A metaphor seen in many verses of the Bible is the term hold fast or holding fast, meaning “be diligent,” “cling to,” or “take a firm grasp of.” It is based on the idea of gripping tightly to an object. Hold fast appears first in Deuteronomy 10:20: “Fear the LORD your God and serve him. Hold fast to him and take your oaths in his name.”
In Deuteronomy 11:22, the command to hold fast is part of a conditional promise from the Lord to Moses and the people of Israel: “For if you will be careful to do all this commandment that I command you to do, loving the LORD your God, walking in all his ways, and holding fast to him, then the LORD will drive out all these nations before you, and you will dispossess nations greater and mightier than you” (Deuteronomy 11:22–23, ESV).
The Lord gave the same charge to Joshua and the leaders of Israel: “But be very careful to keep the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the LORD gave you: to love the LORD your God, to walk in obedience to him, to keep his commands, to hold fast to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul” (Joshua 22:5; see also Joshua 23:8). Holding fast to the Lord means loving Him with our whole being, following Him closely, diligently obeying His Word, devoting ourselves wholly to Him, and serving Him with all our heart and soul.
Holding fast involves not compromising in our relationships, behaviors, or anything that might pull us away from our total commitment to God and obedience to His Word. Holding fast offers this promise of life: “Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments, and live” (Proverbs 4:4, ESV). Even in the New Testament, holding fast is an exhortation accompanied by a conditional promise of life: “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:1–2, ESV).
The apostle Paul declared his belief that the Christians in Corinth had indeed received the gospel message and were still standing firm in it. Salvation comes only through belief in the good news of Jesus Christ’s death on the cross and resurrection to life (John 1:12; Romans 10:9–13; Ephesians 2:8–9).
Paul then added a qualifier: The Corinthians were saved if they held fast to the word he had preached. That word was the message of the gospel. In other words, saving faith causes believers to persevere and be diligent in their commitments to Christ. Paul wasn’t saying that those who are saved can lose their salvation, nor was he implying that believers never struggle with sin and failure. Paul meant that genuine salvation proves itself in persistence, perseverance, and diligence over the long haul of life. The saved will persevere.
Paul wanted the Corinthians to examine their hearts. If their commitment to Christ had been only temporary, then they would have believed in vain. The original word translated “in vain” means “at random.” Such a passing belief is of no benefit to anyone because it does not lead to eternal life. Paul wholeheartedly believed that the Corinthians had experienced genuine saving faith, which would reveal itself in diligent obedience to the Word and the One they had received.
Holding fast embodies faithful perseverance in the Christian walk and life: “Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house, if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope” (Hebrews 3:5–6, ESV). Whenever we read an “if” statement in the Bible, we can receive it as an alert—a heads-up to pay close attention. The writer of Hebrews warns readers to resist temptation (Hebrews 2:18) and remain faithful to Jesus. He wants believers to know that God takes our commitment to Him seriously. Just as the Lord commanded Israel to keep His covenant, God wants us to hold fast to our confidence in God and hope in Jesus Christ. We prove the genuineness of our commitment by holding fast and enduring in faithful devotion.
Paul made this statement about believers who hold fast to the gospel and its words of life: “Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain” (Philippians 2:14–16, ESV).
How do we shine as bright lights in a dark world? How do we live as ambassadors for Christ, reflecting His life, love, and perfection while on this earth? By holding fast to the gospel—the word of life. Only by clinging to God’s Word and living by it can we receive the strength, power, and direction to let God accomplish His work in and through us and keep us pure and steadfast until the end (Revelation 2:25; 3:11).