A Defense of the Perseverance of the Saints - Part II
What it would mean for God the Son and God the Holy Spirit
if a true believer could fully and finally fall away
What it would mean for God the Son
1. Christ will have failed in the purpose for which He died
John 6:37-40; 10:14-18,27-30
2. Christ will have failed in the purpose for which He was raised
3. Christ will have failed in the purpose for which He now intercedes in the presence of the Father
Rom. 8:31-34; 1 John 2:1-2; Heb. 7:25
4. Christ will fail to accomplish the goal for which He is to return to this earth
5. Christ will prove to have been a liar
John 6:37; 10:27-28
What it would mean for God the Holy Spirit
1. The Holy Spirit will have failed in his work of sealing.
2 Cor. 1:21-22; Eph. 1:13-14; 4:30
The literal use of the term "seal" was of a stamped impression in wax pointing to ownership and protection. "As Eph. 1:13 and 4:30 make certain, the 'seal' is the Spirit, by whom God has marked believers and claimed them for his own" (Fee, God's Empowering Presence, 807).
2. The Holy Spirit will have failed in his ministry as a pledge of the future consummation of our redemption
2 Cor. 1:21-22; 5:5
God the Holy Spirit will have broken and violated a promise, having declared that he is a downpayment in pledge of the complete and consummate gift yet to come. But if the complete and consummate gift does not come, he will have reneged on his word. Gundry-Volf offers this explanation:
"The Spirit given to believers . . . functions as a divine promise and guarantee that the redemptive process will be completed. Final salvation is as certain to follow the gift of the Spirit as full payment must by law succeed the deposit for a purchase. Paul drives home the message of God's faithfulness in the work of salvation by using the familiar language of legally binding business transactions which alludes to the practice of the handing over of an arrabon with its ensuing financial obligations. Believers have in the indwelling Spirit, then, a sign that God is committed to their full redemption. This outcome is entirely dependent on God's faithfulness, as the metaphor implies" (30).
Gordon Fee agrees, pointing out that the term (arrabon) was used in commercial transactions to refer to the first installment of the total amount due. The down payment effectively guaranteed the fulfillment of whatever contractual obligations were assumed. "The Spirit, therefore," says Fee, "serves as God's down payment in our present lives, the certain evidence that the future has come into the present, the sure guarantee that the future will be realized in full measure" (807).
3. The Spirit will have failed in his ministry as firstfruits
This metaphor is also used of Christ's resurrection as the guarantee of ours (1 Cor. 15:20,23). Similar to the idea behind down payment, the Holy Spirit as "the first sheaf is God's pledge to us of the final harvest. Thus . . . the Spirit plays the essential role in our present existence, as both evidence and guarantee that the future is now and yet to be" (Fee, 807).
The basis for our security in salvation is not ultimately our righteousness or obedience but God's promise, God's power, God's purpose, and most of all God's passionate love for us in Christ. God is committed to preserving us in faith, for if we were to stumble so as to fully and finally fall away, God stands more to lose than we do.
Finally, is there anyone among you who truly thinks their salvation hangs suspended on the thin thread of your own will-power and commitment to righteousness? I know my own soul all too well. Were it not for God's preserving grace I would have lost my salvation the day after I was born again.
"If ever it should come to pass,
That sheep of Christ might fall away,
My fickle, feeble soul, alas!
Would fall a thousand times a day!"
If you do not believe in the security of your soul in Christ, tomorrow should hold little but fear and misery and perhaps despair for you. For it may well be the day you commit that sin that will forever sever you from the Savior's love. I can face tomorrow and the day after and the day after that with confidence, because I know that He "will never leave me nor forsake me" (Heb. 13:5).