Throughout this past week, we have discussed various topics related to eternal security. We have noted that Reformed theology prefers to speak of the perseverance of the saints because this terminology better reflects the New Testament passages which stress our role in holding fast to our salvation. Persevering in faith and not falling away means that we must hold fast to our confession and “work out our salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12).
This synergistic view of perseverance where God and man work together in order to keep man from falling away from Christ seems a bit strange to our ears. Does not God do all the work in salvation? Is not all the Christian life the monergistic work of God alone?
Contrary to popular belief, Reformed theology does not teach that all of the Christian life is the monergistic work of God. We are insistent that regeneration is solely by the monergistic work of the Holy Spirit. We only come to faith initially through the work of God. However, once we have been converted, our growth in actual and personal holiness is the result of cooperation between man and God.
Though perseverance is partly our work, we must never miss the chief reason to be confident of our security in Christ. Perseverance, as a reality, is not an achievement accomplished by human effort. Ultimately it is a gift. The only way anyone ever perseveres to the end is by virtue of the unmerited grace of God that sustains us.
The gift of perseverance is a necessary deduction from passages like Philippians 2:12–13, which tells us that it is God who works in us, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. This idea is also clearly articulated in Romans 8:29–30, where the apostle Paul writes that all who have been predestined are also glorified.
We work out our salvation with fear and trembling, but we do so because God has elected and regenerated us. All those whom He has predestined will receive the full inheritance of salvation. We know this to be true from Ephesians 1:13–14, which tells us that the Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantor of our inheritance. God seals Christians and gives them the Holy Spirit as an indwelling presence so that they may persevere. The Spirit is the promise from the One who never breaks His promise that those who love Christ will inherit salvation.
Augustine was one of the first to remind the church of the donum perserverantiae, the gift of perseverance. Perseverance as a gift means that even in our working to keep our faith, God receives all the glory. Praise Him for His mercy in causing and guaranteeing that all of His elect children will never fall away. Unto Him be all glory!