The following is a guest post by Rev. Matt Kingswood. Rev. Kingswood currently serves as Pastor of the Russell Reformed Presbyterian Church in Russell, Ontario.
For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.Hebrews 10:36
Of all the many “needs” we have as human beings, and as Christians, Hebrews 10:36 points to one in particular – perseverance! Recently, I read a book called “Stand- A Call for the Endurance of the Saints”. It is a collection of essays on this very theme of perseverance. In one of the chapters, two great errors or pitfalls in thinking about this issue are mentioned:
- Perseverance in faith and love are not necessary for final salvation.
- Perseverance is necessary but depends completely on our own efforts to endure in order to win God’s approval.
The Bible exposes both these errors. Perseverance is necessary. To be sure, no one is saved because of his perseverance, but just as surely, no one will be saved who does not persevere. Jesus said:
And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.Mark 13:13
In Hebrews 3:14, it is asserted that:
[W]e have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.
The Bible is clear – we must persevere to the end. But the great encouragement in Scripture, which answers the second deadly error, is that while we must persevere, God is the One who preserves His people. Those who have been born again by the grace and Spirit of God can never fully or finally fall away from the faith. They may indeed sin grievously, or grow cold for a season, even seemingly, temporarily falling away. But the Good Shepherd will not suffer one of His lambs ultimately to be lost.
There are many reasons why believers should be assured of God’s preserving grace. First, we must look to the unchanging love of God:
The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love …’Jeremiah 31:3 NIV 1984
Someone once said that the greatest evidence God won’t stop loving His elect is that there was never a time when He first began. His love for His children is eternal.
Secondly, the people of God rely on His decree and covenant to give them perseverance:
But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: ‘The Lord knows those who are his,’ and, ‘Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.’2 Timothy 2:19
Here is a seamless weaving together of the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man. Likewise, consider Philippians 2:12-13. As we are called to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, we are enabled to do so because God is at work in believers to accomplish His good pleasure! The gracious working of God is always the primary basis for hope. As we read in Hebrews 13:20-21:
Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
Thirdly, we must remember the inseparable union of true believers with Christ. The hope of salvation does not rest on the merit of my perseverance, but on the Christ who persevered in His obedience, even to the death of the cross. We are enabled to finish because He said “It is finished” (John 19:30). Our perseverance is the fruit of His. If your perseverance is not built on Christ’s perfect work, it has no value. All other ground is sinking sand. First Corinthians 1:8-9 reminds us:
[He] will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
As Jesus told us:
I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.John 10:28
Fourthly, we can be assured of Christ’s continual prayers for his people:
Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.Hebrews 7:25
We can be encouraged along with Peter in the words of Christ:
But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail.Luke 22:32 NIV 1984
And finally, as God preserves us, we are encouraged to persevere as we embrace His promises!
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.Philippians 1:6
And so, believers expectantly apply themselves, by God’s grace, to the means of grace He has given us.
We need to be engaged in gospel perseverance every day, every moment. Amy Carmichael, the well-known missionary to India from Millisle, Northern Ireland, helpfully wrote:
Sometimes when I read the words of those who have been more than conquerors, I feel despondent. I feel that I shall never be like them. But then I realize that they won step by step; by little bits of will; little denials of self; little inward victories; by faithfulness in very little things, they became what they are. No one sees these little hidden steps. They only see the accomplishment, but even so those small steps were taken. There is no sudden triumph, no sudden maturity. It is the work of the moment.
As we daily deal with the trials and troubles that might discourage us from persevering, isn’t there a lesson for us in the following old story?
Similarly, the children of God will one day see how even the afflictions of this life were stepping stones to glory. But we may still wonder why God puts us through such gruelling tests of endurance. One answer is that the longer we persevere in the faith the more faithful we discover God to be. And when we reach Heaven, the saints will agree:
*Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from The ESV Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version), copyright 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
*Scripture quotations marked NIV 1984 are from The Holy Bible, New International Version, copyright 1978 by New York International Bible Society.