Tuesday, June 2, 2015

the preservation of God's people

See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. (Hebrews 12:25 ESV)

And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (Romans 8:30)

In considering the warning passages in the book of Hebrews it is important that they be placed within the context of what the Bible teaches about the security and preservation of God's people. 

Before we speak of our perseverance, we must think about it from God's point of view.  The key issue is, does God preserve in faith those whom he has saved?  J. I. Packer answers...

"Let it be first said that in declaring the eternal security of God's people it is clearer to speak of their preservation than, as is commonly done, of their perseverance.  Perseverance means persistence under discouragement and contrary pressure.  The assertion that believers persevere in faith and obedience despite everything is true, but the reason is that Jesus Christ through the Spirit persists in preserving them."  (J. I. Packer, Concise Theology, p. 241) 

So, the perseverance of the believer is the logical (and necessary) outcome of the full and complete salvation we have in Jesus Christ by God's grace.  Our perseverance is inextricably connected to God's ability to preserve.  In speaking of the New Covenant, God says:  "I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me." (Jeremiah 32:40) 

And Jesus said, "I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand." (John 10:28-29 ESV)

I believe a good overall summary of the what the Bible teaches about the preservation (or, perseverance) of God's people can be found in the London Baptist Confession of Faith (1689), which is almost identical with that found in the Westminster Confession of Faith...

17. On the Perseverance of the Saints

"Those whom God has accepted in the beloved, and has effectually called and sanctified by His Spirit, and given the precious faith of His elect, can neither totally nor finally fall from the state of grace, but they will certainly persevere in that state to the end and be eternally saved. This is because the gifts and calling of God are without repentance, and therefore He continues to beget and nourish in them faith, repentance, love, joy, hope, and all the graces of the spirit which lead to immortality. And though many storms and floods arise and beat against the saints, yet these things shall never be able to sweep them off the foundation and rock which they are fastened upon by faith. Even though, through unbelief and the temptations of Satan, the sight and feeling of the light and love of God may for a time be clouded and obscured from them, yet God is still the same, and they are sure to be kept by His power until their salvation is complete, when they shall enjoy the purchased possession which is theirs, for they are engraved upon the palm of His hands, and their names have been written in His Book of Life from all eternity."  [John 10:28,29; Phil. 1:6; 2 Tim. 2:19; 1 John 2:19; Ps. 89:31,32; 1 Cor. 11:32; Mal. 3:6.]

"This perseverance of the saints does not depend on them - that is, on their own free will. It rests upon the immutability of the decree of election, which flows from the free and unchangeable love of God the Father. It also rests upon the efficacy of the merit and intercession of Jesus Christ, and upon the union which true saints have with Him. - It rests upon the oath of God, and upon the abiding of His Spirit. It depends upon the seed of God being within them and upon the very nature of the covenant of grace. All these factors give rise to the certainty and infallibility of the security and perseverance of the saints."  [Rom. 8:30, 9:11,16; Rom. 5:9, 10; John 14:19; Heb. 6:17,18; 1 John 3:9; Jer. 32:40.] 

"The saints may, through the temptation of Satan and the world, and because their remaining sinful tendencies prevail over them, and through their neglect of the means which God has provided to keep them, fall into grievous sins. They may continue in this state for some time, so that they incur God's displeasure, grieve His Holy Spirit, suffer the impairment of their graces and comforts, have their hearts hardened and their conscience wounded, and hurt and scandalize others. By this they will bring temporal judgments upon themselves. Yet they shall renew their repentance and be preserved, through faith in Christ Jesus, to the end."  [Matt. 26:70,72,74; Isa. 64:5,9; Eph. 4:30; Ps. 51:10,12; Ps. 32:3,4; 2 Sam. 12:14; Luke 22:32,61,62.] 

-- From the London Baptist Confession of Faith (1689), with minor revisions by C. H. Spurgeon. 

Images above are from Pilgrim's Progress, English School, Bridgeman Art Library. "Within Sight of the Holy City" by Henry Courtney Selous. At magnoliabox.com.

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