Question: "What does the Bible say about perseverance?"
Answer: The Bible has a lot to say about perseverance in several different contexts. Clearly, the Scriptures teach that those who “overcome” and persevere in the faith will inherit eternal life (Revelation 2:7). This truth is also expressed in Colossians 1:23 where we see that people will be holy, blameless, and above reproach “if they continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel.” So all Christians should be in agreement that those who are ultimately saved are those who do persevere and continue to believe the gospel.
There are two very distinct views on the issue of perseverance of the saints among Christians. The first is the Arminian view that it is possible for true Christians to turn away from God and not persevere. This is consistent with the concept of salvation which has man’s “free will” at the center of it. It is logically consistent that, if man’s “free will” choice is the determining factor of his salvation, then it would also be possible for that man to later choose to reject God and thereby lose his salvation.
However, the Bible clearly teaches that we are “born again” by the Holy Spirit, which results in our coming to faith in Christ. All who have been “born again” do have eternal security and will persevere. The doctrine of the perseverance of the saints is founded in the promise that “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6) and Jesus’ declaration that “all that the Father gives me will come to me” and “I shall lose none of them that he has given me” (John 6:37, 39).
Beyond the concept of perseverance in regard to salvation, there are biblical exhortations to persevere in the Christian life. In his pastoral epistles to Timothy, the apostle Paul reminds the young pastor to “watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Timothy 4:16). Timothy’s character was that of a godly man, and his doctrine was sound and scriptural. Paul warned him to watch them both closely and persevere in them because—and this is a warning to all Christians—perseverance in godly living and believing the truth always accompany genuine conversion (John 8:31; Romans 2:7).
Further exhortations to persevere in the Christian life come from James, who warns us to be “doers of the word and not hearers only” because those who hear but do not do are “deceiving themselves.” “But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it [perseveres]…this one will be blessed in what he does” (James 1:22-24). The sense here is that the Christian who perseveres in godliness and the spiritual disciplines will be blessed in the very act of persevering. The more we persevere in the Christian life, the more God grants His blessings upon us, thereby enabling us to continue to persevere. The psalmist reminds us that there is great reward in persevering in the Christian life. In keeping God’s commandments, there is “great reward” for our souls (Psalm 19:11), peace of mind, a clear conscience, and a witness to the world more eloquent than many words.
James also exhorts us to persevere “under trials” because those who do will be blessed and will receive the “crown of life” which God has promised (James 1:12). Just as the true believer will be eternally secure in his salvation, his faith will also persevere in affliction, sickness, persecution, and the other trials of life that befall all believers. If we desire to live godly lives in Christ, we will suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:12), but the faithful will persevere, kept by the power of the Holy Spirit who is the guarantee of our salvation and who will keep us “strong to the end,” persevering so we will be “blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:8).