Quote from John Bunyan:
“To be saved is to be preserved in the faith to the end. ‘He that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.’ (Mt. 24:13) Not that perseverance is an accident in Christianity, or a thing performed by human industry; they that are saved ‘are kept by the power of God, through faith unto salvation.’ (1 Pet. 1: 3-6) But perseverance is absolutely necessary to the complete saving of the soul….He that goeth to sea with a purpose to arrive at Spain, cannot arrive there if he be drowned by the way; wherefore perseverance is absolutely necessary to the saving of the soul.” (John Bunyan, Saved by Grace as in Complete Works, vol. I, Banner of Truth: Edinburgh, p. 329)
God promises to hold every true believer securely until He delivers him to heaven, no matter what temptations or trials he encounters. Though the believer sins, he will not finally fail, but will be kept by God’s power through the gift of persevering faith. This doctrine is called “The Preservation and Perseverance of the Saints.” We will take a look at each side of this great doctrine. Here is a simple way to think of it: God will preserve every true believer, but He will not do so without persevering faith, a faith He alone gives.
1 Peter 1:5-7…who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
The Preservation of the Saints
For I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day. (2 Timothy 1:12b)
- We are kept by the PROMISE of God.All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 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. (Jn. 6: 37-39)
- We are kept by the POWER of God.And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. 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. I and My Father are one. (John 10: 28-30)
- We are kept by the PASSION of God.For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 8: 38-39)
- We are kept by the PRIESTHOOD of God.Also there were many priests, because they were prevented by death from continuing. But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. (Heb. 7: 23-25)
- We are kept by the PRESENCE of God.In Him You also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory. (Eph. 1: 13-15)
- The believer will persevere in his faith.
- The believer will persevere in his fruit (i.e. his works).
God has made every Christian a life-long believer, that is, he will continue to trust God until the end.
…who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed…obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:5,9)
- This faith is a gift from God.For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. (Eph. 2: 8-9)
- This faith can be examined and tested for durability and permanence.In this [salvation] you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Pet. 1: 6-7)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 sight¾if 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. (Col. 1: 21-23)And Moses indeed was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which would be spoken afterward, 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. (Heb. 3: 5-6)But the ones on the rock [rocky soil] are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away. (Lk. 8: 13)
Question: Do I have a persevering faith or only a temporary faith?
The faith God gives is persevering.
We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. (1 Jn. 3: 13-14)
And the seed [Word] in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance. (Luke 8:15)
- These works are a gift of God.For we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Eph. 2:10)
- Good works are the result of true faith.For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead. (James 2:26)
- These works may be examined and tested for durability and permanence.For I fear lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I wish…lest there be contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, backbitings, whisperings, conceits, tumults; les, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and I shall mourn for many who have sinned before and have not repented of the uncleanness, fornication, and lewdness which they have practiced….Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?¾unless indeed you are disqualified? (2 Cor. 12: 20-21; 13: 5)Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit. (Mt. 12: 33)
Question: Do I have good works in my life, or only an outward show of religion?
Am I continuing in good works?
Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life. (Jn. 6:47)
For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Heb. 13: 5b)
(Note the “if” in these sentences. The believer is truly saved only “if” he has true persevering faith in the first place.)
Now I make known to you…the gospel…by which you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. (1 Cor. 15:2)
He has now reconciled you …in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach—if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel… (Col. 1: 22-23)
Take care, brethren, lest there should be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart, in falling away from the living God….For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end… (Hebrews 3:12, 14)
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses (see ch. 11 and the list of persevering saints that have gone before us), let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb. 12:1-2)
Do not be deceived, whatever a man sows, that shall he also reap. For the one who sows to his won flesh shall from the flesh reap corruption [eternal corruption in hell], but the one who sows to the Spirit shall from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary. (Gal. 6:7-9)
But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For is these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (1 Pet. 1: 5-11)
- If you are a true believer you are safe forever in Christ!
- If you profess to know Christ and yet do not have persevering faith and corresponding works, you have no real faith at all.
- It is necessary, therefore, for you to continue in faith and corresponding works until the day you die. If you desire to do so and can do so, you are exhibiting true persevering faith—the faith that only God can give.
Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to God our Savior, who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen
This article is a chapter for the future book, A Foundation for Life: A Primer on Key Christian Doctrines, edited by Michael Haykin, Joshua Press.