Requirements for salvation: Perseverance

'But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.' (Luk 8:15)

We are looking at the biblical requirements for salvation with particular reference to Old Testament believers. In this penultimate study we are going to look at the necessity of perseverance.

Perseverance produces fruit

In the previous study we saw that fruit-bearing is necessary for salvation. Fruit-bearing is so important to Christians that Jesus taught about it in all four Gospels: in the Vine and the Branches in John's Gospel, and in the Parable of the Sower in the other three Gospels.

We saw that the Greek word translated 'fruit' in the Vine and the Branches is karpos: it describes the produce of vegetation and is used to describe the fruit (karpos) of the Spirit in Gal 5:22–3a. It's also used in each account of the Parable of the Sower, where it's translated as 'crop'.

The same word is used in both teachings because they deal with the same subject: the crop (karpos) that the good soil produces in the Parable of the Sower is the fruit (karpos) of the Spirit produced by the branches of the vine.

In the analogy of the Vine and the Branches, the fruit of the Spirit is produced by those who remain in Jesus, ie by those who remain in the faith (Joh 15:5). In the Parable of the Sower, the fruit of the Spirit is produced by those who persevere, ie by those who persevere in the faith (see opening text).

That means that to produce the fruit of the Spirit in our lives we must remain in the faith and persevere in the faith.

Perseverance and falling away

I saw a television programme many years ago about a UK businessman who had made a fortune from publishing pornographic magazines and running a chain of sex shops. We were shown around his palatial home and taken into his office. His desk was bare apart from a plaque which read 'Perseverance is King'.

This man of the world attributed the material harvest he had reaped to perseverance, and he wanted people to know that. The sons and daughters of the kingdom will produce a spiritual harvest for God if they persevere; Jesus wants us to know that.

What is perseverance? Perseverance is continuing in a course of action despite difficulties, or with little or no indication that you are succeeding. In spiritual terms it means continuing to walk with the Lord when things get difficult; it's having a tenacious spirit that never gives up.

The prophet Habakkuk in the Old Testament had such a spirit:

Though the fig-tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the sheepfold and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Saviour. (Hab 3:17–8)

Habakkuk was not a circumstance-dependent believer; his feelings for God did not depend on his circumstances. He was a man of faith who would continue to worship and serve his Lord no matter what happened in his life.

The alternative to persevering is falling away. Jesus said, in the Parable of the Sower, that the seed that fell on rocky ground are those who hear the Word and receive it with joy. They believe for a while (Luk 8:13), but when trouble or persecution comes because of the Word they quickly fall away (they abandon the faith and do not produce a crop – Mar 4:17b).

Perseverance brings maturity

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (Jam 1:2–4)

Why does God allow trials and difficulties to come into our lives? He allows them to bring us to maturity. Do we want to be spiritually mature and complete as Christians, not lacking anything? Then we need to go through trials and testings of many kinds.

When the next trial appears in our lives, let's thank God for it. It won't be pleasant, but we know it will be doing a work in us. The Lord brought us through the last trial, and he will bring us through this trial, and every future trial, if we trust in him (Jer 17:7–8).

In Luke's account of the Parable of the Sower, Jesus said that the seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear the Word but are choked by life's worries, riches and pleasures and do not mature (Luk 8:14).

It's mature plants that produce crops. Perseverance—pressing on in the faith through trials and difficulties—brings believers to maturity. They will then produce the crop of spiritual fruit God is looking for (Luk 8:15).

Job's perseverance

As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job's perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy (Jam 5:11).

Throughout this series we've been looking at Old Testament believers who demonstrated the qualities necessary for salvation. In this study we've looked at Habakkuk, who said he would continue to rejoice in God his Saviour (persevere in the faith) no matter what his circumstances. But by far the greatest example of perseverance in the Old Testament is Job.

The first thing we are told about Job is that he was a blameless and upright man who feared God and shunned evil (Job 1:1). Job lived a righteous life, which is only possible through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Job was an Old Testament believer; he was born again and indwelt by the Spirit of God, so what happened in his life is relevant to us.

Within a short space of time he suffered almost total ruin. He lost his children, his wealth, his servants and his health. The only part of his life that remained untouched was his wife.

Was she the helper God had created her to be (Gen 2:18)? No, she was the opposite. She urged him to curse God and die; something he resolutely refused to do (Job 2:9–10). But why had all this happened to him?

If you read the first two chapters of Job you will see that Satan was the cause of his suffering, but he had to get God's permission to touch him, or anything belonging to him. That is true for every child of God.

Job couldn't understand why God had allowed such tragedy to befall him. Sometimes it's easier to endure suffering if we can see a reason for it. We can see why he suffered, but he couldn't, and he was baffled by it and confused. All he could do was to cling to his faith, which the sustaining power of the Holy Spirit enabled him to do (2Ch 16:9a).

There are many notable verses in the Book of Job. In Job 6:10 he said that his joy in unrelenting pain was that he had not denied the words of the Holy One. Despite intense physical and emotional suffering he kept his faith. And in Job 19:25–7 he said:

'I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!'

That is a wonderful statement of faith. Job was looking forward to meeting his Saviour at the resurrection of the righteous (Act 24:15). And he was going to meet someone who would endure even greater suffering than himself.

Healed and restored

No trial, however prolonged, will last forever. When God sees in us what he wants to see there will be no more need for it. When God saw in Job the perseverance he was looking for, he spoke to him, healed him and prospered him. In fact he gave him twice as much as he had before, and blessed the latter part of his life more than the first (Job 42:12).

Job lost all of his children—seven sons and three daughters—at the beginning of the trial. But God replaced them with another seven sons and three daughters; and his daughters were the most beautiful in the land (Job 42:13,15).

One could argue that nothing would replace the children he had lost. You can replace material things, but not people. But to that I say: Can God do anything wrong? Our thoughts are not always his thoughts; and our ways are not always his ways (Isa 55:8–9).

Things of spiritual worth don't come easy in life; there is effort, sacrifice and sometimes suffering involved (you only have to look at Jesus on the cross to realize that). But that is how God has willed it, and that is often how it must be.

Run so as to get the prize

In Rev 2:1–7 Jesus sent a message to the church at Ephesus. He said that he knew their deeds, their hard work and their perseverance (v2a). He also knew that they had persevered in the past and had endured hardships for his name (v3).

However, he held one thing against them—they had forsaken (Greek abandoned) their first love, which was himself (v4). Their relationship with him was not as it was at the beginning.

Many Christians come into the kingdom full of faith and zeal for Jesus. They sacrifice much, initially, and throw themselves wholeheartedly into the work of the Lord. They endure many things for his name, but are they still walking with him years later? Some, sadly, are not.

Paul likened salvation to competing in the games (1Co 9:24–7). He further likened it to a race in those games, and said that we should run in such a way as to get the prize. The prize is eternal life.

What is the best way to run the race? Salvation is not a hundred metres sprint, it's more like a marathon. It's not those who sprint off at the start, and drop out later, who succeed, but those who keep running until they cross the line—the ones who persevere through the heat of the day, the pain and the tiredness.

Paul wrote:

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day… (2Ti 4:7–8a)

Paul kept running (he kept the faith) until he crossed the line (the end of his earthly life). So he knew he would receive the crown of life that was waiting for him:

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. (Jam 1:12)

Read through the New Testament and note the trials and difficulties Paul encountered as he served Jesus; but he persevered through them all. To receive the crown of life we must persevere.

Stand firm in the faith

'Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.' (Mat 24:9–13)

Jesus was describing the worldwide persecution of the church that will take place immediately before his return.

He said that as a result of that persecution many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and that the love of most (Greek a great or large number) will grow cold. But he added that the one who stands firm (Greek perseveres) to the end will be saved.

Those who persevere in their faith to the end—and for some that will mean martyrdom (v9)—will be saved. That implies that those who do not persevere to the end will not be saved. Perseverance is necessary for salvation.

Michael Graham
August 2010
Revised August 2022

Scripture quotations taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version (Anglicised edition) Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica (formerly International Bible Society). Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved.

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