One of the more difficult aspects of Reformed faith for me is the perseverance of the saints, the “P” in TULIP. The theory is simple enough to state, and is supported in Scripture in John 6:37, where Jesus tells us
All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.
Now, any die-hard Arminians might be so bold as to suggest that this verse means that we will use our free will to “come to” Jesus. I might agree with them, except for that pesky context: All that the Father gives me will come to me. Arminians, of course, might dispute that God “gives” us to Jesus for salvation. But I believe that is what happens. At least I hope so.
Now, what does it mean for us to “perservere”? The English meaning of the word is straightforward, and is applied in this case with precision. If we are steadfast in Christ Jesus; if we cling to this Rock, though we may sway from side to side and sin, if we endure the trials and tribulations of what it means to love Christ, then we are assured by Jesus that we will be saved. From Mark 13:13
And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
Now, I’m not persecuted for His name’s sake. There’s little risk of me being stoned or flogged for confessing Jesus as Lord. Leastways, not at my Baptist church or from most of the people I associate with. And then there’s that business about taking pleasure in the things of this world. Which I do, far too much.
Ah, guilt, the balm for the Calvinist’s soul. Guilt aside, I hope I am among the elect. I pray this is the case. I thank the Father, every day, for His gift of life to me. I cling to Jesus Christ as my Rock and my salvation. I sure hope I’m right. I’ll know at the end, I suppose. For now, I do my best to at least pretend this is true.
The quandary remains — can I endure by any force of my own will? Yes, and no. Yes, I will try to keep on the blessed path. No, without God’s help, my will is of no use. It could never be sufficient. I am weak; a sinner. As are you who read this. God’s help is promised in, among other places, 1 Peter 1:
3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
By God’s power. Not mine. Not yours.
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