Perseverance is a key idea in the Christian revelation. God’s unique love is known as a steadfast love. Jesus, having loved his own, loved them to the end. Paul’s ultimate word is that the love which the believer learns at the Cross “endures all things.” Judas betrayed his Lord. Demas forsook Paul. But in Revelation those who endure to the end are robed in white. Small wonder that Shakespeare calls perseverance a “king-becoming” grace.

In theological discussion, however, perseverance is used not in this ordinary sense but in a technical sense for the Calvinistic doctrine that God preserves to final salvation each of the elect whom he calls and regenerates. Popularly expressed, this is the doctrine of “once saved—always saved.”

Perseverance and Apostasy. In its technical sense perseverance stands opposed to the idea of apostasy, or the doctrine that it is possible for believers to fall from grace, either temporarily, so as to alternate from a state of grace to a state of lostness and back to a state of grace again, or finally, so as to have been once saved and yet finally be damned. Those who insist on the possibility of apostasy do not entirely eliminate the idea of perseverance. But they use the term in its ordinary sense only, thinking of perseverance as an obligation resting on the believer to persevere in believing. They deny its technical use.

Each of these doctrines claims to be rooted firmly in Scripture. Perseverance points to the passages underscoring the believer’s sure persuasion that God takes the initiative in perfecting as well as originating man’s salvation: he who has begun a good work in the believer performs it to the end (Phil. 1:6; cf. 1 John 3:6–9; 4:4); God keeps his own (John 10:28, 29; Col. 2:2 [note ...

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