Sermon Summary - The Perseverance of the Saints - Philippians 1:6
Philippians 1:6 teaches us what has been known throughout church history as the perseverance of the saints. This biblical doctrine that God wants every born-again child of His to know is that you can be absolutely assured that He will not allow you to lose the salvation which He began. We who have come to faith in Jesus will persevere in faith to the end because God preserves us. If left to ourselves, none of us would persevere to the end. If we were to end up condemned, it would mean we never really had true salvation.
Looking back at church history, the Westminster Confession of Faith of the 1640s affirms, “They whom God hath accepted in His Beloved, effectually called and sanctified by his Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace; but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved.” We need to understand what our salvation entails, and that includes the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. Our individual salvation began in eternity past, is realized in this present world in time and space, and extends into the future of the resurrection of the just. Many genuine Christians are tormented with a lack of assurance that they ought to have.
One huge theological question associated with this doctrine is: are there actually some persons who have true, genuine saving faith who do not endure to the end? Some may say yes to that, but then Philippians 1:6 does not make sense. In reality, we all know people who have been baptized, led worship in churches, witnessed for Christ and then they have turned away and left the church. So what do we make of that? It either means they never truly were born again (1 John 2:19), or that they are true believers who have fallen into serious, radical sin but who will repent and come back to Christ before they die.
Philippians 1:6 is just one text, but there are so many others that speak to God’s preservation of the saints (John 10:28-30, 1 Peter 1:3-5, Jer. 32:40, Jude 24-25, 1 Thess. 5:23, 1 Cor. 1:8, Eph. 1:13-14). However, there are those within the church world who disagree with this doctrine, and one of the strongest texts they turn to is Revelation 3:5, “The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life.” There are those who say from this text that there are those whose names are in the book of life and then later have it blotted out. But this text does not necessarily imply that some have their names actually blotted out. We see in two other verses in Revelation that to have your name written in the book of life means you will definitely persevere to the end (Rev. 13:8, 17:8). It’s not nonsense for Paul throughout his letters to teach that you must persevere to the end, and at the same time that God is the only one who ensures who will persevere to the end. There’s no contradiction there. But one truth undergirds the other. God’s preservation causes our perseverance.
There’s an aspect of our nature that does not like this teaching. In our sinful nature, we want to take credit for our perseverance. But if you think about it, the perseverance of the saints follows right in line with the doctrine of new birth. It is the same truth of God’s grace and God’s mercy from beginning to end. What is true from the very first moments of our Christianity is true through all our Christian life. Why does God save this way? One very clear reason is so that no human being will ever boast (Eph. 2:8-9).
And one last thing back in Philippians 1:6, focusing on the two words, “good work.” This does not just refer to salvation, but being conformed to Christ’s image (Rom. 8:29). And this growth in Christ comes with the growth in the knowledge of our own sinfulness. God’s purpose in this good work that He began at new birth is to drive us deeper into reliance upon Him. And the good news if you’re a true believer: God began the good work, and He will complete it.
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