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The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination Chapter I-Introduction

The Reformed Doctrine Of Predestination

Chapter I

Introduction

The purpose of this book is not to set forth a new system of theological thought, but to give a re-statement to that great system which is known as the Reformed Faith or Calvinism, and to show that this is beyond all doubt the teaching of the Bible and of reason.

The doctrine of Predestination receives comparatively little attention in our day and it is very imperfectly understood even by those who are supposed to hold it most loyally. It is a doctrine, however, which is contained in the creeds of most evangelical churches and which has had a remarkable influence both in Church and State. The official standards of the various branches of the Presbyterian and Reformed Churches in Europe and America are thoroughly Calvinistic. The Baptist and Congregational Churches, although they have no formulated creeds, have in the main been Calvinistic ff we may judge from the writings and teachings of their representative theologians. The great free church of Holland and almost all the churches of Scotland are Calvinistic. The Established Church of England and her daughter, the Episcopal Church of America, have a Calvinistic creed in the Thirty-nine Articles. The Whitefield Methodists in Wales to this day bear the name of “Calvinistic Methodists.”

Among the past and present advocates of this doctrine are to be found some of the world’s greatest and wisest men. It was taught not only by Calvin, but by Luther, Zwingli, Melanchthon (although Melanchthon later retreated toward the Semi-Pelagian position), by Bullinger, Bucer, and all of the outstanding leaders in the Reformation. While differing on some other points they agreed on this doctrine of Predestination and taught it with emphasis. Luther’s chief work, “The Bondage of the Will,” shows that he went into the doctrine as heartily as did Calvin himself. He even asserted it with more warmth and proceeded to much harsher lengths in defending it than Calvin ever did. And the Lutheran Church today as judged by the Formula of Concord holds the doctrine of Predestination in a modified form. The Puritans in England and those who early settled in America, as well as the Covenanters in Scotland and the Huguenots in France, were thorough-going Calvinists; and it is little credit to historians in general that this fact has been so largely passed over in silence. This faith was for a time held by the Roman Catholic Church, and at no time has that church ever openly repudiated it. Augustine’s doctrine of Predestination set against him all the half-hearted elements in the Church and arrayed him against every man who belittled the sovereignty of God. He overcame them, and the doctrine of Predestination entered the belief of the universal Church. The great majority of the creeds of historic Christendom have set forth the doctrines of Election, Predestination, and final Perseverance, as will readily be seen by any one who will make even a cursory study of the subject. On the other hand Arminianism existed for centuries only as a heresy on the outskirts of true religion, and in fact it was not championed by an organized Christian church until the year 1784, at which time it was incorporated into the system of doctrine of the Methodist Church in England. The great theologians of history, Augustine, Wycliffe, Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Zanchius, Owen, Whitefield, Toplady, and in more recent times Hodge, Dabney, Cunningham, Smith, Shedd, Warfield, and Kuyper, held this doctrine and taught it with force. That they have been the lights and ornaments of the highest type of Christianity will be admitted by practically all Protestants. Furthermore, their works on this great subject have never been answered. Then, too, when we stop to consider that among non-Christian religions Mohammedanism has so many millions who believe in some kind of Predestination, that the doctrine of Fatalism has been held in some form or other in several heathen countries, and that the mechanistic and deterministic philosophies have exerted such great influences in England, Germany, and America, we see that this doctrine is at least worthy of careful study.

From the time of the Reformation up until about one hundred years ago these doctrines were boldly set forth by the great majority of the ministers and teachers in the Protestant churches; but today we find far the greater majority holding and teaching other systems. It is only rarely that we now come across those who can be called “Calvinists without reserve.” We may quite appropriately apply to our own churches the words of Toplady in regard to the Church of England: “Time has been when the Calvinistic doctrines were considered and defended as the Palladium of our Established Church; by her bishops and clergy, by the universities, and the whole body of the laity. It was (during the reigns of Edward VI, Queen Elizabeth, James I, and the greater part of Charles I) as difficult to meet with a clergyman who did not preach the doctrines of the Church of England, as it is now to find one who does. We have generally forsaken the principles of the Reformation, and Ichabod, or ‘the glory is departed,’ has been written on most of our pulpits and church-doors ever since.”1

The tendency in our enlightened age is to look upon Calvinism as a worn-out and obsolete creed. At the beginning of his splendid article on “The Reformed Faith in the Modern World,” Prof. F. E. Hamilton says, “It seems to be tacitly assumed by a large number of people in the Presbyterian Church today that Calvinism has been outgrown in religious circles. In fact, the average church member, or even minister of the gospel, is inclined to look upon a person who declares that he believes in Predestination, with a glance of amused tolerance. It seems incredible to them that there should exist such an intellectual curiosity as a real Calvinist, in an age of enlightenment like the present. As for seriously examining the arguments for Calvinism, the idea never enters their heads. It is deemed as out of date as the Inquisition, or the idea of a fiat world, and is looked upon as one of the fantastic schemes of thought that men held before the age of modern science.” Because of this present day attitude toward Calvinism, and because of the general lack of information concerning these doctrines, we regard the subject of this book as one of great importance.

It was Calvin who wrought out this system of theological thought with such logical clearness and emphasis that it has ever since borne his name. He did not, of course, originate the system but only set forth what appeared to him to shine forth so clearly from the pages of Holy Scripture. Augustine had taught the essentials of the system a thousand years before Calvin was born, and the whole body of the leaders of the Reformation movement taught the same. But it was given to Calvin with his deep knowledge of Scripture, his keen intellect and systematizing genius, to set forth and defend these truths more clearly and ably than had ever been done before.

We call this system of doctrine “Calvinism,” and accept the term “Calvinist” as our badge of honor; yet names are mere conveniences. “We might,” says Warburton, “quite as appropriately, and with equally as much reason, call gravitation ‘Newtonism,’ because the principles of gravitation were first dearly demonstrated by the great philosopher Newton. Men had been fully conversant with the facts of gravitation for long ages before Newton was born. These facts had indeed been visible from the first days of creation, inasmuch as gravitation was one of the laws which God ordained for the governing of the .universe. But the principles of gravitation were not fully known, and the far-reaching effects of its power and influence were not understood until they were discovered by Sir Isaac Newton. So, too, was it with what men call Calvinism. The inherent principles of it had been in existence for long ages before Calvin was born. They had indeed been visible as patent factors in the world’s history from the time of man’s creation. But inasmuch as it was Calvin who first formulated these principles into a more or less complete system, that system, or creed, if you will, and likewise those principles which are embodied in it, came to bear his name.”2 We may add further that the names Calvinist, Lutheran, Puritan, Pilgrim, Methodist, Baptist, and even the name Christian, were originally nicknames. But usage has established their validity and their meaning is well understood.

The quality which gave such force to Calvin’s teaching was his close adherence to the Bible as an inspired and authoritative book. He has been referred to as preeminently the biblical theologian of his age. Where the Bible led, there he went; where it failed him, there he stopped short. This refusal to go beyond what is written, coupled with a ready acceptance of what the Bible did teach, gave an air of finality and positiveness to his declarations which made them offensive to his critics. Because of his keen insight and power of logical development he has often been referred to as merely a speculative theologian. That he was a speculative genius of the first order is, of course, not to be denied; and in the cogency of his logical analysis he possessed a weapon which made him terrible to his enemies. But it was not on these gifts that he depended primarily when forming and developing his theological system.

Calvin’s active and powerful intellect led him to sound the depths of every subject which he touched. In his investigations about God and the plan of redemption he went very far, penetrating into mysteries concerning which the average man seldom if ever dreams. He brought to light a side of Scripture which had as yet been very much in the shade and stressed those deep truths which in the ages preceding the Reformation had comparatively escaped notice in the Church. He brought to light forgotten doctrines of the apostle Paul, and fastened them in their full and complete sense upon one great branch of the Christian Church.

This doctrine of Predestination has perhaps raised a greater storm of opposition, and has doubtless been more misrepresented and caricatured, than any other doctrine in the Scriptures. “To mention it before some,” says Warburton, “is like shaking the proverbial red flag before an enraged bull. It arouses the fiercest passions of their nature, and brings forth a torrent of abuse and calumny. But, because men have fought against it, or because they hate it, or perhaps misunderstand it, is no reasonable or logical cause why we should turn the doctrine adrift, or cast it behind our backs. The real question, the all-important question, is not: How do men receive it? but, Is it true?”3

One reason why many people, even supposedly educated people, are so quick to reject the doctrine of Predestination is because of pure ignorance of what the doctrine really is and of what the Bible teaches in regard to it. This ignorance is not at all surprising when one considers the almost complete lack of Bible training in our day. A careful study of the Bible would convince many people that it is a very different book than they assume it to be. The tremendous influence which this doctrine has exerted in the history of Europe and America should at least entitle it to a respectful hearing. Furthermore, we submit that according to all the laws of reason and logic a person has no right to deny the truth of a doctrine without first having studied in an unprejudiced manner the evidence on both sides. This is a doctrine which deals with some of the most profound truths revealed in Scripture and it will abundantly repay careful study on the part of Christian people. If any are disposed to reject it without first making a careful study of its claims, let them not forget that it has commanded the firm belief of multitudes of the wisest and best men that have ever lived, and that there must, therefore, be strong reasons in favor of its truth.

Perhaps a few words of caution should be given here to the effect that while the doctrine of Predestination is a great and blessed Scripture truth and a fundamental doctrine of several churches, it must never be looked upon as the sum and substance of the Reformed Faith. As Dr. Kuyper has said, “It is a mistake to discover the specific character of Calvinism in the doctrine of Predestination, or in the authority of Scripture. For Calvinism all these are logical consequences, not the point of departure — foliage bearing witness to the luxuriousness of its growth, but not the root from which it is sprouted.” If the doctrine is detached from its natural association with other truths and exhibited alone, the effect is exaggerated. The system is then distorted and misrepresented. A statement of any principle, in order to be true, must present it in harmony with all the other elements of the system of which it forms a part. The Westminster Confession of Faith is a balanced statement of this system as a whole, and it gives due prominence to those other doctrines, such as the Trinity, the Deity of Christ, the personality of the Holy Spirit, the Inspiration of the Scriptures, Miracles, the Atonement, Resurrection, the personal return of Christ, and so forth. Furthermore, we do not deny that the Arminians hold many and important truths. But we do hold that a full and complete exposition of the Christian system can be given only on the basis of the truth as set forth in the Calvinistic system.

In the minds of most people the doctrine of Predestination and Calvinism are practically synonymous terms. This. however, should not be the case, and the too close identification of the two has doubtless done much to prejudice many people against the Calvinistic system. The same is true in regard to a too close identification of Calvinism and the “Five Points,” as will be shown later. While Predestination and the Five Points are all essential elements of Calvinism, they by no means constitute its whole.

The doctrine of Predestination has been made the subject of almost endless discussion, much of which, it must be admitted, was for the purpose of softening its outlines or of explaining it away. “The consideration of this great doctrine,” says Cunningham, “runs up into the most profound and inaccessible subjects that can occupy the minds of men, — the nature and attributes, the purposes and the actings of the infinite and incomprehensible Jehovah, — viewed especially in their bearings upon the everlasting destinies of His intelligent creatures. The peculiar nature of the subject certainly demands, in right reason, that it should ever be approached and considered with the pro-foundest humility, caution, and reverence, as it brings us into contact, on the one side, with a subject so awful and overwhelming as the everlasting misery of an innumerable multitude of our fellow men. Many men have discussed the subject in this spirit, but many also have indulged in much presumptuous and irreverent speculation regarding it. There is probably no subject that has occupied more of the attention of intelligent men in every age. It has been most fully discussed in all of its bearings, philosophical, theological, and practical; and if there be any subject of speculation with respect to which we are warranted in saying that it has been exhausted, it is this.

“Some, at least, of the topics comprehended under this general head have been discussed by almost every philosopher of eminence in ancient as well as in modern times. * * * All that the highest ability, ingenuity, and acuteness can effect, has been brought to bear upon the discussion of this subject; and the difficulties attaching to it have never been fully solved, and we are well warranted in saying that they never will, unless God gives us either a fuller revelation or greatly enlarged capacities, — although, perhaps, it would be more correct to say that, from the very nature of the case, a finite being can never fully comprehend it since this would imply that he could fully comprehend the infinite mind.”4

In the development of this book much use has been made of other books in order that this one may contain the very cream and quintessence of the best authors on the subject. Consequently many of the arguments found here are from men very superior to the present writer. Indeed, when he glances at the whole he is inclined to say with a celebrated French writer, “I have culled a bouquet of varied flowers from men’s gardens, and nothing is my own but the string that binds them.” Yet much is his own, especially as regards the organization and arrangement of materials.

Throughout this book the terms “predestination” and “foreordination” are used as exact synonyms, the choice being deterrained only by taste. If a distinction be desired the word “foreordination’ can perhaps better be used where the thing spoken of is an event in history or in nature, while “predestination” can refer mainly to the final destiny of persons. The Scripture quotations have been made from the American Standard Version of the Bible rather than from the King James Version since the former is more accurate.

The author wishes particularly to thank Dr. Samuel G. Craig, Editor of CHRISTIANITY TODAY, Dr. Frank H. Stevenson, President of the Board of Trustees of Westminster Theological Seminary, Dr. Cornelius Van Til, Professor of Apologetics in Westminster Theological Seminary, Dr. C. W. Hodge, Professor of Systematic Theology in Princeton Theological Seminary, under whose supervision this material in much shorter form was originally prepared, and Rev. Henry Atherton, General Secretary of the Sovereign Grace Union, London, England, for valuable assistance.

This book, we repeat, is designed to set forth and defend the Reformed Faith, commonly known as Calvinism. It is not directed against any particular denomination, but against Arminianism in general. The author is a Presbyterian,5 but he is well aware of the radical departure that the rank and file of Presbyterians have made from their own creed. The book is sent forth with the hope that those who profess to hold the Reformed Faith may have a better understanding of the great truths which are here treated and may value their heritage more highly; and that those who have not known this system, or who have opposed it, may be convinced of its truth and come to love it.

The question which faces us then, is. Has God from all eternity foreordained all things which come to pass ? If so, what evidence do we have to that effect. and how is the fact consistent with the free agency of rational creatures and with His own perfections?

1 Preface to Zanchius’ Predestination. p. 16.

2 Calvinism, p. 23.

3 Calvinism, p.23.

4 Cunningham, Historical Theology II, pp. 418, 419.

5 The author, a layman, is a member of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. This is one of the smaller denominations, but one that seeks faithfully to maintain the Reformed heritage.

Loraine Boettner- The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination

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The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination

The Reformed Doctrine Of Predestination
by
Loraine Boettner D.D.a
Copyright 1932
by

Loraine Boettner

Any one is at liberty to use material from this book with or without credit. In preparing this book the writer has received help from many sources, some acknowledged and many unacknowledged. He believes the material herein set forth to be a true statement of Scripture teaching, and his desire is to further, not to restrict its use.

Contents

Chapter 1 Introduction

Chapter 2 Statement of the Doctrine

Chapter 3 God Has a Plan

Chapter 4 The Sovereignty of God

Chapter 5 The Providence of God

Chapter 6 The Foreknowledge of God

Chapter 7 Outline of Systems

Chapter 8 The Scriptures are the Final Authority By Which Systems are to be Judged

Chapter 9 A Warning Against Undue Speculation

Chapter 10 The Five Points of Calvinism & Total Inability

Chapter 11 Unconditional Election

Chapter 12 Limited Atonement

Chapter 13 Efficacious Grace

Chapter 14 The Perseverance of the Saints

Chapter 15 That it is Fatalism

Chapter 16 That it is Inconsistent with the Free Agency and Moral Responsibility of Man

Chapter 17 That it Makes God the Author of Sin

Chapter 18 That is Discourages All Motives to Exertion

Chapter 19 That it Represents God as a Respecter of Persons or as Unjustly Partial

Chapter 20 That it is Unfavorable to Good Morality

Chapter 21 That it Precludes a Sincere Offer of the Gospel to the Non-Elect

Chapter 22 That it Contradicts the Universalistic Scripture Passages

Chapter 23 Salvation By Grace

Chapter 24 Personal Assurance that One is Among the Elect

Chapter 25 Predestination in the Physical World

Chapter 26 A Comparison with the Mohammedan Doctrine of Predestination

Chapter 27 The Practical Importance of the Doctrine

Chapter 28 Calvinism in History

Chart: Calivinism vs. Arminianism

Loraine Boettner- The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination

Definitions of Doctrine-Volume 2-Part 2-Chapter 11-The Security of the Saints

CHAPTER 11-THE SECURITY OF THE SAINTS

In this article there are three expressions which we shall use interchangeably: The Security of the Saints, the Preservation of the Saints, and the Perseverance of the Saints. While these are not identical statements, they do affirm the same thing of saved people, namely, their eternal safety. The preserving power of God accounts for the perseverance of the saint in faith and holiness: “For the Lord loveth judgment, and forsaketh not his saints; they are preserved for ever” (#Ps 37:28).

There are two doctrines which are mutually exclusive, antagonistic, and destructive. There is no compromise possible between them. They neither give nor ask quarter. One is true, the other is false. One is the doctrine popularly called apostasy, which means that a saved person, a saint, one born of God, made a partaker of the Divine nature, justified by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, may through sin forfeit his saintship, become a child of the devil, and be finally and forever lost. The other is known as the perseverance of the saints, which means that one born of God, made a saint by the effectual call of the Holy Spirit, justified by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, may do that which is wrong, grieve the Holy Spirit, lose the joy of salvation, and bring upon himself the corrective chastisements of the Lord; nevertheless shall persevere in faith and shall not be lost in the end.

Apostasy is based upon salvation by works in whole or in part; security is based upon salvation by the grace of God. The one makes salvation a human project; the other makes salvation a Divine undertaking. If salvation is of man, failure is not only possible but certain; if salvation is of the Lord, it must be a success.

One of the doctrines is established by Scripture, the other is denied by Scripture. So all arguments pro and con must be based upon Scripture. Unaided human reason and human experience and observation have no place in the discussion. “What saith the Scripture?” must be our guiding star.

WHAT THE DOCTRINE IS

The doctrine we subscribe to is rarely, if ever, correctly stated by those who reject and oppose it. It is dressed up in a false and ugly garb, then ridiculed and held up to scorn. The opponents build up a man of straw and then proceed to tear it to pieces. They never deal with the doctrine as it is believed and preached by its friends.

1. It is no part of the doctrine that all church members are secure and certain to go to heaven.

All church members ought to be saints, but alas, many of them are not. To those who have no other ground for thinking they are saved than church membership, this doctrine offers no hope or ground of rejoicing. Security is predicated of saints, born again people, who are justified by faith in Christ. These are preserved by God and persevere in their attachment to Christ as Lord and Saviour. Persevering faith in Christ is the grand mark which distinguishes saints from superficial professors.

“We are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end” (#Heb 3:14). One who has been made a partaker of Christ by faith will persevere in faith until the end of his days.

“Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him; If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed” (#Joh 8:31). There is a faith that is temporal, where the root of the matter is not in the professor, where there has really been no experience of grace. This is the faith of the stony ground hearer. But real disciples have a Divinely given faith and continue in the word of Christ.

“They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us” (#1Jo 2:19). These were superficial professors, not real professors of the grace of God, and their departure from the fellowship of the saints made manifest their true character. John plainly says that if they had been real saints, they would have continued in the fellowship of the saints. This verse unmistakably supports our doctrine. Judas furnishes an apt illustration of the apostasy of false professors. Judas was never a real believer, although associated with real believers: “Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not who should betray him” (#Joh 6:64).

2. It is no part of the doctrine that all who are active in religious work shall be saved forever.

Many religious workers are not saved now. They are not saints. They have not been born again. They have not partaken of the Divine nature. The Saviour says, “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me ye that work iniquity” (#Mt 7:22,23). The flagellants were a religious sect in Italy in the 13th century. They were active as long as they could parade in the streets and publicly scourge themselves. But when their public processions were prohibited the sect died out. They could not survive in obscurity. In the time of Christ there were many who did things to be seen of men for human praise. And there is every reason to believe that the race of those who love the sound of human praise has not perished from the earth. All saints should show their faith by their works, but their works should be works of love to Christ, and not works of love for human acclaim. May this truth probe the hearts of both writer and reader.

3. It is no part of the doctrine that saints may not fall.

Saints have fallen and been sorely bruised by the fall. But every fall does not mean a broken neck, either physically or spiritually. Many have fallen and lived to tell the story. And so in religious life, saints have fallen into sin, and who among us dares to deny that he has never fallen into sin? Where is the sinless person? The sinner was not saved by becoming sinless, and he is not kept saved by living a sinless life. The sinner was saved by trusting Christ as Saviour, and he is kept saved by the power of God through faith. He continues as he began; a poor helpless sinner trusting a mighty Saviour. The born-again person can never be lost, because he will never renounce his faith in Christ and go about looking for another Saviour or give up in despair. Hearken to the Scriptures: “Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy; when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me” (#Mic 7:8). “A just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again” (#Pr 24:16). “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand” (#Ps 37:23,24).

PROOF THAT THE DOCTRINE IS TRUE

Arguments from Scripture are so abundant that one hardly knows where and how to begin in arranging them. A saint is one who has been elected by God the Father, redeemed by God the Son, and regenerated by God the Holy Spirit. And so the first reason we shall give for the security of the saint is as follows:

1. All the persons of the Godhead are for him: “If God be for us who can be against us?” (#Ro 8:31).

1a) The Father is for us in election: “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?,” (#Ro 8:33). He is for us in Predestination: “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son” (#Ro 8:29). He is for us in the effectual call. “Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called” (#Ro 8:30). “But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace” (#Ga 1:15). He is for us in justification: “It is God that justifieth” (#Ro 8:33). He is for us in the gift of His Son: “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all…” (#Ro 8:32). He is for us in His purpose to glorify us: “and whom he justified them he also glorified” (#Ro 8:30).

1b) The Son is for us In redemption “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:” (#Ga 3:13); in Intercession “Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us” (#Ro 8:34); “I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine” (#Joh 17:9); “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them” (#Heb 7:25); in His second coming “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (#Joh 14:3); “So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation” (#Heb 9:28); “For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words” (#1Th 4:15-18).

1c) The Holy Spirit is for us: In regeneration “Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others” (#Eph 2:3); in intercession “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” (#Ro 8:26), as a seal “And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption” (#Eph 4:30); in our resurrection “But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you” (#Ro 8:11). Or to go over the same ground—-the birth of the Spirit makes the saint safe. “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God” (#1Jo 3:9); “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith…We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not” (#1Jo 5:4,18); “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever” (#1Pe 1:23); the indwelling of the Spirit makes him secure: “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?” (#1Co 6:19); “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;” (#Joh 14:16); and the sealing of the Spirit makes him secure. A seal is a mark of ownership; it is to secure what is sealed; and it is a guarantee of safe delivery. Haldeman describes a beautiful vase he once saw. It was almost covered with outer coverings, and had a great seal upon it, and an inscription which stated that it had been purchased by an Oriental Prince, and was to be delivered to him in his palace in his capital city. Now the saint bears a seal, a mark, a stamp, and an inscription which declares that he has been purchased by Jesus Christ. This seal of the Holy Spirit marks us as belonging to Christ as His purchased possession, guarantees our safety, and also that we shall be delivered safely to His capital city in heaven. We are still surrounded with the outer covering of sinful flesh, but in that great day the covering will be taken off and we shall shine as the sun in the kingdom of our Father.

2. The saint is secure because all the attributes of God are for him The will of God is for him: “And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day” (#Joh 6:39). The power of God is for him: Christ said, “My Father… is greater than all and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand” (#Joh 10:29). “Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (#1Pe 1:5); “For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day” (#2Ti 1:12). The love of God is for the saint. There is nothing able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (#Ro 8:38,39); “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (#Joh 3:16). God’s mercy is for the saint. God is rich in mercy: “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us” (#Eph 2.4). It was mercy that made us alive when we were dead, and mercy will not destroy that which he saves. The holiness of God is for the saint “Once have I sworn by my holiness that I will not lie unto David. His seed shall endure forever, and his throne as the sun before me” (#Ps 89:35,36). God’s word and His oath are given to the one who has fled to Christ for refuge, that he may have strong consolation: “For men verily swear by the greater: and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife. Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us:” (#Heb 6:16-18).

God’s wisdom is for the saint. Wisdom found a ransom: “Then he is gracious unto him, and saith, Deliver him from going down to the pit: I have found a ransom” (#Job 33:24). Christ is made unto us wisdom. “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:” (#1Co 1:30). Divine wisdom took into account all contingencies in the work of salvation. God’s justice is for the saint. Justice put Christ to death for the believer’s sins, and justice will not punish two persons for the same offence. If one died as a substitute for all, then it follows all died: “For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead” (#2Co 5:14). The sin Christ died to was our sin imputed to Him; therefore, His death to sin was our death to sin, and this led Paul to say, “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (#Ro 6:11).

3. The saint is secure because he is not under the moral law as the way of life. One under law would have to keep the law perfectly or be condemned. If he only broke the law one time in one point, he would be a lawbreaker, and condemned. The only possible way of escaping condemnation and judgment is to get out from under the law. And the only way to get out from under the law is to trust Christ, Who is the end of the law for every believer. “For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them” (#Ro 10:5). One cannot get out from under the law by obeying it. Obedience, if possible, would prevent condemnation, but it would not remove from under the law. And of course, one cannot get out from under law by breaking it; he only gets in the toils of it and is punished by it. Nor can one get out from under law by mourning. Mourning does not satisfy law. Neither can the law be set aside; it must be satisfied. The only way to get out from under the moral law of God is through faith in Christ Who met its penalty and satisfied its claims against the sinner by His death on the cross.

The believer is declared to be dead to the law. “Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man. Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God” (#Ro 7:1-4). Paul reminds us that the law has dominion over a man as long as he liveth. To be saved he must die to the law. He illustrates the thought by the law of marriage. The law binds the wife to her husband as long as he lives. When he dies physically, she dies to the law that bound her to that particular man. She still lives as a woman, but not as a wife. So the believer, says Paul, is dead to the law by the body of Christ. The death of Christ was the believer’s death to the moral law of God, and being dead to the law he is no longer under it as the way of life. Christ said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by me” (#Joh 14:6).

The believer is “free from the law of sin and death” (#Ro 8:2). There is no law by which the one who trusts in Christ can be condemned. God would have to resort to mob violence in sending a saint to hell.

4. The saint is eternally safe from the danger of hell because he is dead to sin; “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (#Ro 6:11). This is death in the judicial sense and is on the ground of the substitutionary death of Christ. The believer is not yet dead to sin subjectively, but only objectively. He is not yet dead to sin as an experience, for he is more sensitive to sin as a saint than when he was a lost sinner. He is dead to the guilt and penalty of sin because Christ bore the penalty in His own body on the tree.

“Once I was dead in sin,
And hope within me died;
But now I’m dead to sin,
With Jesus crucified.

“O height I cannot reach!
O depth I cannot sound;
O love, O boundless love,
In my Redeemer found!

“O cold ungrateful heart,
That can from Jesus turn,
When living fires of love
Should on His altar burn.

“I live—and yet not I,
But Christ that lives in me,
Who from the law of sin
And death hath made me free.”

C. D. Cole-Definitions of Doctrine-Volume 2-Part 2

Perfection of the saints is of the Lord alone

September 21, 2015 Leave a comment

Spurgeon 34. Then if we gather the three thoughts in one. The perfection we shall soon have, when we shall stand yonder, near God’s throne, will be wholly of the Lord. That bright crown which shall sparkle on our brow, like a constellation of brilliant stars, shall have been fashioned only by our God. I go to a land, but it is a land which the plough of earth hath never upturned, though it be greener than earth’s best pastures, and though it be richer than all her harvests ever saw. I go to a building of more gorgeous architecture than man hath builded; it is not of mortal architecture; it is “a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” All I shall know in heaven, will be given by the Lord; and I shall say, when at last I appear before him, —

“Grace all the work shall crown
Through everlasting days;
It lays in heaven the topmost stone,
And well deserves the praise.”

Charles H. Spurgeon- God Alone the Salvation of His People-A Sermon Delivered On Sabbath Morning, May 18, 1856

Definitions of Doctrine-Volume 2-Part 1-Chapter 5-Unable to Sin or The Impeccability of the Born Again

CHAPTER 5-UNABLE TO SIN or THE IMPECCABILITY OF THE BORN AGAIN

“Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin: for his seed remaineth in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God” (#1Jo 3:9).

This verse of Scripture plainly states that the person who is born of God cannot sin. It does not say, as some teach, that such a person is able not to sin. It is one thing to be “able not to sin,” and quite another thing to be “not able to sin,” for that would deny the doctrine of apostasy, a doctrine they believe and teach. It is obvious that if a person is unable to sin, he could not lose his salvation. There are those who teach that a person may get sanctified—get the so-called second blessing—get to where he is able to live above and without sin. But they also teach that the person who is able not to sin, may also be able to sin and be lost. But our text says emphatically that the born again person— the one born of God—cannot sin, that is, he is not able to sin.

1. Our text refutes several well-known and prevalent errors in present day preaching:-

1a) It refutes the doctrine of apostasy, the teaching that one born again may sin and be lost. To quote the text in any translation is sufficient to disprove that a saved person may ever be lost again.

1b) It refutes the teaching about a second blessing—a blessing subsequent to regeneration. This text is not speaking of any second blessing by whatever name it may be called; it is speaking of the new birth and of the one born of God. The inability to sin is not because of any second work of grace, but because of the initial work of the Spirit in regeneration.

1c) It is against the idea that faith precedes and is the cause of the new birth. The new birth is the work of God; it is the birth of the Holy Spirit, Who is the sole Agent. There is no such thing as selfbirth, either in the physical or spiritual realm. In the physical realm, the mother gives birth to the child; no child is self-born. And in the spiritual kingdom—in the kingdom of God-the child is born of God. “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is (Gk. has been) born of God” (#1Jo 5:1). “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth” (#Jas 1:18). Speaking of believers, John says, “Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (#Joh 1:13). Faith is not the cause of the new birth, but rather the effect. Faith is a fruit of the Spirit: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith” (#Ga 5:22).

2. Let us try to get at the meaning of this text. Does it mean that a born again person cannot sin in any sense whatsoever? To give it such a meaning is to turn Scripture against Scripture. Moreover, it makes the apostle John contradict himself.

In #1Jo 1:9, it is written, that “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” But if we are not able to sin in some sense, there would be no sins to confess, and there would be sin in confessing that of which we are not guilty. In #1Jo 2:1, we are told of provision made for sinning saints: “And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” This must apply to the believer for no unbeliever has Christ for an advocate. In “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them” (#Heb 7:25), we are told that Christ makes intercession for those who come to God by Him, which means that they plead Christ as the ground of their acceptance with God. “God accepteth no man’s person.” Our salvation is “To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved,” (#Eph 1:6). And again, in “If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it” (#1Jo 5:16), we are specifically exhorted to pray for a sinning brother.

It would contradict every book in the Bible and the experience of every believer who has ever lived to affirm that no regenerate person ever sins in any sense whatsoever. On the other hand, our text does teach unmistakably that in some sense every regenerate person is impeccable, that is, he is unable to sin; or rather, there is some kind of sin he cannot commit. So our task is to discover what the sin is, or in what sense he cannot sin.

3. There are various interpretations of the text before us, and something can be said in favor of most of them. There is truth in these interpretations, but whether it is the particular truth of the text is another question. We will examine some of the interpretations and give our humble judgment of them.

3a) There are those who teach that the born again person—the believer in Christ—is not under law, but under grace; and where there is no law, there can be no sin. The thought is that the born again person cannot sin because he is not under law. Now it is true that the believer is not under law “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace” (#Ro 6:14), and it is also true that “sin is not imputed when there is no law” (#Ro 5:13). “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin” (#Ro 4:8). It is gloriously true that the sins of the believer are not charged to him; if they were nobody but a sinless person could be saved, which would preclude the salvation of anybody. The writer rejects this interpretation of the text before us, and this for two reasons. First, it is not a question of whether sin is charged; it is a question of whether sin is committed. There is some sense in which the regenerate person does not even commit sin. And in the text it is not because of position in Christ, but of condition by virtue of being born again. Second, the above interpretation smacks of antinomianism, which means being against the law. The believer is not under law as a way of life or means of salvation, but he loves the law as being holy, and just, and good; and is under law to Christ: “To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law” (#1Co 9:21). Sin is by whomsoever committed. As an illustration of antinomianism, a Baptist preacher once proposed a shameful piece of conduct to another preacher, and when he was rebuked for such a proposal, said, “That would be all right; you know we are not under law but under grace.”

3b) There are others who interpret “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God” (#1Jo 3:9) after this fashion. They remind us that the believer stands sinless in Christ, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption. This is a glorious truth, but we do not believe it is the truth of our text. Surely this explanation is foreign to the apostles whole line of thought. John is not dealing with imputed righteousness, but with human conduct.

3c) Then there is the idea that the new nature does not and cannot sin. This view of the text makes John have in mind what Paul did when he wrote of the conflict between the two natures of the born again person. “Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me” (#Ro 7:17-21); “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would” (#Ga 5:17). But we are quite certain the apostle John did not have this truth in mind. He uses the personal pronoun: “Whosoever is born of God.” He is not talking about what the new nature cannot do, but about what the person, who has been born again, cannot do.

3d) A more likely interpretation is that the born again person cannot sin habitually—cannot practice sin as the rule or habit of his life. This was the view held by Dr. A. T. Robertson, who insisted that the tense of the verb demanded this interpretation. It is also the view of Dr. C. B. Williams, who says that the verb is the present of continuous action. Now it is true that one born of God cannot roll sin as a sweet morsel under his tongue—that he cannot cherish any sin, hug it to his bosom, and take it with him to heaven. The seed of God remains in him and he cannot live as an unregenerate. There is much that can be said in favor of this meaning of the text. It is favored by the context as well as by the tense of the verb. He that committeth (practices) sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth (practices sin) from the beginning. The devil takes no vacation in his career of sinning.

3e) Dr. B. H. Carroll gives the verse this meaning: “Whoever is born of God sinneth not unto death.” He thinks the context demands this explanation. The thought, as he sees it, is that one born of God may sin, but not unto death; his sins are pardonable. “If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it. All unrighteousness is sin; and there is a sin not unto death” (#1Jo 5:16-17). The writer cannot go along with this interpretation for this reason: the verse is applicable only to one born of God while an unregenerate person may commit sins that are not unpardonable.

3f) The writer has come to regard the interpretation given by Andrew Fuller as the most probable of any. Speaking of “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (#1Jo 1:8) and “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God” (#1Jo 3:9), Fuller says; “It appears that the word “sin” in these passages is of different significations. In the former it is to be taken properly, for any transgression of the law of God. If any man say, in this sense, he has no sin, he only proves himself to be deceived…But in the latter it seems from the context, that the term is intended to denote the sin of apostasy. If we were to substitute the term apostasy for sin, from the sixth to the ninth verse, the meaning would be clear. Whoso abideth in him apostatizeth not; whosoever apostatizeth hath not seen him, neither known him…He that is guilty of apostasy is of the devil; for the devil hath been an apostate from the beginning…Whosoever is born of God doth not apostatize; for his seed remaineth in him; and he cannot apostatize, because he is born of God.”

Fuller goes on to say that this sense of the latter verse perfectly agrees with what is said of “sin unto death” in “If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it. All unrighteousness is sin; and there is a sin not unto death” (#1Jo 5:16-18). And he says it also agrees with chapter two, verse nineteen: “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us” (#1Jo 2:19). “Altogether,” says Fuller, “it affords what we might presume to call an incontestable proof of the certain perseverance of true believers.” The apostle is saying, that those who abandoned their former profession of faith and departed from them, had not really belonged to them as born again people. As if to say, that born again people do not apostatize from the true principles of faith. The born again person never renounces his faith in Christ, for he is “kept by the power of God through faith” (#1Pe 1:5).

“We know that any one born of God does not sin, but he who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him” (#1Jo 5:18 R.S.V.) This is a better rendering than the authorized version, which makes the man born of God keep himself. Satan would have the believer turn away from Christ and renounce faith in Him, but he is kept by the power of God and cannot lose his faith. The devil cannot make apostates from the ones who are born of God. “Christ in you,” says Paul, is “the hope of glory” (#Col 1:27). Christ does not save the sinner and then abandon him to the devil. “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, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” (#Joh 10:27-28). The man born of God perseveres in faith; if he should lose his faith, it goes without saying, he would lose his salvation. Stony ground hearers have only temporary faith and endure for a while only, because they do not have the root of the matter in themselves. But the one born of God is not like that, “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” (#1Jo 5:4) Glorious victory is assured for all who make their calling and election sure!

C. D. Cole-Definitions of Doctrine-Volume 2-Part 1

Cage-Stage Calvinism

March 16, 2015 4 comments

by R. C. Sproul

My friend Michael Horton often comments on the phenomenon of “cage-stage Calvinism,” that strange malady that seems to afflict so many people who have just seen the truth of the Reformed doctrines of grace. We’ve all known one of these “cage-stage Calvinists.” Many of us were even one of them when we were first convinced of God’s sovereignty in salvation.

 

 

 

Read the entire article here.

Chapter 38-Final Perseverance of the Saints

September 17, 2014 1 comment

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