In reply to the critics who claim Christianity was just a copy-cat religion among the ancient religions, it’s helpful to take a look at how an ancient adherent of these pagan religions viewed Christianity. The inherent uniqueness of Christianity was a scandal to many. Not only would Jesus’ followers not worship other gods, they rejected the layers of intermediary deities. Christianity taught that we could approach God directly in Jesus Christ. This was utterly unique in the ancient pantheon of gods.
This passage from David Bentley Hart’s book Atheist Delusions, recounts such reaction and makes an interesting parallel to one of the most common contemporary objections.
“In such a world [the polytheism and syncretism of ancient Rome], the gospel was an outrage, and it was perfectly reasonable for its cultured despisers to describe its apostles as “atheists.” Christians were – what could be more obvious? – enemies of society, impious, subversive, and irrational; and it was no more than civic prudence to detest them for refusing to honor the gods of their ancestors, for scorning the common good, and for advancing the grotesque and shameful claim that all the gods and spirits had been made subject to a crucified criminal from Galilee – -“
Read the entire article here.
by Dr. Elizabeth Mitchell on September 8, 2014
“Science Is Not About Certainty” a noted theoretical physicist writes. For many people that might be a startling claim.
Dr. Carlo Rovelli—one of the originators of “loop quantum gravity theory”—recently published an article discussing the nature of science. The piece, called “Science Is Not About Certainty,” makes some points that biblical creationists have been pointing out for a long time.
Physicist Rovelli is an evolutionist and does not in the piece explore his personal religious beliefs (though he does disparage religious claims regarding certainty and truth), but he makes some refreshingly honest points about science. For one thing, Rovelli makes clear that the essence of science is gathering data and interpreting that data in ways that are often insufficient, limited, and changeable:
“We have observations, we have data, data require organizing into theories. So then we have theories. These theories are suggested or produced from the data somehow, then checked in terms of the data. Then time passes, we have more data, theories evolve, we throw away a theory, and we find another theory that’s better, a better understanding of the data, and so on and so forth.”
The data scientists observe must be interpreted, and Rovelli makes clear that a scientist’s philosophy will affect the interpretation. “Since theories change, the empirical content is the solid part of what science is,” he says. After bombastic statements by so many evolutionists—such as Bill Nye in the Nye-Ham Debate or representatives of the National Center for Science Education, who declare that students should never be taught that “theories” like molecules-to-man evolution and the big bang are at all controversial—the admission that scientific interpretations of data are fallible, changeable, and influenced by philosophical understanding is refreshing.
“The deepest misunderstanding about science,” Dr. Rovelli writes, “is the idea that science is about certainty. Science is not about certainty. Science is about finding the most reliable way of thinking at the present level of knowledge. Science is extremely reliable; it’s not certain.” He then makes a statement that runs contrary to the declarations of many evolutionary drumbeaters and media pundits:
“The very expression “scientifically proven” is a contradiction in terms. There’s nothing that is scientifically proven. The core of science is the deep awareness that we have wrong ideas, we have prejudices. We have ingrained prejudices.”
Dr. Rovelli indicates that a scientist’s preconceived notions—prejudices about the nature of reality—typically not only influence but even limit his interpretation of data, even causing him to overlook important scientific truths, including undiscovered major scientific principles.
Read the entire article here.
We must assume, before we commence our discourse, one thing certain, namely, that all blessings are gifts and that we have no claim to them by our own merit. This I think every considerate mind will grant. And this being admitted, we shall endeavor to show that He has a right, seeing they are His own to do what He wills with them — to withhold them wholly if He pleaseth — to distribute them all if He chooseth — to give to some and not to others — to give to none or to give to all, just as seemed good in His sight. “Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own?”
Charles H. Spurgeon-Sermon-Divine Sovereignty-Delivered May 4 1856
Many professing Christians really have no view of election. They have not given it enough thought and study to even have any opinion about it. Many have erroneous views. We shall notice some of them.
1. The view that men are elected when they believe—This view is easily refuted for it is contrary to both common sense and Scripture. Election is to salvation, and therefore, must precede salvation. It is nonsense to talk about electing a man to something he already has. The man has salvation when he believes and hence election at that point would not be necessary. ELECTION TOOK PLACE IN ETERNITY; SALVATION TAKES PLACE WHEN THE SINNER BELIEVES.
2. The view that election pertains only to the Jews—This view robs Gentiles of the comfort of #Ro 8:28-29 Moreover, Paul, who was an apostle to the Gentiles, says that he endured all things for the elect’s sakes that they might obtain salvation. #2Ti 2:10
3. The view that election took place in eternity, but that it was in view of foreseen repentance and faith. According to this view, God, in eternity, looked down through the ages and saw who would repent and believe and those who He foresaw would repent and believe were elected to salvation. This view is correct in only one point, namely, that election took place in eternity. It is wrong in that it makes the ground of election to be something in the sinner rather than something in God. Read #Eph 1:4-6 where election and predestination are said to be “According to the good pleasure of His will” and “To the praise of the glory of His grace”. This view thought the popular one with the majority of Baptists today, is open to many objections.
3a) It denies what the Bible says about man’s condition by nature. The Bible does not describe the natural man as having faith. #1Co 2:14 Joh 3:3 Both repentance and faith are gifts of God, and God did not see these graces in any sinner apart from His purpose to give them. “Him hath God exalted with His right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins,” #Ac 5:31 “When they heard these things they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, ‘Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life’,” #Ac 11:18. “In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledgement of the truth” #2Ti 2:25. See also: #Eph 2:8-10 1Co 3:5 Election was not because of foreseen faith, but because of foreseen unbelief. It is not the election of God’s faithful ones, but the faith of God’s elect, if we are to keep Scriptural words. #Tit 1:1
3b) It makes the human race differ by nature, whereas, the Bible says, we are all by nature the children of wrath and all clay of the same lump. #Eph 2:3 Ro 9:21 Men are made to differ in the new birth. #Joh 3:6
3c) It perverts the Scriptural meaning of the word “foreknowledge”. The word as used in the Bible means more than foreknowledge about persons, it is the foreknowledge of persons. In #Ro 8:29,30, the foreknown are predestined to the image of Christ, and are called, justified and glorified. In #1Pe 1:2, the word for “foreknowledge” is the same as “foreordain” in the twentieth verse of the same chapter, where the meaning cannot be “foreknowledge” about Christ. God’s foreknowledge about persons is without limitations; whereas, His foreknowledge of persons is limited to those who are actually saved and glorified.
3d) It is open to the strongest objection that can be made against the Bible view. It is often asked, “If certain men are elected and saved, then what is the use to preach to those who are not elected?” With equal propriety we might ask, “If God knows who is going to repent and believe, then why preach to those who according to His foreknowledge, will not repent and believe?” Will some repent and believe whom He foreknew would not repent and believe? If so, He foreknew a lie.
Right here is the weakness of much of modern missions. It is based upon sympathy for the lost rather than obedience to God’s command. The inspiration of missions is made to rest upon the practical results of missionary endeavour rather than upon the delight of doing God’s will. It is the principle of doing a thing because the results are satisfactory to us.
If we are faithful, God is as pleased with our efforts as when there are no results. Ponder #2Co 2:15,16 The elect prior to their conversion are known only to God. We are to preach the gospel to every creature because He has commanded it. He will take care of the results. Compare with: #Isa 55:11 1Co 3:5,6 Joh 6:37-45 It is ours to witness; it is His to make our witnessing effective.
Dr. C. D. Cole-The Bible Doctrine of Election- Part I-Bible Doctrine of Election
TO THE KING ETERNAL.
OUR God and Father, draw us to Thyself by Thy Spirit, and may the few minutes that we spend in prayer be full of the true spirit of supplication. Grant that none of us with closed eyes may yet be looking abroad over the fields of vanity, but may our eyes be really shut to everything else now but that which is spiritual and Divine. May we have communion with God in the secret of our hearts, and find Him to be to us as a little sanctuary.
O Lord, we do not find it easy to get rid of distracting thoughts, but we pray Thee help us to draw the sword against them and drive them away, and as when the birds came down upon his sacrifice Abraham drove them away, so may we chase away all cares, all thoughts of pleasure, everything else, whether it be pleasing or painful, that would keep us away from real fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.
We would begin with adoration. We worship from our hearts the Three in One, the infinitely glorious Jehovah, the only living and true God. We adore the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob. We are not yet ascended to the place where pure spirits behold the face of God, but we shall soon be there, perhaps much sooner than we think, and we would be there in spirit now, casting our crowns upon the glassy sea before the throne of the Infinite Majesty, and ascribing glory and honor, and power and praise, and dominion and might to Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.
All the Church doth worship Thee, O God, every heart renewed by grace takes a delight in adoring Thee, and we, among the rest, though least and meanest of them all, yet would bow as heartily as any worshipping, loving, praising, in our soul, being silent unto God because our joy in Him is altogether inexpressible.
Lord, help us to worship Thee in life as well as lip. May our whole being be taken up with Thee. As when the fire fell down on Elijah’s sacrifice of old and licked up even the water that was in the trenches, so may the consuming fire of the Divine Spirit use up all our nature, and even that which might seem to hinder, even out of that may God get glory by the removal of it. Thus would we adore.
But, oh! dear Savior, we come to Thee, and we remember what our state is, and the condition we are in encourages us to come to Thee now as beggars, as dependents upon Thy heavenly charity. Thou art a Savior, and as such Thou art on the outlook for those that need saving, and here we are, here we come. We are the men and women Thou art looking for, needing a Savior.
Great Physician, we bring Thee our wounds and bruises and putrifying sores, and the more diseased we are and the more conscious we are to-day of the depravity of our nature, of the deep-seated corruption of our hearts, the more we feel that we are the sort of beings that Thou art seeking for, for the whole have no need of a physician but they that are sick.
Glorious Benefactor, we can meet Thee on good terms, for we are full of poverty, we are just as empty as we can be. We could not be more abjectly dependent than we are. Since Thou wouldest display Thy mercy here is our sin; since Thou wouldest show Thy strength here is our weakness; since Thou wouldest manifest Thy lovingkindness here are our needs; since Thou wouldest glorify Thy grace here are we, such persons as can never have a shadow of a hope except through Thy grace, for we are undeserving, illdeserving, hell-deserving, and if Thou do not magnify Thy grace in us we must perish for ever.
And somehow we feel it sweet to come to Thee in this way. If we had to tell Thee that we had some good thing in us which Thou didst require of us, we should be questioning whether we were not flattering ourselves and presumptuously thinking that we were better than we are. Lord Jesus, we come just as we are; this is how we came at first, and this is how we come still, with all our failures, with all our transgressions, with all and everything that is what it ought not to be we come to Thee. We do bless Thee that Thou dost receive us and our wounds, and by Thy stripes we are healed; Thou dost receive us and our sins, and by Thy sin-bearing we are set clear and free from sin. Thou dost receive us and our death, even our death, for Thou art He that liveth and was dead, and art alive for evermore.
We just come and lie at Thy feet, obedient to that call of Thine, “Come unto Me all ye that labor and I will give you rest.” Let us feel sweet rest, since we do come at Thy call. May some come that have never come till this day, and may others who have been coming these many years consciously come again, coming unto Thee as unto a living stone, chosen of God and precious, to build our everlasting hopes upon.
But, Lord, now that we are come so near Thee, and on right terms with Thee, we venture to ask Thee this, that we that love Thee may love Thee very much more. Oh! since Thou hast been precious, Thy very name has music in it to our ears, and there are times when Thy love is so inexpressibly strong upon us that we are carried away with it. We have felt that we would gladly die to increase Thine honor. We have been willing to lose our name and our repute if so be Thou mightest be glorified, and truly we often feel that if the crushing of us would lift Thee one inch the higher, we would gladly suffer it.
For oh! Thou blessed King, we would set the crown on Thy head, even if the sword should smite our arm off at the shoulder blade. Thou must be King whatever becomes of us; Thou must be glorified whatever becomes of us.
But yet we have to mourn that we cannot get always to feel as we should this rapture and ardor of love. Oh! at times Thou dost manifest Thyself to us so charmingly that heaven itself could scarce be happier than the world becomes when Thou art with us in it. But when Thou art gone and we are in the dark, oh! give us the love that loves in the dark, that loves when there is no comfortable sense of Thy presence. Let us not be dependent upon feeling, but may we ever love Thee, so that if Thou didst turn Thy back on us by the year together we would think none the less of Thee, for Thou art unspeakably to be beloved whatsoever Thou doest, and if Thou dost give us rough words, yet still we would cling to Thee, and if the rod be used till we tingle again, yet still will we love Thee, for Thou art infinitely to ‘be beloved of’ all men and angels, and Thy Father loved Thee. Make our hearts to love Thee even more the same. With all the capacity for love that there is in us, and with all the more that Thou canst give us, may we love our Lord in spirit and in truth.
Help us, Lord, to conquer sin out of love to Thee. Help some dear strugglers that have been mastered by sin sometimes, and they are struggling against it; give them the victory, Lord, and when the battle gets very sharp, and they are tempted to give way a little, help them to be very firm and very strong, never giving up hope in the Lord Jesus, and resolving that if they perish they will perish at His feet and nowhere else but there.
Lord, raise up in our churches many men and women that are all on fire with love to Christ and His Divine Gospel. Oh! give us back again men like Antipas, Thy faithful martyr, men like Paul, Thy earnest servant who proclaimed Thy truth so boldly. Give us Johns, men to whom the Spirit may speak, who shall bid us hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. Lord, revive us! Lord, revive us; revive Thy work in the midst of the years in all the churches. Return unto the Church of God in this country, return unto her. Thine adversaries think to have it all their own way, but they will not, for the Lord liveth, and blessed be our Rock.
Because of truth and righteousness, we beseech Thee lay bare Thine arm in these last days. O Shepherd of Israel, deal a heavy blow at the wolves and keep Thy sheep in their own true pastures, free from the poisonous pastures of error. O God, we would stir Thee up. We know Thou sleepest not, and yet sometimes it seems as if Thou didst sleep awhile and leave things to go on in their own way.
We beseech Thee awake. Plead Thine own cause. We know Thine answer, “Awake! awake! put on thy strength, O Zion.” This we would do, Lord, but we cannot do it unless Thou dost put forth Thy strength to turn our weakness into might.
Great God, save this nation! O God of heaven and earth, stay the floods of infidelity and of filthiness that roll over this land. Would God we might see better days! Men seem entirely indifferent now. They will not come to hear the Word as once they did. God of our fathers let Thy Spirit work again among the masses. Turn the hearts of the people to the hearing of the Word, and convert them when they hear it. May it be preached with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven.
Our hearts are weary for Thee, thou King, Thou King forgotten in thine own land, Thou King despised among Thine own people, when wilt Thou yet be glorious before the eyes of all mankind? Come, we beseech Thee, come quickly, or if Thou comest not personally, send forth the Holy Spirit with a greater power than ever that our hearts may leap within us as they see miracles of mercy repeated in our midst.
Father, glorify Thy Son. Somehow our prayer always comes to this before we have done. “Father, glorify Thy Son that Thy Son also may glorify Thee,” and let the days come when He shall see of the travail of His soul and shall be satisfied. Bless all work done for Thee, whether it be in the barn or in the cathedral, silently and quietly at the street door, or in the Sunday-school or in the classes, O Lord, bless Thy work. Hear also prayers that have been put up by wives for their husbands, children for their parents, parents for their children. Let the holy service of prayer never cease, and let the intercession be accepted of God, for Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen.
C. H. Spurgeon’s Prayers
Final Perseverance of the Saints
THE doctrine of the final perseverance of the saints teaches that those who are effectually called of God to the exercise of genuine faith will certainly persevere unto final salvation. This is not taught of a class of mankind in general, as something that will usually be true of the persons composing that class, but of each individual in it,–so that not one will finally apostatize or be lost; but each will assuredly persevere and be saved.
This fact is taught explicitly in the word of God, which sets it forth as due to the purpose and power of God and the grace which he bestows, and not to any excellence or power in the believer. Indeed, such is stated to be the weakness of man that, if left to himself, he would assuredly fall, against the danger of which he is constantly warned; a danger to which even the best instructed and most sanctified are liable, and which is evidenced by the sins which are committed, which are often of a most heinous character, sometimes extending to actual denial of the faith, and backsliding from God; showing that but for God’s mercy and grace, final apostacy would occur. But, from the danger thus due to himself, he is rescued by the power and grace of God, who, by his watchful preservation, keeps guard over his unworthy children, preventing their total estrangement from him, and bringing them finally unto the salvation he has designed for them. In so doing, however, he does not act independently of their co-operation, but leads them unto salvation through their own perseverance in faith and holiness.
1. The Scriptures teach the final salvation of all believers.
(1.) The Psalmist sang, “Though he fall, he shall not utterly be cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand. . . The Lord loveth judgement, and forsaketh not his saints; they are preserved forever.” Ps. 37:24-28. The wise man said: “The path of the righteous is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.” Prov. 4:18. Isaiah, referring to the true Israel of God, said “Fear not, for I have redeemed thee; I have called thee by thy name, thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shall not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour. . . Every one that is called by my name, and whom I have created for my glory; I have formed him; yea, I have made him.” Isa. 43:1, 2-7. “Israel shall be saved by the Lord with an everlasting salvation; ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end.” Isa. 45:17. “The heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner: but my salvation shall be forever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished.” Isa. 51:6. “Incline your ear, and come unto me; hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.” Isa. 55:3. “I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; and I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me.” Jer. 32:40.
Christ himself, referring to the “false Christs and false prophets,” who shall rise professedly in his name, teaches the impossibility of deceiving the elect of God by saying “So as to lead astray if possible even the elect.” Matt. 24:24. He likewise declared “He that heareth my word, and believeth him that sent me, hath eternal life, and cometh not into judgement, but hath passed out of death into life.” John 5:24. To the Samaritan woman he said, “Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him, shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water springing up unto eternal life.” John 4:14. He also affirmed even more expressly the final salvation of each of his people by declaring: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand. My Father which hath given them unto me, is greater that all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” John 10:27-29.
The apostle Paul presents the effectual calling of those whom God had foreordained to be conformed to the image of his Son, as connected absolutely with their being glorified by him. Rom. 8:30. In the same chapter, vv. 35-39, he declares their separation from the love of Christ impossible. Writing to the Corinthians, he assures them that Christ will “confirm” them “unto the end,” so that they shall be “unreprovable in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ,” adding “God is faithful, through whom ye were called into the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.” 1 Cor. 1:8, 9. To the Philippians he also declares himself “Confident of this very thing that he which hath begun a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Phil. 1:6. In like manner he says to the Thessalonians ” The Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you and guard you from the evil one.” 2 Thess. 3:3. Peter also writes to the “sojourners of the dispersion” as unto the persons who had been begotten unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, unto an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who by the power of God are guarded, through faith unto a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” 1 Pet. 1:3-5.
(2.) This doctrine is inseparably associated with the other doctrines of grace which we have found taught in God’s word. So true is this, that they are universally accepted, or rejected together. The perseverance of the saints is a part of every Calvinistic confession. It is rejected by Romanists, Lutherans, and Arminians. All the evidence, therefore, of the truth of the doctrines already examined, may be presented in favour of this which is a necessary inference from them. In like manner, all the independent proof of this doctrine confirms the separate doctrines, and the system of doctrine, with which it is associated.
2. The Scriptures declare that the sure salvation of each believer is due to the purpose of God. This would be naturally inferred from some of the doctrines to which reference has just been made. But it is distinctly asserted. Those who believe are said to have been “ordained to eternal life.” Acts 13:48. Those finally glorified are said to have been foreordained to be conformed to the image of his Son, and, therefore, called. Rom. 8:29. Referring to the falling away of some, the apostle writes to Timothy declaring that nevertheless the “Firm foundation of God standeth, having this seal, “The Lord knoweth them that are his” (2 Tim. 2:19), thus establishing the identity of those that are thus known with those who shall remain steadfast. Our Lord himself declared this final salvation to be the will of God. “This is the will of him that sent me, that of all that which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day.” John 6:39.
3. The final salvation of the believer is ascribed to the power of God.
It is the power of Christ, and of God, which makes it impossible that the sheep shall be snatched from their hands. John 10:27-29. It is God that will perform the good work which he had begun. Phil. 1:6. “It is God which worketh in you,” says the apostle to the Philippians, “both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Phil. 2:13. Peter addresses his readers as those “Who by the power of God are guarded through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” 1 Pet. 1:5. He likewise invokes that “Grace . . . and peace be multiplied” to those who “have obtained a like precious faith,” . . . “seeing that his divine power hath granted unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness.” 2 Pet. 1:1-3. The Apostle Paul declares that it is God that is to be thanked because of the growth of faith. 2 Thess. 1:3. In the same chapter he says, “We also pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire of goodness, and every work of faith, with power.” 2 Thess 1:11. It is in reliance, upon this power, that Paul triumphantly wrote to Timothy, “I know him whom I have believed and am persuaded that he is able to guard that which I have committed unto him against that day.” 2 Tim. 1:12.
4. The final salvation is also ascribed to the grace of God. Not only is the power of God exercised; but it is graciously exercised. His aid is a gift of unmerited favour. The apostle to the Romans asserts that salvation must needs be of faith, that it might be of grace, “to the end that the promise may be sure to all seed.” Rom. 4:16. It is only “as many as are led by the Spirit of God” that “are the sons of God.” Rom. 8:14. “It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that hath mercy.” Rom. 9:16. This gracious character, which is ascribed to the whole work of salvation, is not less true of it in the end, than in the beginning. Hence, when the apostle prays for his brethren at Thessalonica, “may your spirit and soul and body be preserved entire without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ,” he immediately adds “faithful is he that calleth you, who will also do it.” 1 Thess. 5:23, 24. That faithfulness consists in the fulfillment of gracious promises, and not of matters of obligation and duty.
5. That the perseverance of believers depends necessarily upon the purpose and power and grace of God, will still further appear from the natural weakness of the Christian and his liability to fall. Even an innocent and pure human being must be fallible, because he is a mere creature, and may therefore choose evil instead of good. We have a sad illustration of this in the fall of our first parents. It may be doubted whether the confirmation of holy angels, or saints, is due to anything in themselves, or in their condition, or state. It is most probable that their only ground of confidence is in the purpose and promise of God. But the Christian is not free from sin. He does not in this life attain perfect sanctification. Hence the constant tendencies to sin, the liability to temptation from within, and from without, and the utter dependence upon the grace of God for his progress in the divine life. These have been pointed out in the discussion about his sanctification. The Scripture teaches the fact expressly in such passages as 1 John 1:8-10, and 2:1. It is also to be inferred from the frequent warnings against the power of temptation, and the necessity of resisting it from whatever source it may arise. We are taught not only the liability to sin from our own corrupted natures, and from the influences of the world around; but also that we have a spiritual enemy to contend with in Satan who zealously, and with much craft and subtilty, seeks the destruction of the children of God.
Nor does the Bible alone give warnings of what may possibly happen, but the religious experience also of the Christian which is one of constant struggles against the evil of sin. These struggles the word of God teaches not only to be consistent with a state of gracious acceptance with God, but to be an evidence of such a state; inasmuch as they show the believer is no longer “dead in trespasses and sins,” but is engaged in a conflict to destroy, and escape them. In this warfare the strange condition is presented of divine strength perfected in human weakness. While the Scriptures command watchfulness and prayer against temptations (Mark 14:38), and enforce the command by the fearful conflict of our Lord in Gethsemane, they also encourage believers by the assurance that “God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation make also the way of escape, that ye may be able to endure it.” 1 Cor. 10:13. “Wherefore,” said the apostle, “I take pleasure in weaknesses, in injuries, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak then am I strong.” 2 Cor. 12:10. In the preceding verse he gives the reason why he thus rejoices, viz.: He said unto me, my grace is sufficient for thee: for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
6. The weakness thus taught of the Christian is not confined to those who have just begun their career of faith, or who are babes in Christ, but is found also in the best instructed, and most sanctified, to such an extent as to make necessary their continued watchfulness and prayer. It was to those whom the apostle wrote, “in every thing ye were enriched in him, in all utterance and all knowledge . . . so that ye come behind in no gift,” 1 Cor. 1:4-7, that he found it necessary to say “let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall,” 1 Cor. 10:12. They also whose “faith” was “proclaimed throughout the whole world,” Rom. 1:8, needed the warning “Well; by their unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by the faith. Be not high-minded, but fear: for if God spared not the natural branches, neither will he spare thee.” Rom. 11:20, 21. They were our Lord’s chosen companions whom he taught to pray, “Bring us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” Matt. 6:13. These also were the ones to whom primarily the warning of Christ was given with the accompanying scene at Gethsemane. Even Paul at the very moment in which he declared, “I therefore so run, as not uncertainly; so fight I, as not beating the air,” added, “but I buffet my body, and bring it into bondage: lest by any means, after that I have preached to others, I myself should be rejected.” 1 Cor. 9:26, 27.
7. Nor are examples wanting, not merely of faults and errors committed by Christian men, but of grievous sins; and these in men of the highest religious privileges and attainments. Such was the desertion of Christ by all the apostles, when he was betrayed into the hands of his enemies (Mark 14:50), the thrice denial of his Lord by Peter (Mark 14:66-72), the sharp contention between Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:39) and the blameworthy conduct of Barnabas at Antioch. Gal. 2:11-13. All of these are instances of grievous falls in those who were true believers in Jesus. They can also be paralleled in the lives of God’s true servants in the Old Testament times, in the sin of Abraham, Gen. 20:5-13; of Moses, Num. 20:7-13; of Eli, 1 Sam. 2:22-36; of David, 2 Sam. 12:1-14; and of Hezekiah, 2 Kings 20:12-21.
The extent to which this weakness of man is seen to exhibit itself is evidence not only of what, but for the intervention of God, might occur in each case, but, also, that, so far as man is concerned, the final apostasy of each one is not only possible but probable, nay certain. We thus have additional proof that the final salvation is due to the purpose, power and grace of God.
8. This salvation, is, however, secured only through the co-operation of the believer. It is not one bestowed on him in his sins; but through deliverance from his sins. It is not merely preservation by God, but also perseverance of the believer, in faith and holiness, unto the end. It is the good work begun in the Christian which is performed until the day of Jesus Christ. Phil. 1:6. The confirmation to the end secures that they shall be “unreprovable in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” I Cor. 1:8. The preordination is unto conformity to the image of his Son. Rom. 8:29. This is secured by various means:
(a.) Faith is one of these.
Christians “by the power of God are guarded through faith unto a salvation.” 1 Pet. 1:5. “Whatsoever is begotten of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that hath overcome the world, even our faith.” 1 John 5:4. “As many as received him, to them gave he the right to become children of God, even to them that believe on his name.” John 20:31.
(b.) It is also accomplished by consecration to God.
This is earnestly enjoined upon the people of God because of the great privileges bestowed upon them. Paul besought the Romans by the mercies of God to present their bodies a living sacrifice unto God. Rom. 12:1. He urged the Ephesians to be followers of God, as dear children, and walk in love, not allowing certain sins which he mentioned to be once named among them as they were unbecoming to saints. Eph. 5:1-4. The writer to the Hebrews, also, surrounding himself and his brethren with a cloud of martyrs, exhorts “lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, looking unto Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith.” Heb. 12:1.
(c.) Self-purification from sin is another of the means.
We find Paul urging upon his brethren at Rome “Neither present your members unto sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God, as alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God,” Rom. 6:13. So, also, in view of their adoption by God, he exhorts the Corinthians, “Let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God,” 2 Cor. 7:1. “They that are of Christ” are said to “have crucified the flesh with the passions and the lusts thereof,” Gal. 5:24. The Apostle John declares that “every one that hath this hope set on him purifieth himself, even as he (Christ) is pure,” 1 John 3:3.
(d.) The warnings of God’s word are also means to the same end. They imply the importance of Christian exertion, and the value of effort as well as the possibility of danger. The Hebrews were warned that they should fear lest, a promise being left of rest, any of them should seem to come short of it. Heb. 4:1. They are especially warned to go on unto perfection, upon the statement that “As touching those who were once enlightened, and tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and tasted the word of God, and the powers of the age to come, and then fall away, it is impossible to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame,” Heb. 6:4-6. This was a description of such persons as they themselves were; of real Christians. They were, in themselves, in real danger of such a fall. They were only secure from it through the purpose and power and grace of God. This danger was therefore a fit cause for exhortation to them to push forward unto perfection. There were doubtless many around them who had appeared, or had professed to have the privileges here referred to, who, by their desertion of Christianity, were inflicting grievous evil upon the cause of Christ. These Christians were tempted to commit the same sin. Should they do this, they could not be renewed again unto repentance; and this warning was given as the means under God of restraining them from sin. It is thought by some that this passage shows the possibility of a fall from grace, and therefore is contrary to the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. It is admitted that, regarded in their own strength only, there was this possibility of fall in the persons addressed. But the doctrine we are considering does not regard the believer as preserved and as persevering only through himself. He is thus kept by God; not by his own power. One of the means by which this is done, is that he is warned of the danger in which he is of himself, that he may co-operate with God, so as not only to be preserved, but also to persevere in the divine life. Of like purpose, and to the same effect, are the other warnings found in the tenth chapter of this epistle in verses 26-29, 38, and those in 2 Pet. 2:20, 22, and elsewhere in the Scriptures.
The means mentioned are only some of the numerous ways in which the Christian is led to persevere in the divine life, actively co-operating with the grace of God. It is because God bestows, and man attains, as the apostle Peter so completely sets forth in his preceding remarks, that he exhorts his brethren, “give the more diligence to make your calling and election sure,” adding, “for if ye do these things, ye shall never stumble: for thus shall be richly supplied unto you the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” 2 Pet. 1:10, 11. It is because of the divine help afforded through the incarnation, and humiliation, and consequent exaltation of Christ Jesus, that the apostle could urge the Philippians, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Phil. 2:12, 13.
It will be seen, from the preceding statements, that the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints does not deny that Christians are liable to sin, not that they do sin, nor that they do turn away from God, and backslide from their Christian profession, and even fall into grievous wrong, by which they displease God, and lose confidence and hope in him, and become barren and unfruitful in good works: nor does it deny that final apostasy would be possible to the Christian if he were left to the exercise of his own will, subject, as he would be, not only to the natural fallibility of a creature, but to the still continuing lusts of his flesh, and tempted not only by these, but by the attractions of the world, and the malice of Satan. But it asserts, that it is the purpose of God that none shall finally be lost who have been given to Christ by the Father, and have been by faith vitally united with him, and justified through him; and that, for the fulfillment of this purpose, the power of God is sufficient to keep them unto final salvation, and the love of Christ is so invincible, in his forbearance, mercy, and grace, that nothing can separate them from it. It also teaches, that they are not saved while indulging in sin, and walking after their own lusts; but that they are sanctified through the work of the Holy Spirit, which enables them to persevere in the divine life in co-operation with his influences, that their life and salvation is not a mere gift without effort on their part, but a growth through perseverance unto the end in the use of the appointed means.
It is well to notice briefly some of the objections presented to this doctrine.
1. One of the most plausible of these is based upon the apostasy of the nation of Israel despite the many promises with which it was blessed.
But the analogy of God’s dealings with his ancient people, favours, rather than opposes, the doctrine of final perseverance. Their history presents to us just such cases of backsliding and recovery, as have been pointed out as true of Christian believers. The backsliding was through their sin, the recovery through the power and grace of God. The one followed the other, at greater, or less intervals, but always followed it. Is it said, however, that Israel is now entirely cast away? But such is not the teaching of the word of God. Paul expressly denies this, and teaches their restoration to God when the fulness of the Gentiles has come in. Rom. 11:26. It is to be remembered also that the calling of Israel was that of the nation, and not of the individual within it. That fact that many Israelites have been lost eternally and beyond rescue, does not affect the fulfillment of any gracious purpose of God towards the nation as such.
There are many, however, who interpret all the promises for the future as made simply of the gathering of the spiritual Israel. Even were this position incorrect there has been no failure in God’s covenant relation to the natural Israel, for the promises to it were all based upon the condition of their faithfulness to God. God, therefore, has not failed, even if he has cast them off forever.
It is especially to be noticed, also, that the new covenant made in Christ, is one which includes not only the promise of the blessings, but of the establishment in his people of the conditions upon which these blessings depend. The nature of the new covenant is set forth in the prophecy of Jeremiah, and, with its statements, many other Scripture passages concur. From its very nature, it is impossible that the blessings promised in it should not be given to all the people of God. “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: not according to the covenant I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days: saith the Lord; I will put my law in their inward parts, and in their hearts will I write it, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people: and they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, know the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” Jer. 31:31-34. See also Jer. 32:38-40.
2. It is again objected that the warnings against apostasy, and exhortations to perseverance, imply the impossibility and danger of fall on the part of those to whom they were addressed. Even if this were absolutely true, it would not be proof that any have fallen away, or shall fall away. These very warnings might become effective to guard against the danger, as the signs set up in hazardous places, are the means by which the danger is avoided. But, as has been already explained, this danger arises solely from the believer if left to himself; the certainty that he will not finally fall away depends upon God’s purpose to preserve him, and to enable him to persevere. These warnings and exhortations are, therefore, perfectly consistent with his safety, and are the signs of danger which God sets up to prevent the fall of his servants.
3. It is objected, however, that, while we have instances of some who are rescued from their grievous sins and backslidings, the Scripture also gives examples of others who are left to perish. But the doctrine of God’s word is that of the perseverance of believers; of the elect of God; of those called to be saints. An examination of the cases mentioned will show no reason for believing those who thus fell away to have been of this class. Indeed, in most cases the contrary is taught. The case of Judas is the most prominent. It would seem more nearly to correspond, than any other, with the privileges referred to in Heb. 6:4, 5, and yet Christ proclaimed his condition, as not that of a Christian, about a year before his betrayal. “Did I not choose you the twelve, and one of you is a devil? Now he spake of Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot.” John 6:70, 71. We need no better proof that this man, in the betraying of our Lord, did not fall from a state of grace and salvation into the perdition to which he was doomed.
So also as to Simon Magus, Peter expressly declared, “Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right before God. . . I see that thou art in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.” Acts 8:21, 23. The apostle John seems, in general terms, to state the truth as to all those who finally depart from the faith. “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest how that they all are not of us.” John 2:19.
Rev. James Petigru Boyce, D. D., LL. D.,–Abstract of Systematic Theology–First published in 1887