God’s Gift of Perseverance
“In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”- Ephesians 1:13–14
Reformed theology speaks of the “perseverance of the saints” to refer to Christians being preserved by God and persevering in faith to the end. In our day, when so many people affirm a notion of eternal security that grounds assurance in the profession of faith and not the possession of faith, the language of perseverance is especially apt. Moreover, the concept of perseverance has the advantage of reflecting what the New Testament says about whether we can lose our salvation. To speak of “perseverance” reminds us that we have a part to play in remaining faithful to Christ. We are called to cling to Christ and to work out our salvation “with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12). Perseverance involves action on our part; it does not simply mean that we should “let go and let God” do all the work for us.
In sum, there is a degree of synergism involved in our perseverance. The Lord is not the only one who acts; we work as well. Yet this raises a significant question. Is not our salvation monergistic, meaning that the Lord is the only one who acts in our salvation from first to last?
The answer to this question is no. Not every part of our salvation is monergistic. Regeneration is monergistic—the Holy Spirit alone brings us to new spiritual life (John 3:1–8). The judicial declaration we receive in justification is monergistic, because the only one who issues it is the Lord Himself. Yet sanctification and perseverance are synergistic. We cooperate with the Lord to grow in holiness and to remain in faith. As noted above, we work out our salvation in fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12). However, we would be mistaken to conclude from this that we are the final effective agents in our Christian growth and perseverance. Even these synergistic works are established and guaranteed by the Lord. We work out our salvation, but God is at work in us to will and to work (v. 13). We work because He works, and if He works in us, we will certainly persevere in faith. Our perseverance is ultimately the gracious gift of the Lord.
Everyone whom our Father has chosen to save will persevere and receive the full inheritance of salvation. As today’s passage indicates, we have been sealed with the Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance (Eph. 1:13–14; see Rom. 8:9–11). He remains with us to enable us to will and to work for His good pleasure. His presence ensures that we will never fall away from faith. Such is the greatness of God’s grace.
We have a role to play in perseverance, but God’s role remains supreme. He is the guarantor of our faithfulness, for He remains within us to move us effectually to persevere. We work out our salvation, but we cannot give ourselves the final credit for working out our salvation. He initiates and sustains our perseverance, and He makes sure that His children never fall away from grace finally and fully. Let us worship Him for His goodness to us.
Passages for Further Study