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The Perseverance of the Saints

The Perseverance of the Saintsby Jeremy Walker /

Read all the posts published to date in this 16-part series on the essential truths of the Christian faith. 


In the present sub-series, this is our third post on persevering—remaining in Christ to the end. Two weeks ago we asked: Having been born fallen and lost in Adam, then redeemed and saved in Christ, can a Christian be lost again? Last week we briefly explored God’s providences, provisions, and precepts. Today we wrap up this discussion of enduring, positioning ourselves for next week and the final post in this series.

The Perseverance of the Saints

The apostle Peter’s words in 1 Peter 1:5 (NKJV) carry us to a final truth that we must consider, for we are kept by the power of God through faith. The certainty and security of God’s people should never breed passivity or carelessness in true saints. Again, listen to William O’Neill’s sweet but searching words: “that doctrine [of the security of the saints] was never designed to comfort any man who is not living a life of faith in the Son of God, intensely anxious to please God in all things—to be the holy and happy subject of that mind which was in Christ Jesus.”i

You might sometimes hear the formula, “Once saved, always saved.” Those phrases so linked are true insofar as they go, but some interpret them as jumping from the distant past to the distant future without any reference to the immediate present. So many imagine that they are saved because they once prayed a sinner’s prayer, or walked an aisle at the invitation of a preacher, raised their hand when Christ was offered, made a decision for Jesus, or something of that order. However, many who have done those things at some point, perhaps more than once in some cases, then live without any reference to God, without any thought of abiding and increasing holiness. They seem to be deluded into thinking that they are ensured of a place in heaven on the back of some long-ago event which the evidence makes clear has made absolutely no difference to their relationship with God.

But the Bible makes clear that all true believers have been, are being, and will be saved. Salvation is an experience in three tenses! The present evidence of saving faith is that it is enduring, demonstrated in a life of principled obedience and genuine and growing godliness. This is not the inevitable preservation of those who live as they please with the false confidence of some notional get-out-of-hell-free card. This is the perseverance of the saints—the confidence of those who pursue that holiness without which no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14 NKJV). That yoking together of a life of holiness and the hope of heaven should never be overlooked.

True and healthy believers are those who embrace the purposes of God, rest on the promises of God, accept the providences of God, rejoice in the provisions of God, and obey the precepts of God, trusting in and clinging to his person as revealed in Christ Jesus:

And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight—if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister. (Colossians 1:21–23 NKJV)

This is a life of real godliness, for it is not the one who lives carnally and casually who lasts the course, but only the one who—even in the face of the world’s hatred and despite the growing coolness of heart of many who profess to follow Christ—actively and carefully endures to the end who shall be saved (Matthew 10:22 NKJV, Matthew 24:13 NKJV).

We were not chosen to drift along on the world’s current and guaranteed that we would reach harbor at last. We were chosen to be holy (Ephesians 1:4 NKJV), to wrestle on toward heaven against storm and wind and tide.ii

This being so, “we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away” (Hebrews 2:1 NKJV). We must beware lest we fall from our own steadfastness; we must set out to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ Jesus (2 Peter 3:17–18 NKJV). When God’s people hear even the soberest and most chilling warnings of the Bible, they take them to heart, and so flee wickedness. The righteous man holds to his way and presses on in godliness (Job 17:9 NKJV). Trusting in the Lord his God, the righteous man is held fast, and so holds fast (Psalm 125:1–2 NKJV).

Neglect of the means that God has provided for the saints to stand fast is a fearful prophecy of drifting, even damage. Such neglect is a threat of ultimate destruction for those who prove that, despite appearances, Christ never knew them. Whatever they might have boasted, they practiced lawlessness and so have no place in Christ’s realm now or eternally (Matthew 7:23 NKJV, Matthew 13:41 NKJV).

These realities are to be used and not abused. Using them wisely reveals spiritual substance in the life of a child of God. Abusing them foolishly makes clear the spiritual vacuum in the heart of a hypocrite. The people of God, saved by Christ, indwelled by the Spirit, shall endure to the end. They shall prove more than conquerors through him who loved us (Romans 8:37 NKJV).

Part 15 of a 16-part series drawn from Anchored in Grace: Fixed Points for Humble Faith, by Jeremy Walker.

walkerJeremy Walker serves as a pastor of Maidenbower Baptist Church, Crawley, England, and is married to Alissa, with whom he enjoys the blessing of three children. He has written several books and has blogged at Reformation21 and The Wanderer.

i Wiliam O’Neill, “The Final Perseverance of Believers in Christ Jesus” in Exposition of the Doctrines of Grace (Pasadena, TX: Pilgrim Publications, 1861), 328.

ii The sentiment is from Anne Ross Cousin’s hymn, “The Sands of Time are Sinking,” based on Samuel Rutherford’s prose.

iii John Owen, The Works of John Owen, ed. William H. Goold, vol. 6 (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, n.d.), 403.

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