By Earl Robertson
Denominational preachers who hold the theological position of the perseverance of the saints are ever contending that once one is saved that one can never be lost in hell. Louis Berkhof, in Systematic Theology, (p. 546), defines perseverance: “Perseverance may be defined as that continuous operation of the Holy Spirit in the believer, by which the work of divine grace that is begun in the heart, is continued and brought to completion.” One preacher recently said, “God won’t forsake us and we can’t leave him because we are sealed by the Holy Spirit.” He concluded this from John 6:37, Eph. 1:13 and 4:30.
It is true that one coming to Christ will be welcomed by him – not rejected or cast out; however, it must be understood that any who come to Christ are doing so on scriptural grounds. They come on the Lord’s terms. Why should it be thought that the Lord would reject such an one? Indeed, he welcomes all who thus come to him. Just as he receives on scriptural basis and no other way, he likewise keeps. If one must respect the word of Christ to be received by the Lord, why does one not have to continue to keep His word to remain with Him (John 8:51, 52; 14:21)? We would have to accept the idea that all Jesus says to be saved from alien sin must be obeyed, but what He teaches the Christian to do is purely optional! Their idea of being “sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise” is like sealing fruit in a jar. The fruit can not get out of the jar because it is sealed in! What an abuse of the word “seal.” The word is here used “in order to mark a person or thing; hence to set a mark upon by the impress of a seal, to stamp . . . metaphorically, respecting God, who by the gift of the Holy Spirit indicated who are his, pass., Eph. 1:13; 4:30” (Thayer, p. 609). It is a matter of identifying and not an arbitrary act of God in holding an individual against his will, refusing to obey the Lord. The Lord welcomes all who scripturally come to Him, and He keeps all who love Him and manifests it by keeping His word. These conditions are actions man respects in order for the Lord to approve him; therefore, man is active in both his conversion to Christ and his daily living as a Christian. The other doctrine makes man passive in both. These two differing contentions can not both be right. The gospel of Jesus must be both believed and obeyed (Rom. 1:16; 2 Thess. 1:7-9).
Truth Magazine XXIII: 34, p. 549
August 31, 1979