Perseverance of the Saints

by John F. MacArthur, Jr.

Peter’s life exemplifies what the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints means in the life of a faltering believer. Christ’s present intercessory prayers assure that genuine believers will be saved to the uttermost. This is the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. Those with true faith will not lead perfect lives, though some have attributed such a claim to proponents of working-faith salvation. The teaching of “once saved, always saved” may carry the false implication that after “accepting Christ” a person may live any kind of life and still be saved. That leaves out the doctrine of perseverance, which carries with it the need for a holy life. Peter in his first epistle furnishes six means through which God causes every Christian to persevere: by regenerating them to a living hope, by keeping them through His power, by strengthening them through tests of faith, by preserving them for ultimate glory, by motivating them with love for the Savior, and by saving them through a working faith. Quantification of how much failure the doctrine of perseverance allows is impossible, but Jesus did prescribe a way for the church to deal with a professing believer whose life sin had seemingly come to dominate.

In order to place the doctrine of perseverance in proper light we need to know what it is not. It does not mean that every one who professes faith in Christ and who is accepted as a believer in the fellowship of the saints is secure for eternity and may entertain the assurance of eternal salvation. Our Lord himself warned his followers in the days of his flesh when he said to those Jews who believed on him, “If ye continue in my word, then are ye truly my disciples, and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31, 32). He set up a criterion by which true disciples might be distinguished, and that criterion is continuance in Jesus’ Word.

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