One of my favorite phrases in the Canons of Dort is found in the last section which deals with the perseverance/preservation of the saints. I’ll quote the entire article here (V.8). Notice the bold phrase.
…It is not in consequence of their [the saints’] own merits or strength, but of God’s free mercy, that they neither totally fall from faith and grace nor continue and perish finally in their backslidings; which, with respect to themselves is not only possible, but would undoubtedly happen; but with respect to God, it is utterly impossible, since His counsel cannot be changed nor His promise fail; neither can the call according to His purpose be revoked, nor the merit, intercession, and preservation of Christ be rendered ineffectual, nor the sealing of the Holy Spirit be frustrated or obliterated.
What a great statement! Even as I grow in the Christian faith, I’m sadly shocked at the times I still either wander from the path or consider wandering from it. I think I can safely say that I wouldn’t be a Christian tomorrow if it depended upon my own fortitude and strength. Thankfully God preserves his people (Ps. 37:28)!
The Canons of Dort go on to say that assurance of salvation is possible for believers despite their ongoing struggles with sin. The key to assurance is neither our piety nor our faith itself but the object of our faith: the triune God. Since the Father’s promises cannot fail, since the Son’s saving work is finished, and since the Spirit is sovereignly working in us, we can be sure that nothing will separate us from the love of God in Christ. Not even our grievous sins! I would either be living in terrible evil or in dark despair were it not for this truth of the gospel.
Richard Phillips said it well.
“Perhaps you are burdened with troubles and trials. Many Christians are. Yet you still have every reason to rejoice, for you are chosen of God, blood-bought by the Son, and sealed by the Spirit for an eternity of glory. ‘Rejoice in the Lord always,’ Paul therefore concludes. ‘Again I will say, Rejoice’ (Phil. 4:4). Perhaps you are poor, yet in Christ you can know that a glorious inheritance is laid up for you (1 Peter 1:4). Perhaps you are sick or even dying. But you can know that ‘What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable’ (1 Cor. 15:42). The salvation God has begun in you, He will complete! Those whom God has caused to be born again, He will bring to glorious perfection! Knowing and rejoicing in God’s preserving, completing, and perfecting grace will enable you to lay down your head in peace at night and rise up energized to live for God in joy each day.”
Indeed, the doctrine of the perseverance/preservation of the saints is practical and it leads to deep joy.