The Canons of Dort call the doctrine of the preservation/perseverance of the saints, (sometimes called the preservation of the elect), an “inestimable treasure.” See here for a more detailed position and an outline of mistakes to avoid in this discussion.
Perseverance may be defined as that continuous operation of the Holy Spirit in the believer, by which the work of divine grace that is begun in the heart is continued and brought to competition. It is because God never forsakes His work that believers continue to stand to the very end. Louis Berkhof from Systematic Theology (pg. 546)
In summary, these texts teach us that those whom the Father loves, whom Jesus died for, and whom the Spirit renews, will be kept by the Lord forever.
Now, why do we care about the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints in the planting and pastoring of churches in housing schemes/estates? Let me give you a number of reasons:
1. It reminds us that God loves us and will keep us. This is so important in a stressful ministry where we often become spiritually ‘dry’ and it can feel like He has abandoned us. In John 6:35-40 we read:
35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. 36 But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. 37 All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”
2. It reminds us not to believe the lies of the devil as he constantly tries to harangue and attack us. The doctrine of perseverance reminds us not to give up hope. John 10:28, referring to Christ’s sheep, reminds us:
I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.
3. We need to call to mind Romans 8:35-39, remembering that nothing in the world can ever separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ.
4. It reminds us that even though we battle sin in our lives, Jesus has defeated it, and will one day bring our war to an end.
5. It reminds us that we are kept by God’s power and it has nothing to do with how ‘up or down‘ we feel on that particular day/week.
6. It reminds us that death has lost its sting and that God preserves us both in life and death.
7. It gives us a real motive to fight through the suffering and anguish of our ministries because we know that, ultimately, God has a purpose and will carry us through all of our trials.
Doctrine is not a word to be sacred of in our ministries. It is to be studied, pondered and, above all, applied to our lives and the lives of those we minister to. The doctrine of the perseverance of the saints can actually fuel our worship, drive us to praise, leave us joyful and prepare us for the death that will one day come. We have a responsibility to teach it boldly and simply as a comfort to those who belong to Christ. What can be better than knowing that not only did Christ die to rescue sinners but that in his sovereign mercy and grace we can rest assured that he will keep to the end those that he has called.
23 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.
(1 Th. 5:23-24)