I have been reading an excellent book on the perseverance of the saints by Tom Schreiner (review will follow soon). He shows just how pervasive the call to persevere and endure is throughout the New Testament as well as warnings of the solemn consequences of apostasy. This morning I was struck by the closing words of Ephesians:
Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible (Eph 6:24 ESV)
Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love. (Eph 6:24 NIV)
As Schreiner points out from a study on Galatians, perseverance is not to be confused with works-righteousness, where we are required to perform acts of obedience in order to earn our salvation. Rather, we persevere by continually trusting in the cross of Christ.
Apostasy in Hebrews, then, as in Galatians, occurs when believers cease clinging to Christ and his atonement. Believers persevere by continuing to find their forgiveness and final sanctification in Christ instead of themselves.
Despite the Bible translators all translating Eph 6:24 in terms of our love for Jesus being undying, many commentators (e.g. Peter O’Brien, John Stott) seem cautious about accepting this as the meaning of the verse. Would it not undermine Paul’s message if grace were only applied to those who keep on loving Christ?
Having read Schreiner, I am inclined to think not. Just as we are called to persevere in holiness, and to persevere in faith, so here we are called to persevere in love for Christ. Jesus himself links apostasy with our love growing cold in Matt 24:12,13
"And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. "
If this is true, there can be no greater priority for us than to guard our hearts that our love doesn’t grow cold. Prioritise spending time in God’s word and in his presence. Prioritise spending time in worship with his people. The good news is, he is able to keep us from falling:
Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. … To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— to the only God our Saviour be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen. (Jude 21, 24, 25)