35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.
40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
Almighty and everlasting God, We praise you for your goodness and majesty over the world that you’ve created. You are good and we rejoice in your grace and your great name. You are the Great I am, the alpha and the omega, the Lord of Lords. Lord, we pray for our schoolchildren who began school this week. I pray for this school year, for their growing in knowledge. We pray for their teachers and the even more daunting task they have with everything going on in our nation and community. We pray that this year be able to continue without any significant interruptions. Lord, we continue to pray for our church and community with this virus. We praise you that we have continued to persevere. It is entirely by your hand of grace that we have been sustained.
Lord, we also pray for our school board. They do not have an easy job to do in this current climate. We pray for them as well as for wisdom and discernment in the decisions which they have to make. Lord, we continue to pray for our nation. With all of the division, all of the unrest, all of the anger, Lord may we continue to shine light. May we be known by our fruit. May we be salt.
Lord God, in spite of what the media, and society, and friends might tell us, may we be a church who never loses sight that you are the king. You are our hope. You are the one who reigns. Are meaning and purpose are found in you and through your gospel. Lord, we pray for our time in your word this morning. Lord, may we be drawn to a greater love and affection for you through the tremendous truths which your scriptures proclaim and teach. In Jesus’ name, amen.
We’re in John this morning but we’re actually continuing our summer series the Forensics of Faith.
The next passage in John happened to fit in with this series so we’ll be looking at this section today but we’ll also be looking at a lot of texts this morning. Today is going to be a bombardment of Biblical passages as we talk about a glorious doctrine that the Bible – and especially the New Testament – repeatedly proclaims and teaches.
Perseverance of the Saints.
Now over the past few weeks as we’ve examined significant doctrines related to our salvation, there is this connection between them. These doctrines support each other, they help make sense of each other. When we talked about regeneration, we talked about the new Spiritual life God causes in the life of a believer through which we are born again.
Justification is right legal standing before God accomplished through faith in the work of Christ on the cross. Sanctification is the process by which God makes us holy through his Spirit. Adoption which is becoming a member of the family of God. And it is because all of those things are true that the Doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints is also necessary.
Perseverance of the Saints teaches that God will always complete his redemptive work in a person who truly has faith. Perseverance of the Saints is a widely held doctrine within Protestantism.
A scripture that summarizes this doctrine well is found in Philippians 1:6: he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
And with that, we’ll first open up by looking at our passage in John this morning. And I’ll stress again that we’ll be looking at a lot of passages this morning. So we’ll actually be fairly brief in our coverage of John. This passage sets the foundation for everything else we’ll be talking about this morning.
If you remember where we left off in John a few weeks ago, Jesus had just explained to the disciples that he was the bread of life. And in that, the point was that Jesus is the true nourishment which satisfies the human soul.
Picking up in John 6:35
35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.
Some of the reasons why the statement “I am the bread of life” is significant is because Jesus is pointing to his divinity, he’s showing rooting his ministry into the Old Testament. He’s using a natural metaphor of bread to point to his work as being that which satisfies the needs of the human soul.
It’s all in the sermon from July 12 where I go into further detail.
So we continue in John, and immediately after Jesus has said that he is the bread of life, he continues speaking to a crowd who has not necessarily been following Jesus for the right reasons. We’ve seen throughout chapter 6 that this crowd is more interested in the things Jesus does than who Jesus is. We’ve seen that they’re drawn to his signs but not to Jesus as the savior. We’ve seen that they’re more interested in what Jesus can do to meet their physical needs than their Spiritual needs.
In verse 36, he continues speaking.
In the context of John, the crowd to whom he’s been speaking has been impressed by his signs, they’ve wanted greater revelation of who Jesus is. But they don’t really want Jesus himself.
36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe.
He’s pointing to the faithfulness of many in the crowds.
They’ve been in contact and communion with the Lord Jesus but are not coming to him in faith.
37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.
Jesus says that he will never cast out a person who comes to him. That’s important to remember as we consider perseverance of the saints. Jesus is faithful to his people.
The rest of this passage in John explains why Jesus will never cast out those who come to him.
Verse 38-39: 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.
Jesus has come to do the will of God. Something we’ve seen throughout our study of John. And in verse 39, Jesus says that it is the will of God that Jesus “should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up at the last day.”
So Jesus has so far said that he will never cast out those who come to him and that it is the will of God.
And that is why we can have are ultimate trust that God preserves his people, why God’s people will always persevere, because it is the will of God.
Verse 40, Jesus says: For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
Whoever looks to Jesus and believes in Jesus has the promise of eternal life.
It is Jesus who will not cast them out, it is Jesus who will raise a person who has faith on the last day.
The reason why Perseverance of the Saints is something in which we can have confidence is because it is a work of God. Faith in the gospel cannot be lost.
God finishes what he starts.
Perseverance of the Saints and the Trinity
Perseverance of the Saints is a Trinitarian Doctrine.
All three persons of the Trinity are working in through the process of our salvation.
As we’ve already seen in our passage, God is at work because it is through the will of God that Jesus serves and that Jesus saves.
I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.
It is by the will of God because of the love of God that the Son of God was sent so that we could be forgiven.
Romans 5:8: God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
John 3:16: God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
And it is because of the power of God that we are preserve.
1 Peter 1:3-5: 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
We see the work of Jesus in salvation. God is the one who sends and preserves.
Jesus is the savior who achieves forgiveness and makes it available through his death on the cross. Obviously there are myriads of passages we could point to for that but I again want to remind us of the justification that Jesus brings.
Galatians 2:16: a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ
Romans 3:28: we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.
We are saved through the work of Christ.
Philippians 3:8-9: I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—
It is faith in Jesus that matters.
John 3:36: Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life.
Because the eternal life is not about our goodness or merit. It is in the merit of Christ.
Eternal life. And he says eternal life because he means…eternal life.
Because we persevere in faith.
Because it is by the power of God.
He who began a good work will bring it to completion.
Hebrews 12:2 calls Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith.
True repentance and regeneration and faith is the basis by which we are saved.
Because it is a work of God.
And so the question is never whether or not God will complete is work or whether or not Christ is sufficient.
The real question is where our faith is.
Because real faith cannot be lost. When you truly know the gospel, when you truly know what Christ did on the cross, there’s no going back.
Grace is such a unique idea compared to the religions of the world. Most religions put the onus on a person to live up to a set of moral standards and salvation is contingent upon adherence to the rules.
And so it’s not shocking that we do that with grace. Where we treat the justifying grace of Christ as if it’s something we can give away.
You’re not that powerful.
I’ve heard Mark Driscoll say “you can’t un-earn something you didn’t earn in the first place.”
We are not the author and perfecters of our faith. Christ is.
And to deny the doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints is to revert back to works based righteousness where we make maintaining faith a work that we must do in order to be saved. That. is. Not. what. The Bible. Teaches.
We are not the ones who promise eternal life.
We are not the ones who justify ourselves.
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
That passage in Romans 8 is explaining how nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. And that includes ourselves.
If you are in Christ, if your faith is truly in Christ, you are forgiven of your sins. You cannot lose salvation.
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1)
No sin is so great that you lose salvation. You cannot lose salvation. You cannot relinquish or renounce salvation. True faith will persevere to the end. Always. There is no exception. It’s theologically impossible. It’s unbiblical.
You might be tempted to disagree with that. Well what about a person who used to go to church and now says they don’t believe.
Either they are in a prodigal season and they will turn from their wayward path or they were never saved in the beginning. Just because someone has a history in the church and then walks away does not undermine perseverance of the saints because church is not your salvation. Jesus is.
People do walk away from church. You cannot walk away from the gospel.
It is the blood of Christ shed on the cross and believing in the work that he did through which we are saved.
The Bible teaches that there are people in churches who are not believers.
Matthew 7:21-23: 21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
In that example which Jesus gives, it’s not a matter of Christ’s atoning work being insufficient. It has everything to do with people who were in fellowship but who did not truly believe.
Participating at church does not make you a Chrisitan. The Bible never says that it does.
The Bible does say that you must be born again. It does say that we’re justified by faith. It does say that everlasting life is through Jesus and that he is the way, the truth, and the life.
I’ve talked before about the parable of the sower..
Seed is sown and some falls among turns, some falls through the cracks, isn’t rooted in good soil, doesn’t survive.
That’s insincere faith, disingenuous professions of faith.
But then you have the seed that lands in the good soil. You have the person who truly has placed faith in Jesus, who truly has found new life through Christ.
It is that person who is born again and has an eternal life that cannot be lost.
1 John 2:19:
They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.
Salvation does not ebb and flow. When you place your faith in Jesus, you will never be more or less forgiven than you are at that moment. It’s not that you’re forgiven one day, but then you feel less faithful.
Fortunately. Your salvation is in what Christ has done. It is the savior that matters, not the ferocity of our faith.
It’s not something that changes day by day. It’s not “hopefully I die on a good day, Spiritually, or else I’m in trouble.”
God’s people persevere.
So we see the work of the Father and the Son together in our salvation.
And the spirit is also very much at work in the process.
Again, regeneration, when we are born again, that is a Spiritual work.
Titus 3:5-7: he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
We are saved not through our righteousness but through renewal of the Spirit and justified by the grace of Christ.
And it is because the Christian life is Spiritual that we again see another reason as to why we cannot lose salvation.
Because a real believer has the Spirit and the Spirit is working in you.
We cannot lose the Spirit.
Ephesians 1:13-14: In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
We are sealed with the Spirit. Stamped with the Holy Spirit as belonging to God.
The Spirit is a guarantee of our inheritance.
That’s not to say that he’s a guarantee of our inheritance if we still want it.
We are justified by Christ but we are regenerated and sanctified by the Spirit.
Galatians 2:20: 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
It’s a new life which is not your own when you come to faith in Christ.
I hope that this is all making the case abundantly clear.
We see how the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all at work in our salvation.
And when we consider Perseverance of the Saints along with the other doctrines we’ve considered, they don’t make sense without the belief that a true Christian will persevere in faith.
If we can lose faith, or if we can lose salvation, then we are not justified by faith.
If we can lose salvation, then that makes no sense of how we can be sealed with the Holy Spirit and sanctified by the Holy Spirit.
These ideas all work together.
If you could lose the grace of God, then it isn’t really grace.
Perseverance of the Saints helps make more sense of all of these other doctrines
But the main reason as to why we should all believe in the Doctrine of Perseverance is because it’s thoroughly Biblical.
And like I’ve already said, the question is not whether God perseveres his people. That’s a given.
John 10:28-29, Jesus says: I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.
And as we continue this glorious doctrine of God’s work of perseverance that he does in his people, we should be drawn to even greater worship for our glorious God who has promised to complete his work, who will not let us be lost, who promise eternal life.
If it depended on us, we would be in big trouble.
But it is God who is working and because it is God who is at work and because we have God’s promises of salvation and eternal life through faith in his gospel, we can be assured of our salvation.
Again, we should ask ourselves where our faith is, where our hope is? Is it in God? Is it in the Lord Jesus who went to the cross to bear your sins? And that you’re justified by his blood, you’re given his righteousness?
Is that where your faith is?
Then you have the promise that God will bring his work to completion.
To the glory of God.
For a person who does not believe in the doctrine of perseverance, they have to put their faith into hoping that God will be gracious.
Not to sound like a broken record. Faith is counted as righteousness. We are given the promise of eternal life, justified in Christ, regenerated by the Holy Spirit, adopted into God’s family, sanctified by the Spirit.
All of those things which the Bible teaches are not pointing us to some grand uncertainty. They’re not meant to lead us into confusion. They’re meant to point us to the love of God and the sufficiency of Christ.
They’re meant to point us to eternal security, assurance of salvation, and the perseverance of the saints.
We aren’t called to go through life hoping that God might be gracious, hoping that we might have done good enough.
If you died today, where would you spend eternity?
If you believe that Jesus is the Lord who takes way your sins, then his work is enough.
If you believe in Jesus, there is no room for “I hope so.”
If you believe in Jesus, there is no room for “maybe.”
If you believe in Jesus, there is no room for “I don’t know” or “I’m not sure.”
If you believe in Jesus as your Lord and savior, and you have faith in him, then your answer to that question, your belief, your hope should be rooted in the promises of Christ. Jesus is the Lord through whom we have eternal life.
Because the danger in lacking confidence in that is thinking that your salvation is about you and your work.
Last week, I talked about the balance of faith and works and the point of that was that genuine faith results in a changed life. But that the works we do will not and cannot save us.
The only works that save us are the works of Christ.
Perseverance is a doctrine that is not talked about as much as it should be.
But as I’ve said, it’s a glorious doctrine and a teaching of scripture in which we should all rejoice and give glory to God.
As I close, I have six thoughts on why perseverance of the saints matters. Some of these ideas I’ve already touched on but this is somewhat of a summary of what we’ve been discussing.
- It matters because it’s what the Bible teaches. The Bible repeatedly tells us that true salvation cannot be lost. Jesus says us entirely. Verses that talk about people falling away are referring to a person who never truly had faith in the first place. But for the one who believes in Jesus, there is eternal salvation.
- Perseverance of the saints matters because it points us to the gospel.
I said in the beginning that it’s a commonly held doctrine among Protestants. But it’s not universally believed. And it’s not a doctrine that’s part of Catholic theology. But we are called to believe what is true. And the Bible teaches that salvation is from the Lord and that we are justified and forgiven all of our sins when we come to faith.
To reject perseverance of the saints is to undermine the sufficiency of Christ’s work of salvation. To think that a person can fall away from saving faith means that we are not actually saved by Christ alone. The logical implication is that Christ forgives us but our resolve and faithfulness to him is our actual hope.
That’s not the gospel.
- It matters because it’s an encouragement to the human soul. When we sin, it is a reminder that God is faithful. It’s a reminder that God is working. When we struggle in faith, it’s a reminder that we are not saved by the intensity of our faith but by the goodness of our savior.
- It matters because it does call us to question where our faith really is. Again, perseverance of the saints only applies to a person who actually has believed in the gospel and been born again.
- Perseverance of the saints matters because it shows us the important work that each person of the Trinity has in our salvation. The will of God, the grace of Christ, and the ongoing work of the Spirit.
- It matters because it again points to the love and faithfulness of God.
He who began a work in you will bring it to completion.
That is our promise, our guarantee, and our hope, to the glory of God.