Question of the Week: Perseverance and Salvation

 Caravaggio [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Caravaggio [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Mentionables received this Question on 10/26/2017 from Paul M.:

"There appears to be a disconnect between salvation by Grace through Faith as a one time eternal event and many verses that speak about having to persevere to the end to be saved."


This answer is provided by Joel Furches  (scroll down to see Tyler Vela's answer).

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Possibly the most telling passage of scripture related to perseverance is the parable of the Sower and the Seed.

Here Christ breaks the conviction that comes with the hearing of the Gospel down into four possible responses:

  1. The person neither listens or believes, because their heart is hard.
  2. The person listens and is attracted to the Gospel, but at the point that their belief leads to hardship, they abandon the faith.
  3. The person hears the word, but is more concerned with worldly things, and consequently never fully embraces the Gospel
  4. The person hears, believes, endures the trials and hardships that come as a believer, and values the Gospel above worldly things.

 

From this we may take it that there is some period (x) between the exposure of a person to the Gospel and the conviction thereof. This does not necessarily indicate that there may be some loss of salvation in the full sense of the word, as there is a loss of conviction. Certainly this still allows for a “by grace alone through faith alone,” interpretation allowing for the period between exposure to the gospel and the instance of repentance.

Many of the passages which seem to speak of perseverance unto salvation are speaking directly to a people under persecution. In these instances, when the author speaks to the reader encouraging them to “endure unto the end” in order to receive salvation, he is speaking specifically about an endurance under persecution. This type of language is typified in Mark 13, wherein Jesus lists all of the hardships and persecution the disciples (and later, the church) will endure at the hands of those who hate his name. He speaks of them being delivered to rulers, being beaten and badly treated, and then ends the passage by saying, “But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”

One may take it that, in this passage, he is not so much speaking about deliverance from sin and reconciliation to God, as he is talking about enduring trials - looking to God for salvation from hardship. It is a warning not to give up. In Hebrews, the saints are encouraged to consider Christ’s endurance of suffering as a model of how Christians ought to face suffering, keeping their eyes on their future reward, just as did Christ.

It is also possible to tie these passages back to the sower and the seed wherein the seed that falls on rocky ground withers and dies due to its inability to cope with trials. But one must parse the difference between saints who are discouraged and disheartened in the face of persecution, and one who does not ultimately repent because of the hardships that come when one associates with Christ.

Consequently, when one reads a passage which seems to say that a person must endure unto salvation, it is worth looking at the context to see if the passage is about the salvation that comes through repentance, or rather the endurance of hardships without giving up.


This answer is provided by Tyler Vela 

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The question of what the Reformers have called the “perseverance of the saints,” is a vitally important issue for every Christian to understand. It is crucial to a Christian’s assurance of their salvation and hope of heaven in this life. I will be giving my answer from the framework of a historic Reformed position as I find it to be the most Biblical faithful and the most spiritually enriching.

Once one has studied through the Reformed order of salvation (“ordo salutis”), one will finally arrive at the pinnacle of that journey – how a Christian is sustained until the day of the Lord’s coming. The whole impetus of the order of salvation is to show us that from our election in Christ before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4), through the regeneration (Acts 16:14), atoning forgiveness (Rom. 3:24-25) and imputation of Christ’s righteousness to the believer (Rom. 4:24) is from God, by God, and for the glory of God. The focus is on the activity of God in every aspect of our salvation from election to glorification such that we can be assured of our salvation because God himself is the guarantor of the means and the ends.

It is to this end that the order of salvation ends with the perseverance of the saints. The question is easily asked how we will maintain in a state of grace despite our sin? Sure God may have chosen us, redeemed us, effectually called us, regenerated us, atoned for us, and given us newness of life, but we all still sin. Don’t the scriptures show us the vital importance of good works and righteousness are to the Christian life?

The answer is yes. Good works and righteousness are vital to the Christian life, but we are also given the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of the fulfillment of the hope of the promise (Eph. 1:13-14) and we are told that God’s elect can never ever (the Greek is emphatic) be snatched out of God’s hand (Jn. 10:27-28). We are promised that it is God who started the work of salvation, and God himself will finish that work (Phil. 1:6). 1 Pet 1:3-5 tells us that our inheritance is not only imperishable, but that God is protecting us for the day of his coming. We are even told that all those that God had predestined to salvation will be called, justified, and finally glorified (Rom. 8:29-30, often called the golden chain of salvation). In fact, the New Testament is so confident in the guarantee of our final glorification that it says that we can be assured of our salvation (Heb. 3:14; 6:11; 10:22; 2 Pet. 1:10). This assurance would not be possible if every day we had to live in fear that our bouts of doubt or sins could disqualify us from our future hope. If our sin could disqualify us, it would disqualify us. The only way to have the assurance that we are promised in the New Testament is if God is both the just and the justifier (Rom 3:26) and the indefatigable guarantee of our glorification in Christ.

There are other theologically significant supports for such a view that I have detailed elsewhere and will list below. Several brief examples are that our mystical union with Christ, our election, our inclusion in the Covenant of Grace, and our possession of eternal life would all guarantee the culmination of our hope. In addition, we can trust that God is just and that if God has said that Christ paid the price and the full penalty for all of our sin, that it means exactly that – all of our sin, before and after our conversion. God would not demand double payment for the same sin – first from Jesus and then from us.

As Augustus Toplady wrote in his 18th century hymn,

From whence this fear and unbelief? Hath not the Father put to grief His spotless Son for me? And will the righteous Judge of men
Condemn me for that debt of sin Which, Lord, was charged on Thee?
Complete atonement Thou hast made, And to the utmost Thou hast paid Whate'er Thy people owed; How then can wrath on me take place, If sheltered in Thy righteousness, And sprinkled with Thy blood?
If thou hast my discharge procured, And freely in my room endured The whole of wrath divine; Payment God cannot twice demand, First at my bleeding Surety's hand, And then again at mine.
Turn then, my soul, unto thy rest! The merits of thy great High Priest Have bought thy liberty; Trust in His efficacious blood, Nor fear thy banishment from God, Since Jesus died for thee.

 

It is my hope and prayer that all believers can come to a place of such confidence in death of Christ for them and the hope held out in the gospel that they enjoy the assurance promised to them in the Scriptures, to the glory of God.

 

For more on the doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints, and the Doctrines of Grace as a whole, you can see my Bible study here: or listen to the 6 episode audio version on The Freed Thinker Podcast.