“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son,
that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” – John 3:16

4.4 Persevering in Faith

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. – 2 Timothy 4:7-8 (ESV)

Finish the Race. Prior chapters have touched on the need to persevere in faith unto death, but we go into more detail here. The Bible is abundantly clear and replete with warnings that it is only those who persevere in faith unto death who will receive their crown of (eternal) life. In fact, you will see that there are more Scripture verses listed in this chapter than any other chapter in this entire book – that is how important this subject is to the Word of God. Persevering in faith is a matter of utmost importance. You have already read that final salvation (when you receive your crown of life) is not the same as initial salvation (forgiveness of sins, when you are born again). Modern liberal churches are doing a poor job of explaining the difference and thereby put many at risk of losing their crown of life. From the sheer number of verses given in Scripture which admonish one to persevere in faith, you will see is a vitally important topic. Please also make a note that the need to persevere in faith didn’t just surface as a new requirement in the New Testament, for the Old Testament also discusses this subject (see Zephaniah 1:6, Jude 1:5).

And as you might guess by now, false teachings also abound on this subject – particularly the “once saved always saved” false teaching (also known as “perseverance of the saints” under Calvinism). This false teaching claims that a Christian can never lose their salvation, for any reason whatsoever – even if one is blatantly disobedient to the commands of Christ, doesn’t lead a repentant life, doesn’t bear any fruit for the Lord, and even if one turns back from Christ and abandons their faith altogether! This is in clear contradiction with many verses of Scripture, one of which is:

But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. – 1 Timothy 4:1-3

Please understand that in order to fall away from something, or to leave it (go apostate), you must have once first had it to begin with, or you could not “fall away” from it! There are a number of terms used to describe this:

  • Turning back, or to shrink back (John 6:66, Hebrews 10:39),
  • Going apostate (2 Thessalonians 2:3, 2 Peter 2:20-22),
  • Falling away from the faith (Matthew 24:10, Luke 8:13, Hebrews 3:12, 1 Timothy 4:1, Hebrews 6:4-6),
  • Departing from the faith (1 Timothy 4:1),
  • Backsliding (Jeremiah 2:19, Jeremiah 3:22),
  • Quitting the faith,
  • Going prodigal (Luke 15:11-32),
  • Neither hot nor cold, i.e. lukewarm (Revelation 3:15-16),
  • Leaving your first love which is Christ (Revelation 2:4),
  • Being alive but dead (Revelation 3:1),
  • Being led astray or misled by others such as the false teachers, i.e., the wolves (2 Corinthians 11:3, 2 Peter 2:1, 2 Peter 3:17, 1 Timothy 4:1-3, Luke 21:8, Revelation 2:4, Revelation 2:20, Acts 20:28-30, Hebrews 13:9, 2 Timothy 4:4, Revelation 3:11, Matthew 24:10-13), and even
  • Having your crown of life stolen (Revelation 3:11)!

Now I ask you, if it were not possible to lose your salvation, why is Scripture so full of warnings about this very thing? I hope you can see that those who proclaim the “once saved always saved” false teaching do so in the face of overwhelming Scripture to the contrary! It should be noted that false teachings often come in groups, and the “once saved always saved” false teaching is almost always accompanied by the “sinner’s prayer” and saved by “faith only/alone” false teachings” – false teachings usually travel as a pack.

CAUSES OF FALLING AWAY

There are several prominent reasons why a Christian falls away from or quits (abandons) their faith:

  1. Ignorance (and Indifference): They don’t take the warnings given in Scripture seriously – that one must “work out your salvation with fear and trembling,” so they fail to “grow in the grace and understanding” of Christ. They often stop reading the Bible, stop praying, stop going to church, etc. If you are not feeding your new Spirit with the Word of God, it will die.
  2. Cares of This World: They let the cares and concerns of this world along with a continued lustful desire for fame, fortune, power and wealth reassert itself as the controlling force in their life, and they stop pursuing the “things above” and once again “set their minds on things of this world” (i.e., they are thorny soil).
  3. Threat of Persecution: They wish to preserve their own life instead of standing firm in their faith when severe trials and tribulations come their way (even in the face of death), and they “count the cost” of following Christ to high and therefore return to the ways of this world.
  4. They Follow “Another Gospel Which is Not Another”: They are led astray by the false teachings of man (e.g. legalism, sabbath keeping, cults which deny Christ, etc.). This results in large measure from item #1, failing to grow in the grace and understanding of Christ, and failing to be diligent in reading, studying and meditating on the Word of God. Yes, you can be tricked out of your crown of life. Be not deceived!

WE MUST FINISH THE RACE

Scripture admonishes us not to take our eternal salvation lightly or with carelessness. We are exhorted to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” and to “test yourselves [examine yourselves!] to see if you are in the faith”:

So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. – Philippians 2:12-13

Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test? – 2 Corinthians 13:5

You “work out” your salvation by serving the Lord each and every day, by seeking His will instead of your own, and always growing in the grace and understanding of the Lord. You must follow Christ by “taking up your cross” and dying to self each day. Also remember that “fear of the Lord” doesn’t mean to be literally afraid of Him – it means to live in humility, awe, honor and respect to God, knowing who He is (His holy and righteous nature), and doing so with worship and obedience. The verse also conveys the sense that the closer you get to God in your walk as a Christian (by abiding in Christ and He in you), the more you realize how far away from His holiness and righteousness you really are – but that is actually a good thing, for it keeps us humble and aware of our shortcomings and weaknesses, and reminds us of the need to persevere in faith through the power of Christ living in us.

It is also written:

Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,

To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you. – 2 Peter 1:1-11

The verses above exhort us to be diligent (daily) about our faith, and not to take God, or our salvation, for granted. As long as you are walking towards Christ, you know that you are not stumbling or falling away from Him and back into sin and eternal death. We must seek and want to please God, not man. We must seek Godly wisdom, not the wisdom of this world. We must value the things above (heavenly, eternal things) over material things. We must worship God and not idols. We must glorify Him in everything we do and in how we live – with reverence, careful and sustained attention, persevering unto the very end to make sure we don’t come up short of eternal life.

Even the great apostle Paul wrote that he had not yet “finished the race” nor “received the crown of life.” And if the great apostle Paul tells us that even he had not yet obtained the prize of eternal life in Christ, how much less should we think that we have!

Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 3:12-14

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing. – 2 Timothy 4:6-8

To borrow a real-world analogy, you are not said to have “run” (i.e.,  completed) a marathon race by simply starting out from the starting line – you must also cross the finish line in order for it to count/matter and be recorded as officially completed. Is the marathon runner awarded a prize for starting the race, or for finishing the race? Being born again, you have only started the race – you must also finish!  Scripture is abundantly clear that even after one is born again and starts out in faith, one can still come up short of the glory of heaven.

YOU CAN EVEN BE TRICKED OUT OF YOUR CROWN OF LIFE!

Not only must you stand firm in the face of trials, tribulation and persecution to the very end, you must also withstand the false teachings of man (the wolves) that you will encounter all along the way. Scripture tells us that you can be tricked out of your crown of life by false teachings of man:

But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. – 1 Timothy 4:1-3

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. – 2 Timothy 4:3-4

But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. – 2 Corinthians 11:3

“‘Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, so that no one will take your crown.’” – Revelation 3:10-11

This happens primarily through ignorance, but also through laziness in not reading and diligently studying (meditating on) God’s Word – by not knowing Scripture well enough yourself. This is partly how Satan deceived Eve (and then Adam) in the Garden of Eden. This is why we are strongly admonished to always be “growing in the grace and knowledge [understanding]” of Christ, which we do through daily reading and studying Scripture. We must know what the Word of God actually says ourselves:

You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. – 2 Peter 3:17-18a

So yes, you can be led off of the straight and narrow path to eternal life by the false teachings of man – false teachings which lead away from Christ and back into bondage under sin and death. The wolves do this by convincing you through clever distortions of Scripture where they mix a little truth in with a bunch of man-made conjurings (by subtly adding to, distorting, or subtracting from Scripture), and devise what APPEAR to be biblically sounding doctrines, but which are really the false teachings of man which lead away from Christ. These false teachings abound in many directions and many different areas. Many of the false teachings “re-crucify” Christ on the cross! This is why the Bible contains numerous and explicit warnings about these false teachers (wolves). This is also why I have devoted an entire section of this book to identify false teachings so you will not be led astray (see Beware the Wolves). You will almost surely encounter the false teachings identified in that section of the book as they are rampant today in so-called “modern” liberal Christianity.

You see, I started out once begin born again, but I fell away from Christ and back into this world of sin and addiction. I fell away through neglect of the Word of God and also through undo concern again for the cares of this world (I was thorny soil). I fell away for reasons #1 and #2 listed prior in this chapter. This is why later in this book I provide a 30-day head-start list of things that I recommend you do to get off on the right foot – so you won’t make the same mistakes I did as you begin your walk as a Christian.

In fact, there is an entire parable taught by Christ Himself on this very subject: the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:1-23). You see, I was the “thorny soil!” I started out in faith, but I quickly fell away – back into selfish, worldly, fleshly, lustful, sinful pursuits and addiction. I still don’t know why the Lord pursued me and brought me back to Him again (it wasn’t through anything I did or deserved). He reached out for me and snatched me back to Him again – through His relentless lovingkindness, patience, mercy and grace. It has been truly staggering for me to see how He has pursued me. Perhaps one of the reasons was so that I can write this book to help others.

And contrary to even more false teachings (e.g. the “prosperity gospel,” the “name it and claim it” crowd, etc.), you don’t get “rich,” “famous,” or live “happily ever after” just because you are a Christian. Not all of your prayers, desires, and wishes will be answered to your liking. However, know that God’s will is being done, and as a Christian, you will now be a part of that. Seek His will, not your own, and you will never go wrong.

PERSEVERANCE IN THE OLD TESTAMENT

The need for perseverance is also demonstrated in the Old Testament. We have as an example for us the Jews whom God led out of bondage in Egypt towards the Promised Land. Many of the Jews fell away because they didn’t persevere in faith. They grumbled, wanted the things of the world again, and fell back into sin. These verses are helpful on this matter (with my comments added in brackets to assist with understanding only):

Now I desire to remind you, though you know all things once for all, that the Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt, subsequently destroyed those who did not believe. – Jude 1:5

For who provoked Him when they had heard? Indeed, did not all those who came out of Egypt led by Moses? And with whom was He angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief. – Hebrews 3:16-19

For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers [the Jews lead out of bondage in Egypt] were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food; and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low [died in sin] in the wilderness.

Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and stood up to play.” Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did [even after in effect being “born again”], and twenty-three thousand fell in one day. Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents. Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example [for us today], and they were written for our instruction [which is what I’m giving you in this chapter], upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall. – 1 Corinthians 10:1-12

As you can see, even in the Old Testament, God required one to persevere in faith, and He rewards eternally those who do so – those who “finish the race,” not those who quit the faith.

GOD IS NOT MOCKED

Be not deceived – “God is not mocked.” Christ will sort out all the imposters, the “make-believers,” the hypocrites and the pretenders of faith at the end of time on the great Day of Judgment. And this leads us to one of the most terrifying verses in all of Scripture:

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’” – Matthew 7:21-23

Imagine the shock and (eternal) horror of those professing “Christians” who were Christians in name only – but not in truth, obedience, action (deed/works) and perseverance because they didn’t know the truth of what is written in Scripture. They will realize too late that they came up short of eternal life, that they didn’t “work out their salvation with fear and trembling” and make “their calling and election sure.” So please do not take your salvation for granted, or you too might fall away from or depart from the faith and then hear on that great Day of Judgment: “Depart from me…for I never knew you.” I personally want to hear: “Well done, good and faithful servant! Enter into My rest…” It is up to each of us individually to ensure that we hear that.

PERSECUTION

Scripture tells us very plainly that a Christian may be called to face trials, tribulation and even persecution unto death in the name of Christ:

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name. For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And if it is with difficulty that the righteous is saved, what will become of the godless man and the sinner? Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right. – 1 Peter 4:12-19

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. – James 1:2-4

Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. – James 1:12

But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul. – Hebrews 10:39

“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33

“‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich), and the blasphemy by those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.’” – Revelation 2:9-10

Even further, it is written that all who follow Christ will suffer persecution:

Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. – 2 Timothy 3:12

So, brother or sister in Christ (and I’m also addressing this question to myself): Are you suffering for Christ? If not, maybe you are not serving or walking with Christ as you should be? This suffering and persecution may be manifest in various forms, from minor ridicule and mocking for telling others about Christ, to economic sanctions or disenfranchisement for not agreeing to do business in a dishonest or fraudulent manner, all the way up to threats of violence and actual martyrdom in death. The attitude and perspective of the early disciples should be very inspiring to us when we do face persecution for the sake of Christ:

So they [the disciples] went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name. – Acts 5:41

For anyone who doubts that trials and tribulations may come to a Christian, I suggest reading the books The Pilgrim’s Progress and Acts and Monuments (known as The Book of Martyrs). The latter details the torture and horrible/gruesome deaths that many early Christians had to endure, all in the name of Christ, as they persevered in their faith to the very end (death).

WE PERSEVERE BY THE POWER OF CHRIST

The life of a Christian may certainly require courage, grit, determination, sacrifice, struggles, danger, trials, tribulations and even persecution unto death. For it is written: “you will be hated because of my name.” But know that you will be able to stand firm in your faith not on your own strength or willpower, but by the power of Christ who lives in you. If you trust in Him and seek Him diligently each day, He will hold you in His power through His lovingkindness. He will never leave or forsake you! It is written:

“‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts.” – Zechariah 4:6

Know also that it is through your trials and tribulations that your faith is tested, strengthened and purified, just like a refiner purifies gold through fire; in fact, it is written that you should rejoice when you face trials as a Christian; when the early apostles faced persecution, they went away “rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name.” And for every temptation, trial or tribulation that you face, God will also provide you with a way out/forward.

Also, it is crucial to remember that we are at the front lines in an actual war between the spiritual forces of darkness and evil (let by Satan) vs. those of God (led by God and  His Christ); In effect, we actually live behind enemy lines here in this fallen world:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one [Satan]. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. – Ephesians 6:10-17

We are therefore instructed to put on the “full armor of God,” (see The Armor of God Chapter) and to “stand firm” in the faith; notice that we are not attackers ­– we are to stand firm. We are to let God win all advances, to gain ground on the enemy, and then we fill that ground with new believers who also hold firm in the faith. This is how the Kingdom of God expands and grows to fill the entire earth.

While Christ victoriously defeated Satan on the cross, and he [Satan] is bound today from many things he would like to do, he still can, and will, attack Christians, to try to turn them away from the faith! This is why you must constantly be “growing in grace and knowledge of the Lord,” daily eating the Word of life, to fend off the attacks of the devil. You may even find that his attacks after you are born again are even more vigorous than before! Do not underestimate the spiritual forces of darkness in which we are engaged – make no mistake, this is a war for eternal life and death! Matthew Henry writes on 2 Peter 1:5-11: [1]

In these words, the apostle comes to the chief thing intended in this epistle – to excite and engage them to advance in grace and holiness, they having already obtained precious faith, and been made partakers of the divine nature [being born again]. This is a very good beginning, but it is not to be rested in, as if we were already perfect. The apostle had prayed that grace and peace might be multiplied to them, and now he exhorts them to press forward for the obtaining of more grace. We should, as we have opportunity, exhort those we pray for, and excite them to the use of all proper means to obtain what we desire God to bestow upon them; and those who will make any progress in religion must be very diligent and industrious in their endeavors. Without giving all diligence, there is no gaining any ground in the work of holiness; those who are slothful in the business of religion will make nothing of it; we must strive if we will enter in at the strait gate, Luke 13:24.

  1. Here we cannot but observe how the believer’s way is marked out step by step.
  2. He must get virtue, by which some understand justice; and then the knowledge, temperance, and patience that follow, being joined with it, the apostle may be supposed to put them upon pressing after the four cardinal virtues, or the four elements that go to the making up of every virtue or virtuous action. But seeing it is a faithful saying, and constantly to be asserted, that those who have faith be careful to maintain good works (Titus 3:8), by virtue here we may understand strength and courage, without which the believer cannot stand up for good works, by abounding and excelling in them. The righteous must be bold as a lion (Proverbs 28:1); a cowardly Christian, who is afraid to profess the doctrines or practice the duties of the gospel, must expect that Christ will be ashamed of him another day. “Let not your hearts fail you in the evil day, but show yourselves valiant in standing against all opposition, and resisting every enemy, world, flesh, devil, yea, and death too.” We have need of virtue while we live, and it will be of excellent use when we come to die.
  3. The believer must add knowledge to his virtue, prudence to his courage; there is a knowledge of God’s name which must go before our faith (Psalm 9:10), and we cannot approve of the good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God, till we know it; but there are proper circumstances for duty, which must be known and observed; we must use the appointed means and observe the accepted time. Christian prudence regards the persons we have to do with and the place and company we are in. Every believer must labor after the knowledge and wisdom that are profitable to direct, both as to the proper method and order wherein all Christian duties are to be performed and as to the way and manner of performing them.
  4. We must add temperance to our knowledge. We must be sober and moderate in our love to, and use of, the good things of this life; and, if we have a right understanding and knowledge of outward comforts, we shall see that their worth and usefulness are vastly inferior to those of spiritual mercies. Bodily exercises and bodily privileges profit but little, and therefore are to be esteemed and used accordingly; the gospel teaches sobriety as well as honesty, Titus 2:12. We must be moderate in desiring and using the good things of natural life, such as meat, drink, clothes, sleep, recreations, and credit; an inordinate desire after these is inconsistent with an earnest desire after God and Christ; and those who take more of these than is due can render to neither God nor man what is due to them.
  5. Add to temperance patience, which must have its perfect work, or we cannot be perfect and entire, wanting nothing (James 1:4), for we are born to trouble, and must through many tribulations enter into the kingdom of heaven; and it is this tribulation (Romans 5:3) which worketh patience, that is, requires the exercise and occasions the increase of this grace, whereby we bear all calamities and crosses with silence and submission, without murmuring against God or complaining of him, but justifying him who lays all affliction upon us, owning that our sufferings are less than our sins deserve, and believing they are no more than we ourselves need.
  6. To patience we must add godliness, and this is the very thing which is produced by patience, for that works experience, Romans 5:4. When Christians bear afflictions patiently, they get an experimental knowledge of the loving-kindness of their heavenly Father, which he will not take from his children, even when he visits their iniquity with the rod and their transgression with stripes (Psalm 89:32, Psalm 89:33), and hereby they are brought to the child-like fear and reverential love wherein true godliness consists: to this,
  7. We must add brotherly-kindness, a tender affection to all our fellow-Christians, who are children of the same Father, servants of the same Master, members of the same family, travelers to the same country, and heirs of the same inheritance, and therefore are to be loved with a pure heart fervently, with a love of complacency, as those who are peculiarly near and dear to us, in whom we take particular delight, Psalm 16:3.
  8. Charity, or a love of good-will to all mankind, must be added to the love of delight which we have for those who are the children of God. God has made of one blood all nations, and all the children of men are partakers of the same human nature, are all capable of the same mercies, and liable to the same afflictions, and therefore, though upon a spiritual account Christians are distinguished and dignified above those who are without Christ, yet are they to sympathize with others in their calamities, and relieve their necessities, and promote their welfare both in body and soul, as they have opportunity: thus must all believers in Christ evidence that they are the children of God, who is good to all, but is especially good to Israel.
  9. All the aforementioned graces must be had, or we shall not be thoroughly furnished for all good works – for the duties of the first and second table, for active and passive obedience, and for those services wherein we are to imitate God as well as for those wherein we only obey him – and therefore to engage us to an industrious and unwearied pursuit of them, the apostle sets forth the advantages that redound to all who successfully labor so as to get these things to be and abound in them, 2 Peter 1:8-11. These are proposed,
  10. More generally, 2 Peter 1:8. The having these things make not barren (or slothful) nor unfruitful, where, according to the style of the Holy Ghost, we must understand a great deal more than is expressed; for when it is said concerning Ahaz, the vilest and most provoking of all the kings of Judah, that he did not right in the sight of the Lord (2 Kings 16:2), we are to understand as much as if it had been said, He did what was most offensive and abominable, as the following account of his life shows; so, when it is here said that the being and abounding of all Christian graces in us will make us neither inactive nor unfruitful, we are thereby to understand that it will make us very zealous and lively, vigorous and active, in all practical Christianity, and eminently fruitful in the works of righteousness. these will bring much glory to God, by bringing forth much fruit among men, being fruitful in knowledge, or the acknowledging of our Lord Jesus Christ, owning him to be their Lord, and evidencing themselves to be his servants by their abounding in the work that he has given them to do.

This is the necessary consequence of adding one grace to another; for, where all Christian graces are in the heart, they improve and strengthen, encourage and cherish, one another; so they all thrive and grow (as the apostle intimates in the beginning of 2 Peter 1:8), and wherever grace abounds there will be an abounding in good works. How desirable it is to be in such a case the apostle evidences, 2 Peter 1:9. There he sets forth how miserable it is to be without those quickening fructifying graces; for he who has not the aforementioned graces, or, though he pretends or seems to have them, does not exercise and improve them, is blind, that is, as to spiritual and heavenly things, as the next words explain it: He cannot see far off. This present evil world he can see, and dotes upon, but has no discerning at all of the world to come, so as to be affected with the spiritual privileges and heavenly blessings thereof.

He who sees the excellences of Christianity must needs be diligent in endeavors after all those graces that are absolutely necessary for obtaining glory, honor, and immortality; but, where these graces are not obtained nor endeavored after, men are not able to look forward to the things that are but a very little way off in reality, though in appearance, or in their apprehension, they are at a great distance, because they put them far away from them; and how wretched is their condition who are thus blind as to the awfully great things of the other world, who cannot see anything of the reality and certainty, the greatness and nearness, of the glorious rewards God will bestow on the righteous, and the dreadful punishment he will inflict on the ungodly! But this is not all the misery of those who do not add to their faith virtue, knowledge, etc. They are as unable to look backward as forward, their memories are slippery and unable to retain what is past, as their sight is short and unable to discern what is future; they forget that they have been baptized, and had the means, and been laid under the obligations to holiness of heart and life. By baptism we are engaged in a holy war against sin, and are solemnly bound to fight against the flesh, the world, and the devil. Often call to mind, and seriously meditate on, your solemn engagement to be the Lord’s, and your peculiar advantages and encouragements to lay aside all filthiness of flesh and spirit.

  1. The apostle proposes two particular advantages that will attend or follow upon diligence in the work of a Christian: stability in grace, and a triumphant entrance into glory. These he brings in by resuming his former exhortation and laying it down in other words; for what in 2 Peter 1:5 is expressed by giving diligence to add to faith virtue, etc., is expressed in 2 Peter 1:10 by giving diligence to make our calling and election sure. Here we may observe,

(1.) It is the duty of believers to make their election sure, to clear it up to themselves that they are the chosen of God.

(2.) The way to make sure their eternal election is to make out their effectual calling: none can look into the book of God’s eternal counsels and decrees; but, inasmuch as whom God did predestinate those he also called, if we can find we are effectually called, we may conclude we are chosen to salvation.

(3.) It requires a great deal of diligence and labor to make sure our calling and election; there must be a very close examination of ourselves, a very narrow search and strict enquiry, whether we are thoroughly converted, our minds enlightened, our wills renewed, and our whole souls changed as to the bent and inclination thereof; and to come to a fixed certainty in this requires the utmost diligence, and cannot be attained and kept without divine assistance, as we may learn from Psalm 139:23; Romans 8:16. “But, how great so ever the labor is, do not think much of it, for great is the advantage you gain by it; for,”

[1.] “By this you will be kept from falling, and that at all times and seasons, even in those hours of temptation that shall be on the earth.” When others shall fall into heinous and scandalous sin, those who are thus diligent shall be enabled to walk circumspectly and keep on in the way of their duty; and, when many fall into errors, they shall be preserved sound in the faith, and stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.

[2.] Those who are diligent in the work of religion shall have a triumphant entrance into glory; while of those few who get to heaven some are scarcely saved (1 Peter 4:18), with a great deal of difficulty, even as by fire (1 Corinthians 3:15), those who are growing in grace, and abounding in the work of the Lord, shall have an abundant entrance into the joy of their Lord, even that everlasting kingdom where Christ reigns, and they shall reign with him for ever and ever.

While those all around you who deny Christ will continue their endless lustful chase and pursuit of the fleeting lures and temptations of this world, being turned every which way by the forces of darkness and tossing and turning in every direction like the waves of the sea in great commotion, a Christian must remain steadfast on the straight and narrow path towards life, with his/her gaze firmly and constantly fixed on Christ, every single day:

Now large crowds were going along with Him; and He turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.” – Luke 14:25-27

Note that the word “hate” here is used to mean that we must value, cherish and choose Christ above all others, at all costs, at all times, even above our own family members if necessary. It does not mean to literally hate your family as some falsely teach in gross distortion of Scripture. Matthew Henry writes on the above verses: [2]

If we must either deny Christ or be banished from our families and relations (as many of the primitive Christians were), we must rather lose their society than his favour. Every man loves his own life, no man ever yet hated it; and we cannot be Christ’s disciples if we do not love him better than our own lives, so as rather to have our lives embittered by cruel bondage, nay, and taken away by cruel deaths, than to dishonour Christ, or depart from any of his truths and ways. The experience of the pleasures of the spiritual life, and the believing hopes and prospects of eternal life, will make this hard saying easy. When tribulation and persecution arise because of the word, then chiefly the trial is, whether we love better, Christ or our relations and lives; yet even in the days of peace this matter is sometimes brought to the trial. Those that decline the service of Christ, and opportunities of converse with him, and are ashamed to confess him, for fear of disobliging a relation or friend, or losing a customer, give cause to suspect that they love him better than Christ.

Press on to the goal of eternal life when you receive your Crown of life – and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for all things, for He has already won victory, He has already overcome!

FALSE TEACHING(S) YOU WILL ENCOUNTER:

RELATED SCRIPTURE:

For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them. It has happened to them according to the true proverb, “A dog returns to its own vomit,” and, “A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire.” – 2 Peter 2:20-22

Now Moses was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken later; but Christ was faithful as a Son over His house—whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end. – Hebrews 3:5-6

Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end, while it is said,

Today if you hear His voice,
Do not harden your hearts, as when they provoked Me
.”

For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame. – Hebrews 3:12-15

You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear; for if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either. Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off. – Romans 11:19-22

“At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.” – Matthew 24:10-13

Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. – 1 Corinthians 16:13

Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. – 1 Peter 5:8

“By your endurance you will gain your lives.” – Luke 21:19

“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’” – Matthew 25:23 (ESV)

“And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.” – Revelation 12:11

When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained. – Revelation 6:9

Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you. – 1 Timothy 4:16

But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 3:7-14

But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings, partly by being made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations, and partly by becoming sharers with those who were so treated. For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one. Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.

For yet in a very little while,
He who is coming will come, and will not delay.
But My righteous one shall live by faith;
And if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him
.

But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul. – Hebrews 10:32-39

…for now we really live, if you stand firm in the Lord. – 1 Thessalonians 3:8

…but in everything commending ourselves as servants of God, in much endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in distresses, in beatings, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in hunger, in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in genuine love, in the word of truth, in the power of God; by the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and the left, by glory and dishonor, by evil report and good report; regarded as deceivers and yet true; as unknown yet well-known, as dying yet behold, we live; as punished yet not put to death, as sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as poor yet making many rich, as having nothing yet possessing all things. – 2 Corinthians 6:4-10

They took his advice; and after calling the apostles in, they flogged them and ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and then released them. So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ. – Acts 5:40-42

“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” – Galatians 2:20

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” – Matthew 16:24-26

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9

The wicked flee when no one is pursuing,
But the righteous are bold as a lion. – Proverbs 28:1

This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him. – Ephesians 3:11-12

Such confidence we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. – 2 Corinthians 3:4-6

But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.” – Acts 5:29

No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it. – 1 Corinthians 10:13

So that we confidently say,

The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid.
What will man do to me?
” – Hebrews 13:6

“And those who have turned back from following the Lord.” – Zephaniah 1:6

“But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.” – Acts 20:24

“In a similar way these are the ones on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy; and they have no firm root in themselves, but are only temporary; then, when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately they fall away.” – Mark 4:16-17

That day Jesus went out of the house and was sitting by the sea. And large crowds gathered to Him, so He got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd was standing on the beach.

And He spoke many things to them in parables, saying, “Behold, the sower went out to sow; and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up. Others fell on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. Others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out. And others fell on the good soil and yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.” …

“Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road. The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away. And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.”

– Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 [the parable of the sower]

For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. – Romans 14:7-8

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. – 2 Timothy 4:1-8 (ESV)

“If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.” – John 15:18-19

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. – Hebrews 10:23-25

And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach— if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister. – Colossians 1:21-23

You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men. – 1 Corinthians 7:23

And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. – Romans 5:3-5

Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.” For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.

But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.

Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.

Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction. – 2 Peter 3:3-16

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls. – 1 Peter 1:3-9

“But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.” – Luke 8:15

Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. – Galatians 6:9

For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. – Romans 15:4

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. – Hebrews 12:1-2

“Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.” – Matthew 10:21-22

“‘I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary.’” – Revelation 2:2-3

“‘I know your deeds, and your love and faith and service and perseverance, and that your deeds of late are greater than at first.’” – Revelation 2:19

Now you followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance, persecutions, and sufferings, such as happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium and at Lystra; what persecutions I endured, and out of them all the Lord rescued me! Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. – 2 Timothy 3:10-12

Do not fret because of evildoers,
Be not envious toward wrongdoers.
For they will wither quickly like the grass
And fade like the green herb.
Trust in the Lord and do good;
Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the Lord;
And He will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord,
Trust also in Him, and He will do it.
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light
And your judgment as the noonday. – Psalm 37:1-6

Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming. – 1 John 2:28

[1] Henry, Matthew. Exposition of the Old and New Testaments, London. 1706-1710/1721.
[2] Henry, Matthew. Exposition of the Old and New Testaments, London. 1706-1710/1721.

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