The London Confession of 1689 says the following about the 5th tenet of the Doctrines of Grace, Perseverance of the Saints:
3. In various ways-the temptations of Satan and of the world, the striving of indwelling sin to get the upper hand, the neglect of the means appointed for their preservation-saints may fall into fearful sins, and may even continue in them for a time. In this way they incur God’s displeasure, grieve His Holy Spirit, do injury to their graces, diminish their comforts, experience hardness of heart and accusations of conscience, hurt and scandalize others, and bring God’s chastisements on themselves. Yet being saints their repentance will be renewed, and through faith they will be preserved in Christ Jesus to the end.
This statement can be found on the Founder’s Website by CLICKING HERE. I use this quote to ward off any misguided arguments that this is not a valid confession explaining the meaning of Perseverance of the Saints. If it is good enough for the Founders, it is certainl good enough for this discussion.
The key to understanding perseverance is exactly that… persevering. To persevere is to “To persist in or remain constant to a purpose, idea, or task in the face of obstacles or discouragement.” It is to “‘continue to do something in spite of the difficulties.” To persevere is to continue walking in faith. That is what the term means. If one does not continue walking in faith, the inference of POS is that he was not saved in the first place. While it is true that this is a fine line, fine lines in theology do become great divides.
Notice what the LC of 1689 actually says: that even though someone may fall into fearful sins, “being saints their repentance will be renewed.” What is interesting is that they do not repent, the statement says their repentance is “renewed” which is passive meaning God does it, just as He effectually calls one to repentance in the first place. Like it or not, that is what Perseverance of the Saints means. The language and the words dictate that meaning. It is black ink on what paper. Perseverance maintains the monergistic salvific thread in sanctification that it does in conversion and that is the reason the language is what it is.
Baptists do not believe in persevering because it is not our persevering that saves us or determines whether or not we are saved; it is God’s promises to us that preserve us. I fully understand that Calvinists today believe preservation means the same thing as perseverance and that POS is the same thing as eternal security but the facts are, they are not mutually exclusive and they do not say the same thing. They don’t. Perseverance is sanctification by works: what one does proves what one is. The argument with respect to one’s truly being the elect is not in God’s promise but rather in one’s persevering because it is the persevering that proves the election and not the other way around. While it is true that one perseveres because he is the elect, it is still the persevering that validates the election.
I read the following statement somewhere: Perseverance is by definition “man hanging on to God” while the definition of preservation is “God hanging on to man.” Someone cleverly responded, “Man hangs on to God because God hangs on to him.” Now, while the latter is certainly true, the fact remains, in perseverance the key to eternal security is in the persevering and that test does not end until this life ends. Perseverance by necessity does not give the Calvinist any real assurance because none of us know what we will or will not do.
Here is the real question and the difference in eternal security and the perseverance of the saints. Remember, perseverance states “saints may fall into fearful sins, and may even continue in them for a time. In this way they incur God’s displeasure, grieve His Holy Spirit, do injury to their graces, diminish their comforts, experience hardness of heart and accusations of conscience, hurt and scandalize others, and bring God’s chastisements on themselves… yet being saints their repentance WILL BE RENEWED.”
What happens to the “saint” who dies in this state “whose repentance was not renewed?” The answer to THIS question is the ultimate difference in the preservation of the saint and the perseverance of the saint.