Home > Calvinism, Election > The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination Chapter XIV- The Perseverance of the Saints

The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination Chapter XIV- The Perseverance of the Saints

The Reformed Doctrine Of Predestination

Chapter XIV

The Perseverance of the Saints

4. AN OUTWARD PROFESSION OF RIGHTEOUSNESS NOT ALWAYS A PROOF THAT THE PERSON IS A TRUE CHRISTIAN

We have no great difficulty in disposing of those cases where apparently true believers have gone into final apostasy. Both Scripture and experience teach us that we are often mistaken in our judgment of our fellow men, that sometimes it is practically impossible for us to know for certain that they are true Christians. The tares were never wheat, and the bad fish were never good, in spite of the fact that their true nature was not at first recognized. Since Satan can so alter his appearance that he is mistaken for an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14), it is no marvel that sometimes his ministers also fashion themselves as doers of righteousness, with the most deceptive appearances of holiness, devotion, piety and zeal. Certainly an outward profession is not always a guarantee that the soul is saved. Like the Pharisees of old, they may only desire to “make a fair show in the flesh,” and deceive many. Jesus warned His disciples, “there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect,” Matthew 24:24; and He quoted the prophet Isaiah to the effect that, “This people honoreth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain do they worship me, Teaching as their doctrines the precepts of men,” Mark 7:6, 7. Paul warned against those who were “false apostles, deceitful workers, fashioning themselves into apostles of Christ,” 2 Corinthians 11:13. And to the Romans he wrote, “They are not all Israel, that are of Israel: neither, because they are Abraham’s seed are they all children,” Romans 9:6, 7. John mentions those who “call themselves apostles, and they are not,” Revelation 2:2; and a little later he adds, “I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and thou art dead,” Revelation 3:1.

But however effectively these may deceive men, God all the time knows “the blasphemy of them that say they are Jews, and they are not, but are a synagogue of Satan,” Revelation 2:9. We live in a day when multitudes claim the name of “Christian,” who are destitute of Christian knowledge, experience, and character, – in a day when, in many quarters, the distinction between the Church and the world has been wiped out. Like Samuel, we are often deceived by the outward appearance, and say, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before us,” when if we really knew the motives behind their works we would conclude otherwise. We are often mistaken in our judgment of others, in spite of the best precautions that we can take. John gave the true solution for these cases when he wrote: “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 that they all are not of us,” 1 John 2:19. All of those who fall away permanently come under this class.

Some persons make a great profession of religion although they know nothing of the Lord Jesus in sincerity and in truth. These persons may outstrip many a humble follower in head-knowledge, and for a season they may quite deceive the very elect; yet all the time their hearts have never been touched. In the judgment day many of those who at some time in their lives have been externally associated with the Church will say, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy by thy name, and by thy name cast out demons, and by thy name do many mighty works?” And then He will reply to them, “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity,” Matthew 7:22,23; which, of course, would not be true if at some time He had known them as real Christians. When every man shall appear in his own colors, when the secrets of all hearts shall be manifest, many who at times appeared to be true Christians will be seen never to have been among God’s people. Some fall away from a profession of faith, but none fall away from the saving grace of God. Those who do fall have never known the latter. They are the stony-ground hearers, who have no root in themselves, but who endure for a while; and when tribulation or persecution arises, straightway they stumble. They are then said to have given up or to have made shipwreck of that faith which they never possessed except in appearance. Some of these become sufficiently enlightened in the scheme of the doctrines of the Gospel that they are able to preach or to teach them to others, and yet are themselves entirely destitute of real saving grace. When such fall away they are no proofs nor instances of the final apostasy of real saints.

Mere church membership, of course, is no guarantee that the persons are real Christians. Not every member of the Church militant will be a member of the Church triumphant. To answer certain purposes, they make an outward profession of the Gospel, which obliges them for a time to be outwardly moral and to associate themselves with the people of God. They appear to have true faith and continue thus for a while. Then either their sheep’s clothing is stripped off, or they throw it off themselves, and return again to the world. If we could see the real motives of their hearts, we would discover that at no time were they ever actuated by a true love of God. They were all this while goats, and not sheep, ravening wolves, and not gentle lambs. Hence Peter says of them, “It has happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog turning to his own vomit again, and the sow that had been washed to wallowing in the mire,” 2 Peter 2:22. They thereby show that they never belonged to the number of the elect.

Many of the unconverted listen to the preaching of the Gospel as Herod listened to John the Baptist. We are told that “Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and kept him safe. And when he heard him he was much perplexed; and he heard him gladly,” Mark 6:20. Yet no one who knows of Herod’s decree to put John the Baptist to death, and of his life in general, will say that be was ever a Christian.

In addition to what has been said it is to be admitted that often times the common operations of the Spirit on the enlightened conscience lead to reformation and to an externally religious life. Those so influenced are often very strict in their conduct and diligent in their religious duties. To the awakened sinner the promises of the Gospel and the exhibition of the plan of salvation contained in the Scriptures appear not only as true but as suited to his condition. He receives them with joy, and believes with a faith founded on the moral force of truth. This faith continues as long as the state of mind by which it is produced continues. When that changes, he relapses into his usual state of insensibility, and his faith disappears. It is to this class of persons that Christ referred when He spoke of those who receive the Word in stony places or among thorns. Numerous examples of this temporary faith are found in the Scriptures and are often seen in every day life. These experiences often precede or accompany genuine conversion; but in many cases they are not followed by a real change of heart. They may occur repeatedly, and yet those who experience them return to their normal state of unconcern and worldliness. Often times it is impossible for an observer or even the person himself to distinguish these experiences from those of the truly regenerated. “By their fruits ye shall know them,” is the test given by our Lord. Only when these experiences issue in a consistently holy life can their distinctive character be known.

Loraine Boettner- The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination

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