Regarding Sherry’s question on my previous post: “Do you think Calvin meant it the way it has been taught (you don’t know if you’re saved unless your works show you’ve persevered) or do you think he meant that we will persevere because ‘God’s choice of those whom He will save is not due to anything in them’?” I said that I’d have to go back and re-read Calvin.
Well I did do a little study on the writings of my old friend and have to say that though he wrote quite a bit on the topic he doesn’t seem very clear. So my answer to the questions would be yes, both of the above.
Calvin speaks of perseverance in at least three places in his Institutes:
• In Book 2, chapter 3, paragraph 11: “Perseverance is exclusively God’s work; it is neither a reward nor a complement of our individual act.”
• In Book 3, chapter 22, paragraph 7: “Christ does not allow any of those whom He has once for all engrafted into His body to perish, for in preserving their salvation He will perform what He has promised.”
• In Book 3, chapter 24, paragraph 7: “Yet it daily happens that those who seemed to be Christ’s, fall away from Him again, and hasten to destruction … So then, let not such instances induce us at all to abandon a quiet reliance upon the Lord’s promise, where He declares that all by whom He is received in true faith have been given to Him by the Father, no one of whom… will perish … Paul does not discourage Christians from simple confidence but rather from crass and sheer confidence of the flesh.”
(All quotes are from Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion, translated by Ford Lewis Battles.) This, of course is not all he has to say, but I believe it is a reasonable sample.
Though Calvin did not use the letters TULIP, they do briefly sum up his beliefs on salvation. Because man is so totally depraved that he is unable to even choose God, God himself has chosen out of the mass of lost humanity those whom He desired and it is for these that Christ died. Those whom He draws cannot resist God’s choice, but come to Him by faith and ultimately come to eternal salvation. It is all God’s doing.
Unfortunately, Calvin also seemed to look for external evidence as to one’s saved condition. And this set up a dilemma for later theologians and pastors.
With a rigid view of God’s sovereignty and the inevitability of perseverance, how does one deal with the fact that some of those who at one time give evidence of salvation, later give evidence of a lack of the same? We see this in the Scripture (“Demas has forsaken me, having loved the present age” – 2 Timothy 4:9) and we also see it in modern-day believers.
There are usually two solutions presented: either (a) these people were saved but lost their salvation (the Arminian view) or (b) they never were saved in the first place.
These both seem to be good ways of simply disposing of problem people. But what about the people themselves? Most of us will fail at one time or another! Does this mean I’m lost? Neither of the above solutions has an answer.
If we believe that God is the one who “perseveres” us, then we have to recognize that perseverance is an inward work. Thought there is a correspondence between the inward and the outward, it is not always clearly recognizable.
Our assurance of our salvation must rest, not on any perceived external acts, but on the promises of Scripture. “Believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). “By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not from yourselves; it is God’s gift (Ephesians 2:8).
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Have you personally put your faith in Jesus Christ? If so, then you are saved!