Irwinville Primitive Baptist Church
Morning Thoughts (Terminology-Perseverance)



This morning, our mind turns to the subject and usage of
the term perseverance.  While this term has – in recent
years – actually gone up in usage frequency in popular
culture, it remains a somewhat challenged piece of
theological ground for many groups.  The term basically
means that steady, persistent behaviour keeps someone
in a certain way.  The persistence or continuation in that
state generally yields results that are desirable to the
person, thereby rewarding them for that action or
determination.  For example, the most popular usage
today revolves around athletic and sporting
competitions.  If an individual or team perseveres in their
athletic endeavour, they are said to persistently continue
on and fight during the conflict to overcome any and all
obstacles to achieve the desired result of winning the
sporting event.

What makes this topic – and even the term itself – such a
hot topic in theological circles is the fact that the term is
Biblical but the general usage of it does not align with the
Biblical usage.  Quite often, the term perseverance is
utlized alongside other terms to create phrases such as
"perseverance in grace," "perseverance in faith,"
"perseverance in faith and holiness," "perseverance in
righteousness and true holiness," or perhaps some other
combination of these or other terms.  While we will not
try to investigate each used phrase in turn to prove its
merit or demerit, we will seek to examine how the Bible
outlines the term, and thereby we hope to show forth the
proper usage of it.

The term perseverance is found one time in Scripture
(Ephesians 6:18), and no other form of the word is
located within the pages of Holy Writ.  Therefore, the
Bibilical, outlined usage of it is restricted to one particular
context and its associated subject matter.  Ephesians 6
lines out for us the armour of God, what each piece does,
and how the Christian soldier should utilize it.  
Perseverance is found to help cover the legs as they
remain bent in prayer and watching with all continuance
and persistance (perseverance) in that activity.  Simply
put, this is the only context that the Bible defines for the
word.

Quite often, people will interpose the term perseverance
for preservation or vice versa.  Instead of describing the
preservation of the saints, people talk about the
perseverance of the saints, meaning it in that way.  While
I understand what they mean (and try to exercise charity
for the usage), we always play a dangerous game when
taking a Biblical term and utilizing it in a different fashion
from the Bible's presentation of it.  For example, if I were
to teach the word in a preaching way and always teach it
as an alternate expression for preservation, what might
happen to the hearers as their reading takes them
through Ephesians 6?  They might read through
Ephesians 6 and think, "Well if I am not constantly
praying and watching this way, I may not be preserved in
God's hand."

On a related note, sometimes the expressions used
above such as "perseverance in faith and holiness" are
relayed with the very thought that people who are not
doing such are not part of God's redeemed band.  
Perhaps the preacher might say, "If you do not persevere
in faith and holiness, then you are not really a child of
God."  On a few occasions, I have had the experience to
cross paths with ministers of this philosophy, and those
conversations yielded some interesting conversation
threads.  Whether they preached perseverance in faith,
holiness, righteousness, etc., their main points were the
same: 1. these were necessary requirements to show
forth a regenerated state, 2. those who were saved did
these things, 3. those who did not were either unsaved
or not yet regenerated.

While these dogmas are not new, there has been an
increased rise in their belief across some broad
spectrums of Christianity and different denominational
groups.  Yet, whether they are "trendy" ideals of the day
among Christians or not, the fact remains that Scripture
neither teaches those concepts nor should God's
children be found engaged in such ill-adivsed
observation trying to determine the "who ares" and "who
ain'ts" in God's family. (II Timothy 2:19) Whenever I have
engaged in conversation with ministers who believed
and preached this dogma, one thing that I have always
asked and not yet received clear answer about are a
series of logical questions about the concept.

The first logical question is what happens if someone
waffles back and forth between righteousness and
unrighteousness, faith and apostasy, or holiness and
filthiness?  To persevere in something means to
steadfastly, persistently continue in a certain thing.  To
return to something does not qualify as perseverance, as
its meaning regulates the activity to staying in something
rather than returning to it.  For example, many teach that
dogma using Job 17:9 as a prooftext for it.  Yet, a further,
closer reading of Job's thought does not say that the
righteous will return to his way, but rather that the
righteous shall hold on his way.  Therefore, if that verse
teaches that one must persevere to be a righteous man,
any one of us who has ever departed – even for a season
– from the right way would thereby fail the perseverance
and righteousness test.  Should that thought be true, not
a one of us would pass the test, and heaven would be
echoing in silence from the absence of redeemed people
being there.

The second logical question is that if one must persevere
in that way, how do we define and measure it?  Are we
simply talking about a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23)
test?  If so, are we talking about one of the fruit, all nine,
etc.?  The term "perseverance in _____" is often used
but never fully defined and scoped.  Therefore, I try to get
the defintion and scope of what they mean by the term.  
To date, none have ever given me a measurable
definition that the Bible supports.  Some attest to positive
response to the gospel as the test, even though the Bible
shows God's people at times did not respond positively
to the gospel. (Galatians 1:6-9) Since Paul references
"another gospel" as being "not another" but rather an
"accursed thing," we cannot hope to define someone's
righteousness and steadfast character on a response to
something "accursed."  Sometimes, they talk about the
test being "measurable observance of fruit."  When
pressed on the measure (how much of it), I have yet to
get a defined answer.  They simply say that it is
measureable but do not offer the benchmark.

Normally, the second question is about where the
conversation falls apart, but the dangerous usage of the
word as it departs from the Biblical outlined usage of it
shows an even bigger and more dangerous hole that
many have fallen into.  When it comes to someone's
home in heaven, only One persevered to accomplish it –
Jesus Christ.  As Paul so beautifully put it, if Christ died
for us, then our condition in life gets trumped by His
work. (I Thessalonians 5:9-10) What if someone is having
a bad season showing forth filth and in a hole of
unrighteousness?  What if someone has departed from
the faith and gone after the ways of the world?  Truly,
these are lamentable circumstances that we have all
seen and all of us – self included – have been in at
different times.  Yet, Paul so wonderfully comforts us by
saying that Christ's death trumps our behaviour.  Waking
or sleeping, well or not well, persevering or wallowing in
misery, Christ's death assures that we shall live together
with Him.

The proper mindset of the subject of perseverance is –
as Paul describes it – the aim of the Christian soldier.  
With all the armour pieces rightly fitted around his
person, the soldier adds the last element by consistent,
fervent watching and praying to the Captain of the entire
army.  The Captain is the one that saved us after all.
(Hebrews 2:10) Therefore, our watching and praying
should be so consistent and persistent that our prayers
really are "without ceasing." (I Thessalonians 5:17) By
earnestly and continually fulfilling that task, we can say
that we persevere in that activity.  That is the goal.  That
is the aim.  Yet, may we never ascribe that as the
benchmark by which we describe God's family.  To
describe God's family as we should, we say that God's
family is washed in His blood and preserved in His hand.
(Jude 1, Revelation 1:6) To describe the goal of God's
family while we are here, we should say that we try to
walk in newness of life, showing forth His praises,
persevering as we go.

In Hope,

Bro Philip