We concluded our preceding article with the remark that, to preserve, we must hold fast that which we have, and this means that we must hold fast to life and doctrine. How important this is, especially in our present day and age when so many cults and other departures from the truth make it increasingly difficult to maintain our calling in the midst of the world. May our churches and especially our homes continue to be true and faithful in this only way to persevere even unto the end, that no man may take our crown. How urgent it is that we remain faithful to this, in all our preaching and also in all our catechetical instruction!
Let us cling to the doctrine of salvation as it is exclusively in Christ Jesus, rooted and anchored in God’s sovereign and unchangeable will and counsel, and let us never attempt to contribute to it one solitary work or merit on our part! May we ever remember that this salvation is in Christ Jesus and it must always remain there. Our works are always to be Christ’s works (as we read it in Rev. 2:26), the fruits of His grace and Spirit. May we ever cling to the doctrine that God is God, that He is God alone, and that, from the beginning even until the end, no flesh may ever boast, may ever point to a single work which we have done toward the salvation of God in Christ Jesus. Into all eternity Christ must stand in the center. Let us ever cling to this truth. This we must do individually, as the people of God in Christ Jesus, in all our activities, especially in our homes. And we must cling to it as churches, never permitting any deviation from it.
But we must also hold fast to the Word of God in all our walk of life which seals that doctrine. We must not depart out of the line of the grace of God and of His covenant. We must not permit our garments to become soiled or spotted. We must do nothing which would cast a reproach upon the Name of God in Christ Jesus. We must practice and live what we preach and teach. We must persevere even unto the end, ever having our eye of hope upon the crown of victory, the city of our God that has foundations.
The question, how the truths of Preservation and Perseverance are related, is, of course; of the utmost importance. We know that both are taught in the Word of God. To this we have already called attention. However, how are they related? Are we preserved because we persevere; or, is it true that we persevere because we are preserved? It is, of course, either-or.
There is, on the one hand, the conception of the Arminians or Remonstrants. We always seem to run into this Arminian conception. This, however, is not strange. Fact is, fundamentally there are only two possible conceptions. We are either preserved because we persevere, or we persevere because we are preserved. Salvation is either of God or of man; it is either dependent upon God and determined by God or it is dependent upon man and determined by man. Arminianism, Pelagianism, Roman Catholicism, Paganism all have this in common: the work of man is elevated to that position of prominence whereby he controls and determines his own salvation. This is also true of all the cults that abound today. As a certain writer wrote concerning these cults, it is helpful for a Christian to have a series of questions by which he might examine and test the teachings of those groups with which he comes into contact. Among these questions is also this question: is their approach to God and salvation on the basis of works or grace? “Saved by works” is the slogan of every religion which is not anchored in the unchangeable sovereignty of the alone living God. After all, the truth of the Word of God can be summed up in three words: God is God. And this does not imply that one can write the truth upon a thumbnail. The implication of the truth that God is God is, after all, all-embracing and all-comprehensive. Salvation is either conditional or unconditional and sovereign. A third possibility is inconceivable. It is either-or. Salvation is of God and determined alone by God, or it is of man and determined by man.
The position of the Arminian is clearly set forth in the Fifth Point of the Remonstrance. Let us again quote this point.
That those who are incorporated. into Christ by a true faith, and have thereby become partakers of His life-giving Spirit, have thereby full power to strive against Satan, sin, the world, and their own flesh, and to win the victory; it being well understood that it is ever through the assisting grace of the Holy Ghost; and that Jesus Christ assists them through His Spirit in all temptations, extends to them His hand, and if only they are ready for the conflict, and desire His help, and are not inactive, keeps them from falling, so that they, by no craft or power of Satan, can be misled nor plucked out of Christ’s hands, according to the Word of Christ,
“Neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand.” But whether they are capable, through negligence, of forsaking again the first beginnings of their life in Christ, of again returning to this present evil world, of turning away from the holy doctrine which was delivered them, of losing a good conscience, of becoming devoid of grace, that must be more particularly determined out of the Holy Scriptures before we ourselves can teach it with the full persuasion of our minds.
It is true that the Arminians say in this article that they are not ready as yet to declare whether the people of God are capable of forsaking again the first beginning of their life in Christ and of again returning to this present evil world. In other words, they say they are not ready as yet to declare in favor of a falling away of saints. This, however, is only camouflage! As we have called attention to this fifth article of the Remonstrance in preceding articles, notice that this article speaks of the assisting grace of the Holy Spirit, that Jesus Christassists them through His Spirit in all temptations, extends to them His hand, and if only they are ready for the conflict, desire His help, and are not inactive, keeps them from falling. And then this article also declares that the question whether anybody can fall out of grace must yet be determined out of the Holy Scriptures. This, however, they had already concluded.
Arminianism causes everything to turn upon, revolve about the axis of the free will of man. God foresaw from before the foundations of the world who would believe, and He elected them unto salvation. Hence, man’s free will is first and determined this election. However, the Lord not only foresaw faith, but He also foresaw a struggle, a bitter struggle even unto the end; and so He predestined unto everlasting glory those who would persevere and survive. Salvation is dependent, not only upon the initial act of faith, but also upon one’s continuance in the faith. He must not only believe but he must also continue to believe. The divinely foreseen believer is preserved unto glory because he perseveres. One may well ask: how can a Christian possibly prefer this interpretation to the view that we are saved must assuredly by God’s irresistible and sovereign grace? And to this there is only one answer: the sinner will always resent giving God all the praise and honour and glory. That sinner always wishes to maintain himself.
Upon what does the Arminian base his conception? Of course, he too quotes from Scripture. He does this to lead the people of God astray. First, does not the Word of God emphasize repeatedly that the crown of life everlasting and glory is dependent upon my perseverance? Is it not exactly he who endures unto the end that shall be saved, according to Matthew 24:13? Do we not read in Romans 2:6-7 that the Lord will render to every man according to his deeds, and reward them who by patient continuance in well-doing seek for glory and honour and immortality? Are we not commanded in John 15:1-4 to abide in Christ, and told that every branch that beareth not fruit will be taken away and purged? Does not this passage teach a falling away of saints, inasmuch as we read of branches in Christ that do not bear fruit and are taken away and burned? Of course, these branches who were in Christ and are taken away and burned, destroyed, never were in Christ personally but only in their generations. Do we not read in Hebrews 2:1 that we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard lest at any time we should let them slip? And are we not exhorted, in Hebrews 4:11, to labor to enter into that rest, lest we fall after the same example of unbelief? Besides, does not the Savior, in Revelation 2:5, admonish the church of God at Ephesus to remember from whence it had fallen, and to repent and to do the first works, lest He come to them quickly and remove the candlestick out of its place? And do we not read in Revelation 2:10 that we will receive the crown of life if only we are faithful unto death? These Scriptures speak for themselves, do they not? Is not everlasting life dependent upon our perseverance even until the end?
Secondly, does not the Arminian conception of preservation because of perseverance follow from these Scriptural admonitions? Why should someone be admonished to fight when the victory is assured, to struggle unto the end when the crown is guaranteed? Incidentally, did this Arminian ever hear of anyone receiving the crown of victory without fighting for it, of receiving the victor’s crown without running the race? When the Lord admonishes us, we are responsible, are we not? And when He admonishes us to fight even unto the end that no man take our crown, this makes us responsible for the crown, does it not? And the crown is therefore dependent upon us. Besides, to guarantee a runner the prize before he begins the race leads to carelessness and licentiousness; why run and fight and persevere and struggle if the end is assured anyway? However, where does Scripture assure us of the everlasting crown of life and glory regardless whether we run or not? Besides, we have already asked the question: can the Arminian conceive of anyone obtaining the crown of victory without a struggle and of obtaining the prize without running a race even unto the end?
Thirdly, does not the Word of God teach a falling of saints? In I Timothy 1:19, 20 and in II Timothy 2:17-18 we read of Hymeneus and Alexander and Philetus; in II Timothy 4:10we read of Demas; and in II Peter 2:1 we read of false teachers and prophets who denied the Lord that brought them. The last passage, II Peter 2:1, reads: “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in destruction.” And in John 15:1-4 we read of branches, once in Christ, that are cut off and purged because of their failure to bear fruit; and inHebrews 6:4-8 we read of them that they tasted the good word of God . . . , and that later it became impossible to renew them again unto repentance.
We need not quote any more. As we shall see in our following article, these arguments of the Arminians are not difficult to refute. However, is it not somewhat strange for these remonstrants to quote such passages from Holy Writ, and then say in their Fifth Point of the Remonstrance that it must still be determined from Scripture whether one who once had life in Christ can fall away into sin and destruction? One thing is sure: how uncertain they may be concerning the perseverance of the saints, they surely reject the position of the Word of God that nothing can ever separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ, our Lord. They may not know what they want, according to what they say in that Fifth Point, but they surely know what they do not want. They reject the certain perseverance of the saints as rooted in the unchangeable and sovereign counsel of the Lord, and as based upon the particular atonement of the cross of Calvary. They want nothing to do with the sovereignly particular character of the love and grace of God.