Persevering in Gospel Hope
“If indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven” (Col. 1:23).- Colossians 1:23
Perseverance of the saints is the last of the “Five Points of Calvinism,” which were originally offered in response to five points from a group of seventeenth-century Arminians in Holland. Based on texts such as Romans 8:38–39, the biblical doctrine of perseverance tells us that everyone who is truly converted will remain a believer to the end and die in faith. Believers may backslide, but those whom the Holy Spirit has regenerated will come to their senses, returning in repentance to the Savior (Luke 15:11–32; 22:54–62; John 21:15–19). Though we ourselves may not see fallen brethren return to the faith, they will indeed come back to Christ if they have been converted.
Biblical perseverance is not the “once saved, always saved” teaching that puts hope for salvation in an initial decision to follow Christ (usually at the end of an aisle) apart from the fruit of conversion. Too many people today believe that they or their family and friends are saved because they went forward at an altar call even though no evidence of spiritual fruit has ever followed. It is impossible to be saved and never submit to Jesus as Lord. Biblical perseverance is a cooperative work between the believer and the Holy Spirit wherein the believer responds to the admonitions of God through His Word and lives a life of repentance, returning again and again to the gospel and its promises. Regeneration guarantees that the called will make this response, and this response of the called proves their regenerate state (James 2:14–26).
The doctrine of perseverance explains why Paul asserts in Colossians 1:21–22 that believers have been reconciled to God but then tells us in verse 23 that we are reconciled only if we continue in faith. It is the consistent, continual possession of faith that saves us, not its mere profession. And remaining in the possession of faith is accomplished as we heed the Spirit’s call to remain “stable and steadfast” in what we have been taught, not going after exotic promises of the “higher Christian life” that misguided people have spoken about throughout the history of the church. The terminology behind Paul’s exhortation to stay stable and steadfast in the hope of the gospel comes from a Greek term that refers to laying the foundation of a building. Just as architectural integrity is grounded in a solid foundation, salvation is established in holding fast by faith to Jesus as He is presented in the apostolic witness.
Even true Christians may wonder at times if they are truly among God’s children, and one of the many ways to find assurance of one’s salvation is to look for evidence of perseverance in one’s life. Do you find yourself continually asking the Father for forgiveness for the sake of Jesus? Are you endeavoring to put into practice the commandments of Christ in His Word? As we do these things, we persevere and find assurance of faith.
Passages for Further Study