International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
pur-se-ver'-ans: The word occurs only once in the King James Version (Ephesians 6:18), where it refers quite simply to persistence in prayer. In theology (especially in the phrase "final perseverance") the word has come to denote a special persistency, the undying continuance of the new life (manifested in faith and holiness) given by the Spirit of God to man. It is questioned whether such imparted life is (by its nature, or by the law of its impartation) necessarily permanent indestructible so that the once regenerate and believing man has the prospect of final glory infallibly assured. This is not the place to trace the history of a great and complex debate. It is more fitting here to point to the problem as connected with that supreme class of truths in which, because of our necessary mental limits, the entire truth can only be apprehended as the unrevealed but certain harmony of seeming contradictions. Scripture on the one hand abounds with assurances of "perseverance" as a fact, and largely intimates that an exulting anticipation of it is the intended experience of the believer (see John 10:28 above all, and compare among other passages Romans 8:31-37 1 Peter 1:8, 9). On the other hand, we find frequent and urgent warnings and cautions (see e.g. 1 Corinthians 8:11; 1 Corinthians 9:27). The teacher dealing with actual cases, as in pastoral work, should be ready to adopt both classes of utterances, each with its proper application; applying the first, e.g., to the true but timid disciple, the latter to the self-confident. Meanwhile Scripture on the whole, by the manner and weight of its positive statements, favors a humble belief of the permanence, in the plan of God, of the once-given new life. It is as if it laid down perseverance" as the divine rule for the Christian, while the negative passages came in to caution the man not to deceive himself with appearances, nor to let any belief whatever palliate the guilt and minimize the danger of sin. In the biographies of Scripture, it is noteworthy that no person appears who, at one time certainly a saint, was later certainly a castaway. The awful words of Hebrews 6:4-6; Hebrews 10:26, 27 appear to deal with cases (such as Balaam's) of much light but no loving life, and so are not precisely in point. Upon the whole subject, it is important to make "the Perseverance of the Saviour" our watchword rather than "the Perseverance of the saint."