Why genuine Christians persevere

by Mike Ratliff

37 All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. 40 And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” John 6:37-40 (NKJV) 

28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.John 10:28-29 (NKJV) 

The Doctrines of Grace are all tremendous blessings to the believer since they teach us that our salvation is God’s Work from beginning to end, top to bottom, and side to side. However, each of us from time to time, since we are only vessels of clay and a vapor that is here one day and then gone the next, will experience  a loss of joy born from life’s disappointments. We suffer this way because our focus is not perfectly fixed on God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit as the source of our fulfillment. God, in His omniscient wisdom, prunes us as He takes things out of our lives that our hearts cherish. It is as we struggle through these times that it is a good thing to review who we are in Christ and what He has done, and what He is doing for us. One such precious promise is the doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints.

Carefully read the two passages I placed at the beginning of this post (John 6:37-40 and John 10:28,29). In these two passages we read of our Lord’s promise to His Father (John 6:37-40) and then to His people directly (John 10:28-29) that He will keep them so that they never perish. The Doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints is better understood that the saints are actually preserved by God. Perseverance means continued adherence to a belief despite discouragement and opposition. However, the reason believers persevere in faith and obedience is not by the strength of their own commitment, but that Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit preserves them. Carefully read the following prayer by our Lord Jesus Christ, which He prayed at the close of the Last Supper.

1 Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, 2 as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. 4 I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. 5 And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.
6 “I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. 7 Now they have known that all things which You have given Me are from You. 8 For I have given to them the words which You have given Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came forth from You; and they have believed that You sent Me.
9 “I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours. 10 And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them. 11 Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are. 12 While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. 13 But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves. 14 I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. 18 As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.
20 “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; 21 that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. 22 And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: 23 I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.
24 “Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. 26 And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” John 17 (NKJV) 

Our Lord asked that all given to Him would be preserved to glory here and in Romans 8:34 and Hebrews 7:25. Our Lord’s prayers, since His will is lined up perfectly with the Fathers, will be answered just as perfectly. Never forget my brethren that our salvation is God’s good work and God will certainly complete the good work that He began in our lives (Romans 8:31-39).

The Westminster Confession says, “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).”

It is through regenerate believers persevering in faith and Christian living to the end that saves them as is clearly taught in the following passages from the Book of Hebrews.

5 And Moses indeed was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which would be spoken afterward, 6 but Christ as a Son over His own house, whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end. Hebrews 3:5-6 (NKJV) 

11 And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, 12 that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. Hebrews 6:11-12 (NKJV)

35 Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise:
37 “For yet a little while,
And He who is coming will come and will not tarry.
38 Now the just shall live by faith;
But if anyone draws back,
My soul has no pleasure in him.”
39 But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul. Hebrews 10:35-39 (NKJV) 

The Doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints does not teach that all who ever professed to be Christians will be saved. Our Lord taught us in Matthew 13:20-22 that any who tries to live a Christian life in his or her own abilities will fall away. He also taught that there are many who say to Him, “Lord, Lord,” but because they are false professors, will not be acknowledged (Matthew 7:21-23).  On the other hand, believers who pursue holiness of heart and love of those around them do show themselves to be regenerate and thereby are entitled to believe themselves secure in Christ. Despite what many teach in our time that belief in this doctrine leads to careless, arrogant, and presumptuous living, if properly understood, does the very opposite. It is quite humbling and leads the believer to seek to walk in repentance by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Does this doctrine teach us that believers never sin or backslide? No, Christians can and do sin when they do not diligently work with God in mortifying their sin. Their flesh and the sins that cling so close conspire with our enemy to make the believer stumble and fall into sin. When this happens the believer is actually opposing his or her own new nature. The Holy Spirit then convicts them of their sin (John 16:8) and compels them to repent and be restored to righteousness. When regenerate believers manifest a humble, grateful desire to please the God who saved them, the knowledge that He has promised to preserve them in His secure hands forever increases that desire. This desire is not one geared to self-righteousness, but to humble, grateful obedience in the face of all this world, our enemy, and our own flesh.

Soli Deo Gloria!

One thought on “Why genuine Christians persevere

  1. The Doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints brings rest in the finished work of Christ, releasing striving through good works to do our best to be worthy of eternal life. It is an understanding that we are “looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of (our) faith.” (Hebrews 12:2) Jesus initiates our faith and causes us to endure. Nothing is left to us to accomplish on our own, for just as we have no ability to institute our belief in Christ, we have no ability to maintain our own salvation. It is a fearful thing if you are looking unto yourself. Jesus said, “apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) Therein “nothing” contains anything and everything. Jesus will get all the glory for the salvation of His elect. Man contributes nothing. Jesus will bring all His chosen to heaven for He alone has the power to accomplish it. We cannot fall away from the faith. That provides rest, peace, confidence and security for the soul beyond measure.

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