What is perseverance of the saints?

Perseverance of the saints is the teaching that the work of God the Holy Spirit will never cease in the Christian, that all who are truly regenerated will never stop believing and trusting in Christ, that they will never lose their salvation, and that they will persevere to the end because God has promised to never leave them or forsake them (Hebrews 13:5).

This doctrine does not mean that everyone who professes to be a Christian will persevere because there can be those who are false converts and are not truly regenerated.  In other words, there are people who appear to be saved, but who are not.  These often walk away from the faith (Mark 4:3-9). also, the perseverance of the saints does not mean that those who are truly saved will not backslide or have strong doubts about their faith. It means that ultimately, they will remain in the faith because it is God who is keeping them and not themselves.

  • "Perseverance of the saints (Lat. perseverantia sanctorum) The belief that God’s elect who believe in Jesus Christ are held secure by God’s power, despite temptation and sin. Their salvation will not be lost (see John 10: 28). It was one of the five canons of the Calvinistic Synod of Dort (1618– 19)"1
  • The perseverance of the saints means that all those who are truly born again will be kept by God’s power and will persevere as Christians until the end of their lives, and that only those who persevere until the end have been truly born again."2
  • "It will be seen that the Apostle does not rest the perseverance of the saints on the indestructible nature of faith, or on the imperishable nature of the principle of grace in the heart, or on the constancy of the believer's will, but solely on what is out of ourselves. Perseverance, he teaches us, is due to the purpose of God, to the work of Christ, to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and to the primal source of all, the infinite, mysterious, and immutable love of God. We do not keep ourselves; we are kept by the power of God, through faith unto salvation. (1 Peter i. 5.)"3

The doctrine of perseverance is usually held by Calvinistic groups and is based in the doctrines of election and predestination where God elects (chooses) people for salvation (2 Thess. 2:14) and predestines (brings about by his sovereign will, Eph. 1:3-4, 11; Rom. 8:29) the redemption of those elect and justifies them (declaring them legally righteous, Rom. 4:5; 5:1) by grace alone in Christ alone apart from the works of the Law (Rom. 3:28; 4:5).  If God is sovereign and he works all things after the counsel of his will (Eph. 1:11), then he sovereignly keeps all whom he has redeemed.

Furthermore, perseverance is not a license to sin.  Those who are saved and eternally kept by God are also regenerated (John 3:3; 2 Cor. 5:17) and war against their sin (Rom. 7:14-25).

The following are some of the verses that teach the perseverance of the saints.

  • John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life."
  • John 6:39-40, “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. 40 “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him, may have eternal life; and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.”
  • John 10:27-28, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand. 29 “My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 “I and the Father are one.”
  • Hebrews 13:5, "Let your character be free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.”

John 6:39

In John 6:39, Jesus said, “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day." This verse should prove the perseverance of the saints for two reasons. First, the will of the Father is that Jesus loses none of those who have been given to him by the Father. If Jesus does not accomplish this, then Jesus has failed to do the will of the Father - which would imply that Jesus had sinned, but this cannot be. Second, if people can lose their salvation and thereby render the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints false, then the Father exercised bad judgment by trusting Jesus with the ones he had given to him.  Perhaps this is why Jesus said in John 17:20, "I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word."  In this verse, Jesus was praying for the disciples and for those who would believe, not for those who would not only. It makes sense to say that Jesus came to redeem those who belong to the Father by his election, and were entrusted to the Son for redemption.

  • 1. McKim, Donald K. (2014-04-21). The Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms, Second Edition: Revised and Expanded (Kindle Location 10462). Westminster John Knox Press. Kindle Edition.
  • 2. Grudem, Wayne (2009-05-18). Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (p. 788). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
  • 3. Hodge, Charles (2011-10-20). Systematic Theology, Complete; Vol. 1: Introduction, Vol. 2: Part 1, Theology Proper; Part 2, Anthropology; Part 3, Soteriology; Vol. 3: Part 4, Eschatology (With Active Table of Contents) (Kindle Locations 31480-31484).

About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.