Q. If perseverance is like good works in that they do not produce eternal
life, why are there so many bible passages that say “he who endures to the
end will be saved”. No where in the bible says “he who do good
works to the end will be saved”. If a person is a true believer,
even if he fails to endure to the very end, he would be saved because He
who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
Isn’t that true?
A. The phrase actually appears 3 times in the
Mt 10:22 You will be hated by all because of My name, but
it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.
24:13 But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.
13:13 You will be hated by all because of My name, but the one who endures
to the end, he will be saved.
of Mt 10:22 is Jesus sending out His 12 disciples to preach the kingdom of
heaven, warning them a hard road will be before them, where they will be hauled
to court, scourged, and persecuted. It will be perilous times as even family
members will betray each other.
24:13 and Mk 13:13 refer to Jesus’ disciples asking Him what will be the sign
of His (second) coming, and of the end of the age. Again, the end times will be
times of deception, wars, famines, earthquakes, tribulation, apostasy, and
betrayal. There will be severe trials and suffering for the disciples, no
wonder the Lord encouraged them to endure.
are the fruit expected under ordinary times. Under trials and tribulations, the
focus switches to survival. Disciples still bless those who persecute them (Rom
12:14), but the emphasis is endurance; hence you don’t find “do good to
the end and you will be saved” in the Bible.
1:6 is true:
For I am confident of this very
thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
As I have
argued, ultimately perseverance does not depend on how tough the true believer
is, it depends on the Lord promising to see him through. So he may be weak and
fail, but he will still be saved because He always keeps His promise.
This argument seems to set the decisive
moment about whether and when someone is saved at the time they confess faith.
They either pass or fail at that moment, with no second chance at growing after
a less-than-stellar moment of conversion. According to the argument, those who
lack the “real saving faith” at that moment are not saved, period.
(Because if they are still saved but later do not demonstrate the necessary
deeds during trials, then they will lose their salvation which is the
possibility that this argument tries to preclude.) In that case they are doomed
without recourse, since if they are not saved at that moment of opportunity
when they think they are — with everybody congratulating them while the Holy
Spirit flunks them quietly — they really don’t have the sense of urgency to do
what they can to turn the situation around. Besides, justification is by faith,
not works, so they are still doomed regardless of what they do. This argument
seems to imply that if someone is not “up to standard” at the moment
of conversion then nothing can help them make up for it. In that case all the
encouragement about attending church, reading the Bible etc. appear moot in
terms of salvation, because if they do have the “real saving faith”
then nothing can knock salvation off them (once-saved-always-saved), whereas if
they don’t then no amount of efforts can save them.
What you described is a case of false
conversion, someone who thinks he/she is saved, but who really lacked saving
faith. What happens to them? If the church is doing her job, she would follow
up the individual, visiting him to see whether he has assurance of salvation,
encourage him to attend worship, and teach him to pray, read the Bible and join
fellowship or a cell group. They would monitor his progress to see if there is
any change in his behavior, as evidence that he has been “born
again”. People progress at different pace, but if after a period of time
there is still no sign of life they would doubt whether his
“conversion” was genuine in the first place.
What next? His Christian friends, assuming they
are concerned about his spiritual well-being, would question his “faith”
and witness to him as if he were an unbeliever, since his conduct leads them to
such a conclusion. Is he doomed without recourse? Not necessarily, because
although “once (genuinely) saved, always saved” is true, the converse
“once lost, always lost” is not true. That person may not have any
sense of urgency to repent, but neither has any non-believer until the Holy
Spirit convicts his heart.
All of us start out rebellious – it’s in our
fallen nature. The false convert has an extra hurdle of self-delusion, thinking
he’s saved when he’s not, but it’s not insurmountable. With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible. (Mt
19:26) He may send other Christians besides his friends,
even total strangers e.g. a short-term mission team, to witness to him. I take
“the Lord does not wish for any to
perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Pet 3:9) at face value.
“Any” would include “false converts”, so it is not hopeless
as you’ve described.
7) Some people explain the
situation this way: There are those who believe with real saving faith at the
moment of accepting the gospel. They are justified by their real faith which
will be reflected in their deeds going forward. They are saved once and for
all. Nothing can knock them out of salvation. On the other hand, there are
those who say they believe but actually don’t really have the faith required.
This will be reflected in their deeds going forward. They were never saved to
begin with, presumably because the Holy Spirit knows their heart, so they did
not lose the salvation which they never obtained. So then the
once-saved-always-saved assurance applies to the first group only. This is the
only group that has ever been saved. Do you agree with this?
Properly understood, yes. But let me
clarify. When I was a young Christian I attended a church that taught
Dispensationalism and “once-saved, always saved (OSAS)”. The moderate
form proposed that a believer is eternally secure, because he is in the Lord’s
Jn 10:27-29 My sheep hear My voice, and I know
them, and they follow Me;28 and I give eternal life to them, and they
will never perish; and no one
will snatch them out of My hand.29 My Father,
who has given them to
Me, is greater than all; and no one is
able to snatch them out
of the Father’s hand.
I held this doctrine to be true, and
still do. As I learned more from the Bible, I found my views on eternal
security to be most closely aligned with the Reformed doctrine of
“perseverance of the saints”:
Jn 6:37, 39-40 All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and
the one who comes to Me I will certainly
not cast out. …39 This is
the will of Him who sent Me, that of all
that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.40 For this
is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son
and believes in Him will have
eternal life, and I Myself
will raise him up on the last day.”
The saints are preserved by our Lord,
and therefore will persevere.
The ultra form of OSAS, however,
proposed that once a person “confessed Christ as his personal
Savior”, he is saved forever, even if later on he backslides, drifts away,
and lives in unrepentant sin. According to them, “once a son, always a
son”. I reject this as contrary to
what Scripture teaches:
1 Jn 2:19 They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained
with us; but they went out, so that it
would be shown that they all are not of
The above summarizes my current
position on eternal security, so a “qualified yes” to your question.
It seems that this argument uses
real saving faith to defend the once-saved-always-saved assurance, but does not
offer any insight about what is real saving faith. So then the question still
remains: How does anyone know whether they have “made it”?
You can know “real saving
faith” by its “fruit”:
Mt 7:16, 20 You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from
thorn bushes nor figs
from thistles, are they? … So then, you
will know them by
Mt 12:33 Either make the tree
good and its fruit good,
or make the tree bad and its fruit
bad; for the tree is known by its fruit.
Lk 6:44 For each tree is known by its own fruit.
For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they pick grapes from a briar
There are many passages indicating what
type of fruit genuine saving faith will bear, but one book in particular is
written so that we may know we have “made it” – 1 John:
1 Jn 5:13 These
things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you
have eternal life.
What are the signs given in 1 John? Commentators
have different views. I summarize my observations into the following groups:
relation to God – Keep His commandments; does His will
2:3-5 By thiswe know that we have come to know Him,
if we keep His commandments. 4 The
one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in
him;5 but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of
God has truly been perfected. By
this we know that we are in Him.
2:17 The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives
you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices
righteousness is born of Him.
one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. We know
by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.
5:3 For this is the love of
God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.
2 In relation to others – Love the brethren
2:10 The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for
stumbling in him.
3:10 By this the children of
God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice
righteousness is not of God, nor the
one who does not love his brother.
3:14 We know that we
have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides
3:18-19 Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth. 19 We
will know by this that we are of
the truth, and will assure our
heart before Him.
3:23 This is His commandment, that we believe in the
name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us.
4:7-8 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God
4:12 No one has seen God at any
time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us.
4:16-17 We have come to know
and have believed the love which
God has for us. God is love,
and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God
abides in him. By this, love is
perfected with us, so that we may have confidence
in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world.
4:20-21 If someone says,
“I love God,” and
hates his brother, he is a liar; for the
one who does not love his
brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not
seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves
God should love his
3. In relation to the world – Overcome; do not
not love the world nor
the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father
is not in him.
5:4 For whatever is born of God overcomes
the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.
relation to self – Purity; clear conscience
3:3 And everyone who has
this hope fixed on
Him purifies himself, just as
He is pure.
3:6 No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him
or knows Him.
3:21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we
have confidence before God
I hasten to add that the above
indicators are a matter of degree. None of us is perfect; we are sinners saved
by grace, in the process of sanctification. Some of us do better than others,
but no one is blameless. All of us fall short many times at different points in
our lives, but the overall pattern should be upwards, striving towards the
goals God has for us, growing more like Him as time progresses. But
notwithstanding our stumbling, by His grace we press on.
5) How much perseverance (v.15)
would reflect real faith? In other words, how does anyone know whether they
have “made it”?
I think you are asking the wrong
question. Salvation is not a matter of how much we have worked to earn it, or
how much we have persevered to maintain it, it’s a matter of what God has done to
save us and promises to do to keep us there:
Rom 8:30 and
these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called,
He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.
Rom 8:38-39 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life,
nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to
come, nor powers, 39 nor
height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us
from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Rom 8:30 is an unbreakable chain from
being predestined to being glorified, and Rom 8:38-39 assures us that nothing,
absolutely nothing, can separate us from the love of God.
1:8-9 who will also confirm you to the end, blameless
in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.9 God is faithful,
through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus
Christ our Lord.
1:6 For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will
perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
1 Thes 5:23-24 Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you
entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord
Jesus Christ.24 Faithful is He
who calls you, and He also will
bring it to pass.
are protected by the power of
God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in
the last time.
These 4 verses all tell us that what
God has started in our lives, He is faithful to bring to completion. We are not
dependent on our strength to persevere, but on God’s power to preserve us.
Then what about all those verses that
seem to tell us that salvation is dependent on our endurance or perseverance
Mt 10:22 You
will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.
Lk 21:19 By your endurance you
will gain your lives.
Rom 2:7 to
those who by perseverance in
doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life;
1 Tim 4:16 Pay
close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in
these things, for as you do this you will ensure
salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.
Heb 3:6 but Christ was faithful as a Son over
His house—whose house we are, if we
hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the
What is the relationship between
perseverance and faith? Perseverance bears a parallel relationship to faith as
works – both perseverance and works are the evidence of faith. Real faith will produce good works and
perseverance. They go together. Just as you can say “faith without works
is dead”, you might say “faith without perseverance is dead”,
that kind of faith is useless. An analogy in human physiology is that of life
and brain waves. Life always produces brain waves. No brain waves means the
life is gone, dead. The brain waves do not produce life, but are the evidence
that the person is still alive. Similarly perseverance does not produce eternal
life, but shows that the faith is real and the life everlasting.
3) Why do we preach belief only
but not perseverance (v.15) as part of the gospel?
We preach belief because that’s the
model in the NT e.g. in Acts:
Acts 2:38, 40 Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you
be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy
Spirit. … And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on
exhorting them, saying, “Be saved
from this perverse generation!”
Acts 3:16, 19 And on the basis
of faith in His name, it is the name of Jesus which
has strengthened this man whom you see and know; and the faith which comes through
Him has given him this perfect health in the presence of you all. …
Therefore repent and return, so
that your sins may be wiped away, in
order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord;
Acts 8:35-37 Then Philip opened his mouth,
and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him.36 As
they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look!
Water! What prevents me from being baptized?”37 [And
Philip said, “If you believe with all
yourheart, you may.” And he
answered and said, “I believe that
Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”]
Acts 10:42-43 And He ordered us to preach to the people, and
solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by
God as Judge of the living and the dead. 43 Of
Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of
13:38-39 Therefore let it be known to you, brethren,
that through Him forgiveness
of sins is proclaimed to you,39 and through Him everyone who believes
is freed from all things, from which you could not
be freed through the Law of Moses.
after he brought them out, he said, “Sirs, what must Ido to be saved?”
They said, “Believe
in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”
17:3-4 explaining and giving evidence that
the Christ had to suffer
and rise again from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is
the Christ.”4 And
some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with a
large number of the God-fearing Greeks and a number of
the leading women.
17:30-31 Therefore having overlooked the times
of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent,31 because
He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in
righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished
proof to all men by raising
Him from the dead.”
In all 8 evangelistic sermons to non-believers,
whether by Peter, Phillip, or Paul, the focus is always on believe in Jesus,
not perseverance. Do they preach perseverance at all? Yes, but to disciples, not
Acts 14:22 strengthening
the souls of the disciples,
encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.”
The sequence is therefore first faith
in Christ to be saved, then strengthen their faith to persevere. We do it not
to sugarcoat the gospel, but to follow the natural order of first new birth,
4) While justification is by
faith, faith by itself without deeds is dead, but we don’t mention it as part
of the gospel presentation. Why?
Faith is “proven” by works to
show that it is “saving faith”:
Jas 2:14 What
use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can
that faith save him?
Jas 2:17-18 Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by
itself. But someone may well say,
“You have faith and I
have works; show me
your faith without
the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”
Jas 2:20 But are you willing to
recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is
Jas 2:22 You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected;
Jas 2:24 You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.
Jas 2:26 For just as the body
without the spirit is
dead, so also faith without works is dead.
It’s not that we don’t mention deeds as
part of the gospel. We do, but we are careful to point out that
“works” is a result of
faith, not a cause for our
salvation. We emphasize this because the teaching of world religions, as well
as the prevalent secular worldview, is that you save yourself by doing good
deeds, which is wrong.
We know the value of good works:
Mt 5:16 Let
your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who
is in heaven.
Eph 2:10 For we are His
workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in
1 Tim 2:10 [adorn themselves]
… but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness.
1 Tim 5:10 having a reputation for good works; and if she has brought up
children, if she has shown hospitality to strangers, if she has washed the
saints’ feet, if she has assisted those in distress, and if she has devoted herself to every good work.
1 Tim 6:18 Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to
We just don’t want non-believers to
confuse “works” as a means to salvation. It isn’t. It is an
“end”, not a “means”.
I have some
questions about the Parable of the Sower.Your comments
are greatly appreciated.
A. The inquirer put a lot of thought into this
parable and asked multiple questions touching on many theological issues. I
will therefore answer them in several installments. Here’s part 1:
1) If the parable is about the
gospel and hence salvation, it would seem to mean that real saving faith is not
determined at the moment of confessing faith, since temptations (v.13), worries
(v.14) and perseverance (v.15) happen later on in life.
The parable itself is in Lk 8:5-8,
which narrates a typical agricultural scene about a farmer sowing his seeds.
When Jesus’ disciples questioned Him what it meant (v 9), He said it is about
the mysteries of the kingdom of God
(v 10). So the subject is kingdom of God, which encompasses the gospel and
salvation, but involves more than both. Broadly speaking, the kingdom of God is
God’s reign over His entire creation. More narrowly defined, it is God’s rule over
the hearts of His subjects.
You are right in observing that
temptations, worries and perseverance happen later on in life. But real saving
faith is a “both-and“, not
an “either/or”. It starts at the moment of confessing genuine faith,
and is a process that continues and “endures
to the end”:
Mt 24:13 But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.
Mk 13:13 You will be hated by
all because of My name, but the one
who endures to the end,
he will be saved.
The fact that it starts upon confession
of genuine faith is observed elsewhere, e.g.:
Lk 19:9 And
Jesus said to him, “Today
salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of
Lk 23:43 And He said to him, “Truly I
say to you, today you shall be with
Me in Paradise.”
The Lord did not tell Zaccheus or
the thief on the cross to wait and see whether they would persevere; He told
2) In that case when people accept
the gospel verbally, why do we congratulate them with Jn 1:12; 6:47 and declare
that they are now born-again babies?
For Jesus it’s not a problem because He
knew men’s thoughts and what’s in their hearts:
Mt 9:4 And
Jesus knowing their thoughts
Lk 9:47 But Jesus, knowing what they were thinking in their heart, …
Jn 2:25 … for
He Himself knew what was in man.
But while God knows and the people
themselves may know:
1 Jn 5:13 These
things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that
you may know that you have eternal life.
we’re human and don’t really know men’s
Jer 17:9 The heart is
more deceitful than
all else And is desperately sick; Who
can understand it?
So we’re jumping the gun a bit when we
congratulate them, as we really don’t know for sure that their faith is
genuine. We compensate by asking clarification and diagnostic questions, as done
in Evangelism Explosion, for example. By observing all the “signs” we
can have a certain degree of confidence, but never 100% sure.
Last Sunday we heard a good message on the “Laborers in the Vineyard” in Mt 20:1-16, from a missionary who taught Hebrew and NT in the Philippines. She used the passage to challenge the congregation on responding to God’s call to active service, whether locally or in the mission field.
In the Parable of the Vineyard the landowner represents God, and the laborers represent us. Many Christians question the fairness of God in this parable. Why would He be so generous to those hired last, but strict, perhaps even mean, to those hired early? Actually this is a diagnostic parable, as it tells you more about yourself than you care to know. When you read it, note who do you identify with – those hired early in the morning, or those hired about the eleventh hour. Who you identify with tells you what type of person you really are. Many identify themselves with those who were hired first:
• Mt 20:10-15 When those hired first came, they thought that they would receive more; but each of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they grumbled at the landowner, 12 saying, ‘These last men have worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the scorching heat of the day.’ 13 But he answered and said to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what is yours and go, but I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. 15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?’
In what way? In that we:
1. View things from what we get out of it; we think we deserve more than the next guy (v 10);
2. Grumble when things don’t turn out as we expected, even though our expectations may be unrealistic and what we agreed to (v 11, 13);
3. See others as not equal to us, as we have contributed more (v 12);
4. Think we have been wronged, that others have short-changed us, when in fact they have not (v 13);
5. Are envious of others’ generosity (v 15).
In short, even though we hate to admit it, we operate more on the basis of works, not grace. We are self-centered. If others work for one hour and get paid one denarius, then surely we who worked 12 hours should be paid 12 denarii, otherwise it’s not fair. Reward is proportional to effort; equal pay for work of equal value. Since the landowner did not do that, he, and by implication God, is not fair. That’s perfect reasoning for a person governed by works. But not God, who is Love and operates by grace.
Have you ever wondered what would happen to the eleventh hour’s laborers’ family if the landowner pays them their due of 1/12 denarius? They would go hungry that day. The poor in those days lived a hand-to-mouth existence. The typical daily wage for an unskilled laborer is 1 denarius, just enough to feed a small family for 1 day. So no work means no pay and no food. The landowner is compassionate towards them, and pays the eleventh hour laborers not what they earned, but a full day’s wage so their families won’t go to bed with empty stomachs. God is gracious and generous but we are not. We are so unlike Him that we should be ashamed of ourselves. But better late than never that we learn to be like our Father.