The Gift of Perseverance
“You also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed…were sealed with the Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance.” - Ephesians 1:13-14
When discussing eternal security, our preference has been to use the phrase “perseverance of the saints” because it better reflects the New Testament passages that stress our role in holding fast to salvation. Persevering in faith and not falling away means that we must cling to our confession of Christ and work out our salvation “with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12).
This synergistic view of perseverance that says we work with God to keep ourselves in Christ raises certain questions. Does not the Lord do all the work in salvation? Is not all of the Christian life the monergistic work of God?
Despite what many people think, Reformed theology does not teach that all of the Christian life is the work of God alone (monergism). Scripture insists that regeneration is the monergistic work of the Holy Spirit (John 3:1–8). We are born again and enabled to have faith through our Creator’s work alone. Yet after conversion, our growth in actual, personal holiness results from our cooperation with God, which is, of course, a direct result of God’s sovereign grace.
So while perseverance does involve our effort, it is ultimately a gift from the Lord. We strive to keep ourselves in Christ only because of the benefit of God’s unmerited grace.
We deduce that perseverance is itself a result of God’s grace from passages like Philippians 2:12–13, which says that God works in us “both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Romans 8:29–30also clearly articulates this idea when Paul writes that glorification is the inevitable result of predestination.
We work out our salvation with fear and trembling only because God has elected and regenerated us. Everyone whom our Father has chosen to redeem will receive the full inheritance of salvation. We know this to be true from Ephesians 1:13–14, which tells us the Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantor of our inheritance — all the benefits that come with redemption. God seals believers with the Holy Spirit who dwells within us to empower us to persevere (Rom. 8:9–11). The Spirit is the promise from the One who cannot break His word that those who love Christ today will finally inherit the fullness of salvation.
We know that the Holy Spirit will work within us to keep us in Christ; thus, we respond to this good news in two ways. First, we are never complacent in our pursuit of holiness, for our following of Jesus demonstrates the work of the Spirit. Second, we are always grateful to God for working in us and so we never fail to worship Him and offer thanks to Him for all His gifts. Thank Him today for His gift of the Holy Spirit and for all of your blessings.
Passages for Further Study
- Genesis 32:22–32
- 2 Samuel 12:1–15a
- Matthew 15:21–28
- Philippians 1:6