“For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” 1 John 5:3–5

The “perseverance of the saints” is quite a grand theological concept. Though it is readily accepted among believers that perseverance is required of every pilgrim on the road of Christianity, consistent perseverance appears to be an unattainable personal goal to an unsaved individual.

Most unbelievers have observed a believer display hearty perseverance in the face of terrible physical and spiritual odds. The unsaved mind cannot conceive of such selfless devotion to God—best described as stalwart, worshipful allegiance. The unbeliever surely cannot entertain that such radical dedication could ever be found in his own heart. His words will often betray to you his inner doubts.

Perseverance may be defined as steady persistence in a course of action, purpose, or state, especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, delays, or discouragement. Persistence and tenacity are synonyms of perseverance. The English definition serves to describe the outward, visible characteristics of a spiritual inward reality for authentic believers. The inward reality is defined theologically as “the perseverance of the saints,” the doctrinal truth that once a man is born again, he will persevere in belief all the way out to the end of his life, by the grace of God. A believer can never fall away from faith and can never lose his eternal salvation. His living, spiritual vibrancy will be seen externally as worshipful perseverance along his course of life despite all obstacles.

Perseverance of the saints is not to be misconstrued as synonymous with “perfection of the saints,” as if it is a state of sinlessness unsullied by any waywardness, stagnation, or spiritual struggles. Perfection for the saints, on this side of glory, is merely positional, but actual upon the believer’s death. Here on earth it is positional in that God has declared us justified through the blood of Jesus Christ, but we are not yet perfected. The process of growing perfection is what is going on through believing God, loving God, and obeying God on this side of eternity. Throughout the perfecting process perseverance is divinely assured to born again believers. God has planted in every believer such a quality of faith that John can identify it as victorious, overcoming faith. The Christian’s perseverance is more about God’s work than about his personal resources or dedication.

This is the secret to perseverance of the saints which the unsaved mind does not know. Christian perseverance is not by dint of the Christian’s own perseverance, fortitude, and bullheaded obstinacy. Such faith is only by the grace of God worked within the heart of a believer by the Holy Spirit.

John describes the behaviors of a persevering saint as believing, loving, and obeying. These behaviors signify inward transformations wrought by the Spirit of God and observable to a watching world by deed and word.

In verse 1, John says, “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God….” To believe is to continue in faith. It signifies an inner transformation, transferring all self-reliance and self-belief to the only worthy object of faith, our great Savior Jesus Christ. It is an action of faith best described as being whole-heartedly dedicated to Christ and dependent upon Him. A born-again believer will permanently persist in faith.

Also in verse 1, John marks loving as the second behavior, “…and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him.” Perseverance of the saint is not just seen in his steadfast devotion in faith but also his affinity towards God and towards his fellow believers. A believer who loves God will always love what God loves.

Then, in verses 2 and 3, John points out obedience as the concluding behavior of a persevering saint, “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments.” The Greek word translated know is knowledge gained by experience. It is a practical knowledge evidenced by obedience to the Lord’s commands. Believe, love, and obey—these are the behaviors of the persevering saint. These are not overbearing or burdensome because God changes the nature of His children by new birth.

Verse 4 explains this in terms of the guarantees of God, not dependent upon any man’s pure grit. “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith!” God’s power in procuring the eternal security of His saints is rested upon the saint to such a degree that he is not just saved from Hell, but he is delivered from divine wrath, and he is certain to persevere to ultimate victory. This is a surpassing victory that can legitimately be identified as conquering; the saint is an overcomer by “overwhelming success.” Every believer ought to underline, memorize, and claim the promise of verse 4!

John is so convinced of God’s guarantee of the perseverance of the saints that he repeats himself for emphasis in verse 5. No wonder an unsaved man cannot conceive of having within himself the resources to be a believing, loving, obeying overcomer like authentic believers! Trust and obey.