Tag Archives: faith without works is dead

Perseverance of the Saints is Not About Good Works


So, as I re-frame the blog to focus on ALL THINGS FAITH AND WORKS, I keep running into a misunderstanding about The Perseverance of the Saints. There is a basic misunderstanding being perpetuated by a number of Free Grace advocates. Here’s a response I recently posted on this question:

The Quote:
So, we have not touched the doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints and it’s compatibility with the doctrine of eternal security. These are not the same thing, though some would say that they are. Any thoughts?

…very important question. And, I guess I may have to push back here…Perseverance of the Saints IS the Doctrine of Eternal Security.

There has been a move among some Free Grace thinkers to buy into what I think is some Hyper-Calvinists’ rhetoric that perseverance is about perseverance in doing good works.

This is clearly not the heart of this point in TULIP. If one reads DORT he will see that works are mentioned to prove eternal security (but eternal security is point) If one looks at the articles and history of the discussion he will see the prominent issue is always about “falling from grace.”

The Wikipedia article opens with this (for good reason): …as well as the corollary—though distinct—doctrine known as “Once Saved, Always Saved”, is a Calvinist teaching that once persons are truly saved they can never lose their salvation.

Websters gets to it too– Perseverance: to persist in a state, enterprise, or undertaking in spite of counter-influences, opposition, or discouragement

In other words, perseverance is about persisting in the ‘saved’ state until one’s safe arrival in heaven. Works are mentioned as a ‘proof’ of this eternal security the believer has.

Yet, there is an easier way!

All we have to do is look at the Remonstrance (DORT responded to this) or at any rendition of Arminianism’s Points. The issue with the Arminian view is that one can lose his salvation…that one is not eternal secure. If that is the counter-point, then we know the point is that one cannot lose his salvation, is eternally secure.

Now, since it IS the Doctrine of Eternal Security–why the confusion? Well, DORT (and others) surely have ‘persevering in good works” AND/OR ‘persevering in faith (believing)’ as parts of the point. Yes, true. The reason is that these are seen as PROOFS of ones Eternally Secure Standing.

The way I would say it is… perseverance in works and perseverance in faith are both mechanisms Reform thinkers use to prove an individual’s standing as and Eternally Secure, Elect, Child of God.

Fred Lybrand

P.S. To be fair…the writers of the Remonstrance stated they weren’t sure if one could lose his salvation (and hence the affirmation of God’s Perseverance in keeping the elect, elect).

P.P.S. Here is a listing of quotes that show the drift from Perseverance of the Saints meaning essentially Eternal Security…to including the ‘proof’ of works as part of the definition (a truly historically recent emphasis).


Thus the Westminster Confession says, “This perseverance of the saints depends not upon their own free will but upon the immutability of the decree of election flowing from the free and unchangeable love of God the Father….” In other words, those who are real Christians cannot fall away or be eternally lost. Merrill Frederick Unger, R. K. Harrison, Howard Frederic Vos et al., The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary, Rev. and updated ed. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1988).



Sustained by such a doctrine we can enjoy security even on earth; not that high and glorious security which renders us free from every slip, but that holy security which arises from the sure promise of Jesus that none who believe in him shall ever perish, but shall be with him where he is. Believer, let us often reflect with joy on the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, and honour the faithfulness of our God by a holy confidence in him. Charles H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening : Daily Readings, Complete and unabridged; New modern edition. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2006).



Those whom God has justified, he has in effect glorified: for as a man’s worthiness was not the cause of God’s giving him Christ’s righteousness; so neither shall his unworthiness be a cause of his taking it away; God’s gifts and callings are without repentance: and I cannot think they are clear in the notion of Christ’s righteousness, who deny the final perseverance of the saints; George Whitefield, Selected Sermons of George Whitefield (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1999).



In theological debate the terms “perseverance (of the saints),” “falling away” and “apostasy” are used in discussing the question of whether it is certain a Christian will remain in faith and salvation. Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin and Daniel G. Reid, Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, 40 (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993).



THIS ASPECT of Soteriology, commonly styled by earlier theologians the perseverance of the saints, contends that no individual once the recipient of the saving grace of God will ever fall totally and finally from that estate, but that he shall be “kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation” (1 Pet. 1:5). The doctrine of security is one of the five points of the Calvinistic system, but it is more distinguished by the fact that it is set forth in the New Testament in the most absolute terms and is there seen to be an indivisible feature of that which God undertakes when a soul is saved. This major doctrine is well stated in the Westminster Confession of Faith, which declares: “They whom God hath accepted in his Beloved, effectually called and sanctified by his Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace; but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved” (17.1). Lewis Sperry Chafer, vol. 3, Systematic Theology, 267 (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1993).


Eternal security: Another term for “perseverance of the saints.” However, this term can be misunderstood to mean that all who have once made a profession of faith are “eternally secure” in their salvation when they may not have been genuinely converted at all. (40D.3) Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology : An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, 1241 (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, Mich.: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House, 1994).



PERSEVERANCE — the steadfast effort to follow God’s commands and to do His work. The New Testament makes it clear that faith alone can save. But it makes it equally clear that perseverance in doing good works is the greatest indication that an individual’s faith is genuine (James 2:14–26). Indeed, perseverance springs from a faithful trust that God has been steadfast toward His people. Through persevering in God’s work, Christians prove their deep appreciation for God’s saving grace (1 Cor. 15:57–58).
As a result of perseverance, the Christian can expect not only to enhance the strength of the church, but also to build up strength of character (Rom. 5:3–4). In short, Christians can expect to become closer to God. They learn that they can persevere primarily because God is intimately related to them (Rom. 8:25–27) and especially because they have the assurance of a final reward in heaven (1 John 5:13). Ronald F. Youngblood, F. F. Bruce, R. K. Harrison and Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville: T. Nelson, 1995).



There is much misunderstanding about the Bible’s teaching concerning the perseverance of the saints.30 It does not teach that Christians will inevitably continue to persevere in the faith, that is continue believing the truth, walking with the Lord, and doing good works. It does teach that God will persevere in His commitment to bring all who have trusted in Him to heaven. If someone asks me if I believe in the perseverance of the saints, I ask them what they mean by the perseverance of the saints. If they mean that a believer is eternally secure, I say that I believe that. If they mean that a believer will inevitably follow God faithfully to the end of his or her life, even with occasional lapses, I say I do not believe that.” Joseph C. Dillow, The Reign of the Servant Kings, has the most helpful and biblically consistent discussion of perseverance that I have found. See his Subject Index for his many references to it. Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible, 1 Pe 1:5 (Galaxie Software, 2003; 2003).


If you liked this blog…you might also like the discussion in this post: http://www.backtofaith.com/biblically-speaking/the-zero-point-calvinst/

The False Branch Theory and John 15


So I’m in the shower (weird how we think there) and I’m going over John MacArthur’s view of John 15 about abiding (in my mind).  I listened to MacArthur at a pace of 6 tapes a week for two years in my early days after coming to faith.

He described the branches that were ‘thrown in the fire’ as false branches (Judas Branches).  Lest you think I’m making this up, I tracked it down:

There were the true branches and there were the false branches in the analogy. The true branches are represented by the eleven and the false branches are represented by Judas Iscariot. That whole thing flows out of the context of Judas’ betrayal. And at that point, the “In Me” simply means “identification.” I don’t think you can push too much theology into that “in Me” and say that it means absolute conversion. It’s attachment at that point, that’s all. And I think you have a Judas branch, and I think what it’s saying is that there will be people who will attach themselves superficially to Christ but in evidence bearing no fruit at all, will ultimately be cut off and cast into the fire because they show they have no life, because if they are had any life at all, they would have fruit. So I think it’s a graphic illustration of the whole context of what the disciples have just been through with them as compared to Judas.

(from: http://www.biblebb.com/files/macqa/1301-N-8.htm )

So, I did a little more digging and found that my old pastor and teacher Ken Gangel said something similar in the Holman NT Commentary on John 15:

15:6. Verse 6 narrows other possible interpretations of verse 2. We struggle a bit with the words, “he cuts off.” But thrown away and withers takes it further than we want to go in any reference to people who may have been true believers at one time. Certainly the words thrown into the fire and burned could never refer to those who were at one time true believers.
Blum treats this carefully and wisely:

These words have been interpreted in at least three ways: (1) the “burned” branches are Christians who have lost their salvation. (But this contradicts many passages, e.g., 3:16, 36; 5:24; 10:28–29; Rom. 8:1.) (2) the ‘burned’ branches represent Christians who will lose rewards but not salvation at the judgment seat of Christ (1 Cor. 3:15). (But Jesus spoke here of dead branches; such a branch “is thrown away and withers.”) (3) the “burned” branches refer to professing Christians who, like Judas, are not genuinely saved and therefore are judged. Like a dead branch, a person without Christ is spiritually dead and therefore will be punished in eternal fire (cf. Matt. 25:46) (Blum, p. 325).
Kenneth O. Gangel, vol. 4, John, Holman New Testament Commentary; Holman Reference, 283-84 (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000).

Yes, of course it is strange that fire means literal hell in an analogy…and…yes, of course, it is strange that ‘in Me’ doesn’t mean ‘in Me’ (within their own view) consistently throughout the passage.

But what really struck me under the 98 degree stream of water was the whole idea of a FALSE BRANCH.

The reason this struck me (all these years later) is that there is NO SUCH THING in reality as a FALSE BRANCH.  There are parasites (mistletoe) that look like they belong to the tree, yet Christ clearly (and easily could have said that) said the were vine branches.  Back then there were no such things as ARTIFICIAL BRANCHES either.  Artificial came along with wax and plastics and science (‘contrived by art’ around 1300AD).  Christ is using a real, live thing as an illustration.

When the Lord uses sheep, He says some of the sheep are “not His.”  He does not say that they are false sheep (you know…look like the real thing…but really aren’t sheep).  False prophets are still real people and false teeth are still used for teeth….and, we know where these things come from.

But, where would a false branch come from?  In nature (certainly in the NT era) no one had a notion or word for ‘false’ branch (any more than they would have for a false rock, stream, or fish).  The branches are real, and they are In Christ.  Obviously you must understand Him to be speaking of losing salvation or losing reward (see 1 Cor 3).

From Whence Cometh this Interpretation?

Necessity…and…it turns out to be a wonderful example of eisegesis, or imposing meaning on a text.  Since Blum/Gangel exclude any alternate meanings of the word ‘dead’ in the context, they miss the obvious nature of the warning for believers.  Therefore, with that as impossible and losing one’s justification as impossible (I agree)—all that is left for MacArthur, et al, is to make up the notion that there could exist in Christ’s mind (and on the earth) the idea that some branches (in Him) are actually fake or artificial branches.

I love these guys and I have no bones to pick, but all of us must learn to be very, very careful when we handle the Word of God.  Saying, “It must mean A because B is false elsewhere, can easily tempt us not to read the actual words of the text.”

My practice is to try to settle on a meaning from the immediate passage BEFORE I compare it to other places in the Word.  The comparison is valuable, but it is a dangerous way to interpret a passage by imposing meaning from elsewhere right off the bat!  The Analogy of Scripture is great, but you must inductively begin with the parts rather than than the whole.

So, what do you think?

Fred Lybrand


THE FLAW in DORT (5 Point Calvinism)

I’m so grateful that many of you have pitched in (but haven’t posted yet), and that a number of other have dropped my private notes of apology (too busy)!

I am finding that part of the problem with most Free Grace folks who are against Calvinism is that they simply have not read the original documents.  There is much in Calvinism that I love, and many things that I find to be pretty useless.  We all know that Calvinism is a theoLOGICAL system which largely makes sense if Scripture is not used as the standard of evaluation.  Do not miss the point– Calvinism is HIGHLY scriptural; yet, it is also, highly theological.  In other words, this is how Calvinists put it together.

Yet, one point is often denied in certain Free Grace circles; there is no such thing as Consistent Calvinism.  There is simply a broad spectrum of viewpoints within the largely circle.  We see this same reality with Arminians, Dispensationalists, Amillenialists, Preterests, denominations, and Free Grace advocates.  Sorry, that’s just the truth.  When we preach against “Calvinism” without defining terms, we are in the worst of straw-man worlds.  Sadly, we are attacking friends and patrons.  I personally have felt the same sense of being ostracized for not taking a stance against Calvinsim.

All Free Grace Advocates (faith alone in Christ alone) OWE a debt of gratitude to the Reformation for the recover of Grace being returned to the forefront of conversation and focus.  However, it doesn’t mean that forms and aspects of Calvinism aren’t mistaken (they are)!

Here is THE FLAW in DORT, as I study through it:

Dort assumes that humans are still depraved after regeneration.  In other words, they apply the same standards to a ‘saved’ person as they do a ‘lost’ person.  Practically, this means that they not only have the individual needing to be elected unto salvation, but elected unto sanctification (spiritual growth).

There is nothing inherently required in the ‘5 points’ or in Scripture concerning growth.  The very reason a believer can be accountable is that he is indeed a ‘new creation’ in Christ.  There is a new game in play where God can reward or chasten based on our works (and attitude, faith, doubt, etc.).  Saying that on is chosen to belong to Christ is one thing, saying one is chosen to produce good works (increasing) is quite another.

We are certainly called to good works as believers (read Titus), and God has set the kind of good works in place by His own will (see Ephesians 2:10); but to say God is imposing His will on us to make us obey is actually irrational and indefensible.

Said differently:

Before Christ = Depraved

After Christ = NOT Depraved

I’m catching a flight…so I’ll prove this later!

What do you think?  Where does this go?

Grace and peace,

Fred Lybrand

Up for a little theology? I need your help on Calvinism…

So, here’s a video that explains it all:

Help Me on Calvinism from Fred Lybrand on Vimeo.

So, here’s a copy of DORT (Dordt; from the Synod of Dordrecht): http://fredlybrand.files.wordpress.com/2010/11/canons-of-dort.pdf

Again, I need your agreements and disagreements and why…this project could turn out big!


Fred Lybrand



P.P.S.  Please put an AGREE or a DISAGREE at the very top of your post…as it will make our reading easier.

Calvin’s Error on Assurance

I honestly stay stumped by those who think Calvin never made a mistake and those others who think he never said anything true.  I also wonder how many out there are still interested in being objective and understanding both sides of any issue.  I do not find that my rabid 5-point-DORT-calvinism-is-the-only-true-calvinism friends (both advocates and enemies believe this same indefensible point) are able to explain both sides of their issue-of-the-moment.  It is embarrassing theologically not to be able to clearly explain both sides.

Here is Calvin’s error: We are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is not alone

Yes, he said it a little fancier, but it is the same point.  Here is the idea…if you REALLY believe, then works MUST show up.  DORT said it too…that you could fall into the most awful lifestyle for a long, long time; but eventually, if you are a TRUE believer, you will come back before you die.

Honestly, that is just simply made up.

And here’s the rub— if someone is in ‘sin’, how do you know he will ‘come back’ someday?  You clearly do not.

And— If this same person may not REALLY be saved/justified, then he certainly can’t be assured of his destiny with God.  True?

AND—WHAT ABOUT YOU? If you COULD fall into a sinful life in the future…and that would mean you COULD not really be saved…then HOW can you possibly be assured now?

Hence, Calvin’s error.  Calvin was so defensive about the Catholic retort of “What about Works?” when he accurately explained FAITH ALONE IN CHRIST ALONE…that he compromised his theology and his logic.  Don’t get me wrong…it does make sense…but only inside the framework of Calvin’s assumptions.  Of course, it is mostly an issue of incongruence; Calvin did often stay away from co-mingling works and faith.

This view about works DOES NOT MAKE SENSE in reality.  It is an assumption about the nature of faith AND and assumption about our ability to discern TRUE from FALSE works in others.  Hey gang, God is the one who knows.  But honestly, why don’t we see great populations of people getting ‘better’ in Christ as they age?  Why don’t we see better doctrine over time (if people who are saved must get godlier and godlier)?  It’s simple, people must also GROW SPIRITUALLY…which is a second choice / issue / concern.  Salvation is apart from works, but spiritual growth is intimately connected to works.

Below is the info on my intensive labor on this issue…if you want to be loaded for bear (or for bearing witness)…300+ pages and 600+ footnotes lays it out.  It also contains a mini-course in logic.

Recently a lady wrote me that she had studied this book and was in a small group meeting where she politely engaged the pastor who was trying to support Calvin’s Error.  As she explained that assurance is only sustained when we look at Christ (and not ourselves) this lady spoke up in the meeting for that moment—testifying that she suddenly had assurance for the first time in 12 years!  The wild thing was that it was her own pastor who was leading the group discussion.

Face it, as long as you look at yourself and your works, you will never be truly assured of heaven.  And, as long as you look at others’ works, you will never be assured of heaven for them either.


Now, please let’s get the word out.  I’m finding this book is being  used to convert both rabid Arminians and rabid Calvinists to the clarity found in affirming Faith Alone in Christ Alone, while dropping our lust for judging others.  I know there are lots of questions…but most get addressed in the book.


Fred Lybrand