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Paul’s Argument for the Perseverance of the Christian

By Dr. Douglas Groothuis


The subject of whether a true Christian can fall away from salvation and be lost is a complicated and vexed one, with many theological and pastoral consequences affixed to the answer. Christians want their approach to this issue to be biblical and logical. Rather than appeal to confessional documents or systematic theologies, I offer a short exegetical argument from Romans, chapter five, which I read in John Stott’s book, Men Made New (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1966). I wrote out this argument in pre-internet days and have never publicly offered it online or in any publication. I have handed it out to students once in a while over the years. I find it profound and irrefutable. If Stott’s view is true, and if the Bible does not contradict itself, then the position of the Christian is safe and sound for all eternity. We should thank our God for that often and live lives of gratitude, faith, and service.


The following argument comes from Romans 5:6-10 (NIV):


1.      Apart from Christ, we are:

 

a.     “Ungodly” (v. 6)

b.    “Powerless” to save ourselves (v. 6)

c.     “Sinner” (v. 8)

d.    “God’s enemies” (v. 10)

 

2.     Consider normal human love:

 

“Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die” (v. 7).

 

3.     Nevertheless:

 

a.     “Christ died for us” (v. 6)

b.    “God demonstrated his own love for us in this:…Christ died for us” (v. 8)

c.     “We have been justified through his [Christ’s] blood (v. 9)

d.    “We were reconciled to him [God] through the death of his Son” (v. 10).


4.    Therefore, in light of 1-3

 

a.     “How much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him [Christ]” (v. 9).

b.    “How much more…shall we be saved through [Christ’s’ life” (v. 10).


Paul argues that if God demonstrates his love by saving the ungodly, sinful, powerless enemies through the blood of Christ, he could not possibly fail to save them from his wrath—that is, let them fall away and suffering punishment. If God love his enemies enough to save them through the death of Christ, he will certainly love his friends enough to bring them into glory with him forever. In commenting on Romans 5:9-10, John Stott says:


If God performed the more costly service (involving his Son’s death) for his enemies, He will surely perform the less costly service now that His erstwhile enemies are His friends. Meditate on this until you see the irrefutable logic of Paul’s argument (Men Made New, 20).


In other words, if God reconciled his enemies at so high a cost, will he not preserve his friends, now that they are reconciled to him? Of course not. Paul argues in a similar way in Romans 8:32.


If this argument holds, then those who have claimed to be Christians but who later deny Christ and never come back were never Christians in the first place. They are apostates (1 John 2:19).

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Agreed. A Christian cannot "lose" the salvation Christ provides. "For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor heavenly rulers, nor things that are present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Rom 8:38-39 NET) As an incidence of "anything else in creation" I am unable "to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus." Although I can separate myself from the love of God by an act of my own will, and yet I can also repent. Living a life constantly crossing this line may represent the failure to progre…


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