Preservation and Perseverance—what a truly wonderful subject! It is wonderful from a threefold point of view. It is wonderful, first of all, because of that whereunto’ we are preserved and persevere. This is nothing less than a glory so great that “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him” (I Cor. 2:9). And the greatness of this glory is well expressed by the word “salvation,” which means to be delivered out of the greatest evil and become a partaker of the highest good. This highest good does not, of course, refer to the highest good to which we could possibly attain, but the highest, the greatest good which God can give us and which could enter into the heart of God. Into all eternity the Lord will never be sorry that He did not prepare something greater for us. And that this is true is because this greatest good is God Himself, fellowship with Him in everlasting and heavenly glory and immortality. To be saved is wonderful, but to be saved out of the greatest evil is more wonderful; to see and hear and walk and speak is truly wonderful, but to see and hear and walk and speak when once we were blind and deaf and lame and dumb is surely more wonderful still. And to see and hear and walk and speak, having been blind and deaf and lame and dumb, when once we could see and hear and walk and speak, as in Adam, presents to us a still greater glory. And even this is not all. To be saved does not merely mean that we return to what we once had, as in Adam, but that we receive a salvation higher and greater than Adam ever had, a glory in heavenly immortality, a glory that can never perish, can never fade away. Hence, how wonderful is this glory, is this subject, in the first place, because of the unbelievably tremendous heights to which it directs our attention.
Wonderful, in the second place, is this subject because of us who are preserved and persevere. To this we have already alluded in our preceding paragraph. We are sinners; we are, by nature, hopelessly lost sinners. We are sinners who cannot possibly save ourselves. We are burdened down with a guilt, a debt of sin which we can never pay, and we are in a bondage of sin from which we can never deliver ourselves; we are bound with chains of sin and darkness which we can never break. Besides, we are sinners that are holy only in principle. We are holy and regenerated sinners who cry out that the evil we hate we do and the good we love and will we practice not. Besides, we are such in principle redeemed and saved sinners who are constantly confronted by overwhelming odds, by an enemy within us and all around us, with whom we cannot possibly cope or contend. And now this wonderful subject holds before us that we are preserved and persevere even unto the end, and the odds, shall we say, are billions to one that we will never attain unto the glory which eye hath not seen, ear hath not heard, which never entered into the heart of man. Indeed, also here the Scriptures proclaim a truth to us which is; humanly speaking, impossible of attainment. This is characteristic of the Word of God throughout. Always it speaks, humanly speaking, of impossible situations. Do we not read in the Word of God that the Lord’s way is in the sea, absolutely trackless as far as we are concerned? Are the ways of the Lord not always humanly impossible ways? This is also true of this subject.
Wonderful, therefore, in the third place, is this subject because of this preservation and perseverance. Indeed, wonderful is this preservation because of how we are preserved! Imagine: God’s people are preserved and they persevere unto the very end. They are all preserved and they all persevere, so that none is lost but all are raised up at the last day. This in itself is a wonderful truth. Of all the millions of elect, spoken of in Scripture as an innumerable multitude, innumerable as the stars in the sky and as the sand along the seashore and as the dust upon the ground, not one is lost. To this must be added, however, that they are all preserved in such a way that not a hair of their heads was singed, neither were their coats changed, nor has the smell of fire passed upon them. These expressions simply mean to emphasize that no danger befalls them in the absolute sense of the word. These expressions are not exaggerations. It is exactly this truth that is emphasized in that wonderful account in Daniel 3 where we read of the three friends of Daniel that they were cast into the fiery furnace made seven times hotter because they had refused to bow down before the image of gold which Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had made. And in this chapter we read in Daniel 3:27: “And the princes, governors, and captains, and the king’s counselors, being gathered, saw these men, upon whose bodies the fire had no power, nor was an hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them.” Indeed, they are not only conquerors, but they are more than conquerors! No harm ever befalls them. O, to be sure, they are as sheep that are led to the slaughter. It is true that they are burned at the stake, suffer terrible agony and tortures at the hands of their enemies. Yet, they are more than conquerors. They suffer affliction in the earthly houses of their tabernacles. But, as far as their new man in Christ Jesus is concerned, they suffer no harm. That principle of their new life, their new man in Christ Jesus, no enemy can touch. In fact, everything works together for their good. All the suffering of this present time simply serves to realize the glory God has laid away for them. He works for them a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory (II Cor. 4:17). The darkness of this present time must serve the light of the eternal day; diamonds are beautiful, but they shine all the more gloriously upon the background of a coal pile. All the suffering and affliction of this present time serve to reveal the wonderful faithfulness of our God and the glory and power of His grace in Christ Jesus, our Lord. All our weaknesses merely serve to reveal the power of His grace, His wonderful faithfulness to preserve us even unto the end.
So, what a wonderful subject this is: Preservation and Perseverance! The Arminians, we know, have corrupted also this wonderful truth. It is because of what they taught in their fifth article of their Remonstrance that our fathers set forth the truth in their fifth article of the Canons of Dordt. Let us now look at this truth in detail. Indeed, how timely and pertinent is this subject! It addresses itself to the position of the people of God in the midst of the world. That the people of the Lord are preserved and persevere surely implies a struggle. They must be preserved. And this implies that there are many, many forces at work that would prevent their preservation. And they shall persevere. The goal of their perseverance is the glory of heavenly immortality.
Indeed, their kingdom is not a kingdom of this world. Today we hear more and more of a social gospel. A social gospel is a gospel that is geared to this world’s society, to its improvement by removing all social ills and earthly imperfections, such as drunkenness, debauchery, immorality, etc., without the cross of Calvary and the blood of the Man of Sorrows; a social gospel would deliver this world from the results of sin without removing sin itself. This is surely being heard more and more today. Of course, the world is always interested in the removal of the results of sin without removing sin itself; it always seeks to remove the results of sin while continuing in sin itself. But what is characteristic of our present day and age is that the church is becoming increasingly involved in this social gospel. And then I do not refer to what is called “church” as in the modernistic sense of the word. After all, an exclusively modernistic church is not a church. There the Word of God is never proclaimed. And where the Scriptures are not proclaimed the sheep of Christ do not hear His voice and are not gathered; and therefore there is no church there. But I refer specifically to the Reformed church world, which is becoming more and more involved in a social gospel. How characteristic this is of recent synodical gatherings! How often it happens that such gatherings address themselves to social and earthly problems. And when they address themselves to the Scriptures, they discuss the question, for example, whether women may and should serve in ecclesiastical offices. And, of course, if a woman may be a deacon in the church of God and of Christ, she may also serve in the office of the ministry. After all, all the three offices of minister, elder, and deacon have one thing in common and that is that they are all officebearers of Christ through Whom Christ Himself speaks His own word. And if He speaks through a woman in the office of a deacon, she may also serve in the office of the ministry of the gospel. However, the kingdom of God and of Christ and of heaven is not earthly but heavenly. It is exactly because of the heavenly character of this kingdom that the people of God must be preserved and that they persevere. This is exactly why their position in the midst of the world is always an antithetical position. This explains why we must strive to enter in, why we must fight our way into the kingdom of heaven as it ultimately will be revealed and perfected in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. This explains why we must fight, put on the whole armour of God, and oppose the powers of wickedness within us and all around us. This is surely the position of Scripture.
Hence, how pertinent and timely is this subject! If it be our calling to preach a social gospel, to seek the improvement of this world, there would be no need of battling and fighting our way into the kingdom of heaven. Then we would not encounter any opposition. Then we would have many things in common with the forces of sin and darkness. Then a common goal would characterize us. Then we would all be striving to make this world a better place in which to live. Then we would not be pilgrims and strangers in the earth. Then we can stand shoulder to shoulder with the children of this world, fighting all social diseases and human and earthly inequalities and imperfections. Then we will strive to rid this world of sicknesses, of poverty, of wars and rumors of wars, striving to realize the kingdom of God and of His Christ in the earthly sense of the word. Doing this, however, we would be engaged in a dream struggle, a mere figment of our imagination. “My kingdom,” Christ testified before Pontius Pilate,” is not a kingdom of this world.” We must walk, not synthetically, but antithetically. There are two kingdoms in this world: the kingdom of God and of His Christ, and the kingdom of this world and of the devil. The former is heavenly, the latter is earthly. And as citizens of the kingdom of heaven we must be pilgrims and strangers in the earth, ever seeking to promote the cause of the living God and of His Christ. Doing so, we will experience the trials and afflictions of this present time. And this means that we must fight, witnessing of the Christ and His Cause and opposing all the unfruitful works of sin and darkness. How crucial, then, becomes our survival in the midst of the world. The Lord willing, we will continue with this subject of our preservation and perseverance in our following article.