The goal of this series is to magnify God’s sovereign grace and to humble man’s pride.
This blog post is based on Covenant Reformed Seminary of Asia’s session on The Sovereignty of God and the Doctrines of Grace: Perseverance of the Saints Part 2
This is the last part of this series, and we have been dealing with the fifth point of the doctrines of grace: Perseverance of the Saints. We can summarize this doctrine in two words: (1) preservation, which places the focus on God’s activity in preserving His people to the end, and (2) perseverance, which places the focus on our activity in persevering to the end. Last time, we discussed the first, to the second one, we now turn.
And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.Matthew 10:22
Every Christian must continue in the faith, against great opposition to the very end.
#1 Every Christian must continue in the faith
We abide in the words of Christ because we are His disciples.
So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”John 8:31-32
Jesus here is speaking to the Jews who professed and claimed to have faith in Him. The point here is abiding or continuing in Christ’s word does not make you a disciple, but it reveals or manifests that you are a disciple. John Owen, cited by Joel Beeke (2013), offered the following syllogism that applies to such cases (p. 122):
- The elect cannot fall away (John 10:27-29)
- Some professors of faith do fall away.
- Hence, those professors of faith are not elect believers.
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.1 Corinthians 15:1-2
Notice, they were to receive and hold fast the gospel—to hold fast means to continually embrace it. Only those who hold fast the gospel are saved—holding fast the gospel proves who have received the gospel. This is seen in the final phrase “unless you believed in vain”—that is, never truly or actually believed.
The Bible does not teach that all kinds of profession saves. Let’s look at the three kinds of non-saving faith. Historical Faith: Jas.2:19—”you believe there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe- and tremble.” Dead Faith: “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can (that) faith save him?” Temporary faith: “He who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while.” It is possible to believe in vain if you have one of these three.
But there is another kind of faith that truly saves. It is Saving faith—this is a faith that lays hold of Christ from the heart, bears fruit, and lasts (in various degrees) to the end. The question isn’t so much “do I believe” but, what kind of faith do I have? It is non-saving or saving?
And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.Colossians 1:21-23
Here, ‘the conditional particle, “if”, is significant, highlighting believers’ obligation to keep trusting in Jesus and not to allow themselves to drift away from Him. God is sovereign and He will accomplish His will. Christians are responsible to keep trusting in Jesus’ (Wright, 2019, p. 225-6).
#2 Every Christian must continue in the faith against great opposition
Acts 14:22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.
Matthew 24:11-13 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
This verse in Matthew speaks of the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 that prefigured the destruction of the world. This is at the very heart of the perseverance of the saints—Christians must endure through tribulation. J.C. Ryle (1816-1900) writes, “No soldiers of Christ are ever lost, missing or left dead on the battlefield.”
#3 Every Christian must continue in the faith against great opposition, to the end
Matthew 24:13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
It could either refer to the end of the world or the end of our life. Either way, we must continue to the end. In Hebrews 3:14 we read, For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. Holding our confidence steadfast to the end proves that we are partakers of Christ. We endure to the end because we’ve become partakers of Christ.
They are the ways in which Christians are enabled to persevere through difficulty to the end. Christians are not expected to endure to the end, without possessing the resources to endure. We are not left on our own. We are never exhorted to endure on our faith but by faith in Christ while humble depending upon the Spirit of God. In the following verse, we see the need for endurance. This is the heart of the book of Hebrews. There is a need for a Christian to endure.
Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.Hebrews 10:35-39
In the verse above we also see the means for endurance, that is, “the just shall live by faith.” In both Romans and Galatians, Paul applied this passage quoted from Habbakuk in our justification before God. But in this passage from Hebrews, Paul applied it in our sanctification. So in both justification and sanctification, the just shall live by faith.
John 15:5-6 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.
Again, let us not make ‘abiding’ a condition, since abiding is proof of true disciples. False disciples or outwardly identified branches are really not in Christ. They are those who do not abide because they are not really attached to Christ. However, the true disciples abide in Christ by true saving faith. There are two people—those who abide in Christ or those who are burned—abide or burn are the two opposites.
Romans 11:22 Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God's kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off.
Perseverance is the work and responsibility of the saints. We are not passive in sanctification. Nobody repents, believes, or endures for us. It is also dependent upon the work of God’s Spirit. We persevere because we are preserved.
Philippians 2:12-13 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
We are able to work out because God works in us. Both truths must be equally emphasized. We must not emphasize the one at the expense of the other. We only work out what God first works in. We must not make humans prominent. While man and God both work, they don’t work in the same way God’s work goes before our work. We must encourage Christians to cast ourselves upon the keeping and preserving grace of God.
We also see this in Galatians 3:3. Paul is asking, “Having started your Christian life by the power of the Spirit, are you now trusting in your own strength?” Thus, while God has promised to preserve us, we are responsible to trust Him for grace that we may endure to the end. “God will preserve His people. At the same time, Christians are responsible for continuing to trust in Jesus, to persevere. Both truths are true, and neither one negates the other” (Wright, 225).
Hebrews 10:26-27 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.
To be clear, such warnings (In Hebrews, we have five: Neglecting great salvation: 2:1–4; Imitating Israel’s Unbelief: 3:7–4:13; Remaining Immature: 5:11–6:20; Despising the New Covenant: 10:19–31; and Refusing the heavenly warning: 12:25–29) as this come to the entire professing people of God. This kind of warning serves two purposes: First, to produce legal fear in hypocrites; second, to produce gospel fear in Christians.
There are tons of Biblical promises that serve as the believers’ assurance that they will be preserved to persevere to the end. Beeke (2013) writes, “Believers who have come to Christ by grace remain wedded to Christ, knowing they are in Him by grace. Perseverance and assurance are two sides of grace. You cannot persevere in grace without growing in assurance, and you cannot grow in assurance of faith without perseverance” (p.125).
- Hebrews 10:35 Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.
- Rev 2:11 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.’
- Rev 2:17 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.’
- Rev 2:26 The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations,
- Rev 3:5 The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.
- Rev 3:12 The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name.
- Rev 3:21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.
- Rev 21:7 The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.
- Hebrews 12:1-2 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
The last passage in Hebrews shows Biblical examples of endurance. The example of the Old Testament saints, and the example of our Savior. Christ’s endurance is the best example of endurance. If we endure for us, then we can endure for Him through the help of the Holy Spirit. We endure because of God’s amazing grace. God is amazingly faithful to fulfill His promise that we may persevere till Christ comes.
To end this series, let us be reminded of John Murray’s statement (1898-1975), a reformed theologian from Scotland and one of the founders of the Westminster Theological Seminary:
The perseverance of the saints reminds us very forcefully that only those who persevere to the end are truly saints. We do not attain to the prize of the high calling (Phil 3:13-14) of God in Christ Jesus automatically. Perseverance means the engagement of our persons in the most intense and concentrated devotion to those means which God has ordained for the achievement of His saving purpose.(Murray 1980, p.155)
SOLI DEO GLORIA!
- Beeke, J. R., Ferguson, S. B., & Al, E. (2013). Living for God’s glory : an introduction to Calvinism. Reformation Trust.
- Wright, S. D. (2019). 40 questions about Calvinism. Kregel Academic.
- Murray, J. (1980). Redemption accomplished and applied. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.
3 thoughts on “Perseverance of the Saints 2”
To God Be All the Glory! Thank you Bro.Jeff
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Salamat po sa comment Sis. Gen
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