the Holy Spirit has given us, and it, continues to "teach us all things." There is not one thing in this reference which would teach that a saved person is in no danger of ever being lost; in fact, the whole context is a warning against deception. In verse 20 the apostle says "Let that therefore abide in you which ye have heard from the beginning." Why exhort them to let this abide in them if they couldn't help but let it abide in them? In the same verse, continuing our reading, we have "if that which ye have continue in the Son, and in the Father." Did you notice, friend, the "if" in that reading — "If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you"? Now, what if that which they had heard from the beginning didn't remain in them? Why! it naturally follows they would not continue in the Son, and in the Father. Verse 28 of this reference repeats the admonition "abide in him: that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming." Why admonish "abide in him" if they couldn't help but do this? The negative of this exhortation is "if you don't abide in him, you will be ashamed before him at his coming."

These are the only two references listed in Hiscox's Manual for the first contention in this article, but Pendleton's Manual lists two more; so we will notice them also. We are referred to 1 John 3:9, which says "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God." The phrase "doth not commit sin" cannot mean it is impossible for a Christian to sin; for throughout this letter John uses such expressions as "if we confess our sins" (1:9), "If we say we have not sinned" (1:10), "if any man sin" (2:1), etc. The meaning, therefore, is that the Christian does not live a life of sin. His is to be a different life. Even those embracing this artcile admit that one can sin. The statement "cannot sin, because he is born of God" simply means he cannot sin and remain an acceptable child of God — he cannot afford to sin.

The other reference to which our attention is called is 1 John 5:18, "We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not." The first part of this verse means, as already pointed out, that the born of God person does not continue to a life of sin. Notice the statement "but he that is begotten of God KEEPETH HIMSELF, and that wicked one toucheth him not." Here we see the wicked one's touching him not depends upon the Christian's "keeping himself." If he doesn't keep himself, then the wicked one will touch him.

Certainly one's faithfulness distinguishes him from superficial professors, and one's continued wickedness may well indicate he was never genuinely converted — like those of 2 John 2:19; but this does not mean that every wicked person was never at one time righteous. People can be righteous and then turn from that righteousness, so we are told in Ezekiel 17:26-27.

We are told that Romans 8:28, "All things work together for good" proves that "a special Providence watches over the Christian's welfare." This does not refer to God's providence, but the "all things" must be limited to its context. Surely no one would say that Pouts' statement, "all things are not expedient" means it is lawful to kill, steal, murder, and do all manner of evil. The "all things" in both these passages must be limited to the context, and Romans 8:28 says nothing about God's special Providence keeping a Christian from being lost, even though he commits the worst of sins.

Peter does speak of the righteous as being "kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time" (1 Peter 1:5). Notice, though, they are "kept by the power of God THROUGH FAITH? What if they are not "faithful unto death"? What if they make "shipwreck of the faith"? Then, the power for keeping them is no longer active.

Scriptures Contradicted By The Doctrine

Friends, not one passage to which we have been cited teaches the doctrine of this article. Besides these passages not teaching the theory there are a few scriptural statements which are in direct opposition to the theory. "Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away" ... "If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned" (John 15:2 and 6). Roman 11:21 "For if God spared not the natural branches, TAKE HEED lest he also spare not thee." First Corinthians 10:12 "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." First Corinthians 9:7 "but I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway." Second Peter 1:10 "Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall."

These scriptures, and many more like them, can have but one meaning. The Christian must ever be on guard lest he fall. The doctrine of impossibility of apostasy is the most groundless of all doctrines.