Persevering in the Faith

Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (v. 12b–13).

- Philippians 2:12–18

In the Reformed tradition, the doctrine of eternal security is called the perseverance of the saints. This title can be a little misleading because the word perseverance could imply that we are somehow working alone, pressing into the kingdom of God, working out our salvation with fear and trembling. Of course, these implications are taken from Scripture itself, where it is made clear that Christians are actively engaged in their own sanctification. But we must not misunderstand passages that speak in terms of human effort by asserting that our eternal security rests in our own ability. While we are certainly actively engaged, our sanctification ultimately rests on God Himself, for He is the one who “works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13).

The last part of Philippians 2:12 says “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” a very strong admonition for people to employ their own efforts in their sanctification. But Paul doesn’t finish there. He points his readers to the one who enables them to work out their salvation, and that one is God Himself.

Our persevering, then, is a long, hard road of fighting sin and living by faith, but it is a process that is guaranteed to bring us into the fullness of our heavenly inheritance. As Christians, we can be confident that we will persevere because God has given His Holy Spirit to us as a promise that we will succeed. Paul teaches this clearly in Ephesians 1: “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” (vv. 13–14).

Our salvation has already been purchased on the cross, but it will not be complete until we are glorified. The Spirit, therefore, is given to us as an earnest of our redemption. We need not have any doubts that those who have been called will be glorified because we have the seal of the Holy Spirit to guarantee our reception into the kingdom of God. He is, in a sense, a down payment given by God Himself on our full inheritance, and as such, the Spirit is a foretaste of the glory that is to come. God has sealed us in Him by His own signet ring, and that seal is a promise that we will persevere in the faith and receive our inheritance of glory.

Coram Deo

Read 2 Corinthians 3:18 and 4:16–5:8. What is the comfort of these passages? Does 2 Corinthians 4:16–5:8 represent your life with its struggles with sin and the weakness of the flesh? God has guaranteed that you will persevere, for He has sealed you with His Spirit. Find comfort in Him. Memorize one of today’s verses.

Passages for Further Study

Romans 8:18–23
2 Corinthians 5:1–8
Ephesians 1:3–14

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