Preservation and Perseverance (5)

In our preceding article we presented the Arminian grounds for their conception that we are preserved because we persevere. In the Arminian scheme of things MAN is always first. Salvation is either of God or of man; it is dependent upon God and determined by God or it is dependent upon man and determined by man. It is either conditional or unconditional and sovereign. A third possibility is inconceivable. And we also noted that 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. “Saved by works,” is the slogan of every religion which is not anchored in the unchangeable sovereignty of the alone living God. To be sure, these heresies will tell you that all salvation is solely by the grace of God, but it is the will of the sinner which determines when and how long this grace of God will operate in that sinner.

Now we concluded our preceding article with the observation that these arguments or grounds of the Arminians are not difficult to refute, and that it is somewhat strange for these remonstrants to quote such passages from Holy Writ as they quote in the Fifth Point of their Remonstrance and then say in the Fifth Point 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 which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord. However, be all this as it may, the grounds of the Arminians are surely easily refuted.

First, in connection with the Scriptural examples of those who have become unfaithful, the word of God as recorded in I John 2:19 surely applies, and we quote: “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 of us.” This passage speaks for itself.

Secondly, in connection with the passage of Hebrews 6:4-8 we may say the following. On the one hand, to be “renewed again unto repentance” does not mean that they had been renewed unto repentance in the past, but it does mean that they had been renewed according to their confession. On the other hand, that they tasted the good word of God, etc., must not be understood in the spiritual sense of the word, but naturally and intellectually. And this is verified in the verses 7-8 which speak of herbs and thorns and briers—hence, these people who fall away are thorns and briers, not herbs, and thorns and briers never were herbs.

Thirdly, the Arminians quote John 15:1-4, and we quote: “I am the true vine and My Father is the husbandman. Every branch in Me that beareth not fruit He taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, He purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in Me.” These branches that are in Christ, do not bear fruit, and are taken away, must not be understood as being in Christ personally, spiritually, and individually. This is impossible in the light of Scripture which teaches us that Christ abides in us forever. But these branches were in Christ organically. This means that they were in Christ in their generations. Hence, they were in this organism whereof Christ is the true vine in-past generations. And that they will be taken away means that they will be removed from this organism.

Finally, as far as the Scriptural admonitions are concerned, the Christian warrior is assured before the battle that he will win, and the runner is assured before the race that he will gain the prize. Does this mean that the warrior is assured that he will win without fighting and the runner is assured of the prize without running? This, we understand, is unadulterated nonsense.

Over against this Arminian view we now present the Reformed and Scriptural view. In the first place, this presentation of the people of God is rooted in divine election. We read in Ephesians 1:3-5: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ; According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will.” And in Romans 8:29-30 we have the well-known passage: “For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover, whom He did predestinate, them He also called: and whom He called, them He also justified: and whom He justified, them He also glorified.” That God, according to Romans 8:29, foreknew His own does not mean, we understand, that He foreknew them as the Arminians would have us believe, a divine foreknowledge based upon foreseen faith. This would be in direct conflict with what we read in Ephesians 1:4, that God chose us, not because we were holy, but in order that we should be holy. This divine foreknowledge is a knowledge of divine love, which is sovereign and therefore always precedes His people in the Lord’s eternal will and counsel. And, in connection with this decree of election, our preservation is sure, on the one hand, because God’s counsel shall stand, as we read in Isaiah 46:10: “Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure.” And, on the other hand, our preservation is sure, as rooted in divine election, because we read in Hebrews 6:17: “Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath.” Notice, we read here that God’s counsel is immutable. And now, to show more abundantly this immutability of His counsel, the Lord confirms it by an oath. The Lord, shall we say, will take no chances. He will not extend to men an offer which would imply that the salvation of a sinner depends upon his will. He confirms it by an oath, will assume full responsibility for the salvation of His elect own.

Secondly, this preservation is rooted in particular atonement. We read in John 6:39: “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.” Mind you, this is the Father’s will, the Father’s mandate. Did the Father mandate the Christ to save the whole world, head for head, every soul? Indeed not! He commissioned the Christ to lose nothing of all which He had given Him. And in John 10:15 we read: “As the Father knoweth Me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down My life for the sheep.” And if you inquire into the identity of these sheep, then the Savior declares later in this tenth chapter of John that they are those who have been given Him by the Father. And, mind you, these sheep shall be preserved. Of this there cannot possibly be any doubt. According to John 6:37 they shall come unto Christ. We read: “All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me; and him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out.” Moreover, they shall never perish; and this we read in John 10:28: “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand.” And finally, Jesus will raise them up at the last day, according to John 6:40: “And this is the will of Him that sent Me, that everyone which seeth the Son, and believeth on Him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.” This same thought is also expressed in John 6:44. Indeed, how certain is the preservation of Christ’s sheep!

Thirdly, this preservation of the saints is assured because the Holy Spirit will abide with them forever. Does it not strike our readers how simple and clear these passages are in the Word of our God? We read this in John 14:16: “And I will pray the Father and He shall give you another Comforter that He may abide with you forever.” This “another” Comforter is the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the divine Trinity, but then as the Spirit of Christ. This implies that there is another Comforter besides the Holy Spirit. This other Comforter is our Lord Jesus Christ. He represents us in heaven before the throne of God. He prays and intercedes for us before the Father. The Holy Spirit is our Comforter in our hearts. He intercedes and prays for us with groanings, sighs that cannot be uttered, according to Romans 8:26-27. Our Intercessor in heaven, the Lord Jesus Christ, is familiar with these prayers, these sighs of the Holy Spirit within us, and conveys them to His Father. And the Father, the Triune God, knowing (approvingly) the mind of the Spirit, hearkens to these prayers of the Holy Spirit and of the Lord Jesus Christ because, although we know not what to pray for as we ought, the Spirit is acquainted with all our weaknesses and infirmities, and He knows what is good for us and what we need. This Spirit, we read, will abide with us forever. Of this there cannot possibly be any doubt.

Fourthly, the preservation of the saints is sure because God’s covenant is firm and sure, and it is confirmed with an oath. Beautifully this is set forth by the inspired writer in Hebrews 6:16-18: “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.” What are these two immutable things? Obviously, one of them is God’s counsel. The text speaks of the immutability of God’s counsel. The other immutable thing is God’s oath-bound promise, God cannot lie. That is impossible. He is the God of eternal, unchangeable truth. God, because He would shew more abundantly the unchangeableness of His counsel, confirms it by an oath, takes no “chances,” will take upon Himself the salvation of His own, swears by Himself to save all His own, His sheep, the heirs of the promise, even unto the very end. What a mighty Scripture this is! And the Lord does this that we might have a strong consolation who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us. The child of God now takes his position between these two immutable things. He looks, on the one hand, to God’s unchangeable counsel, and, on the other hand, he sets his eye upon the Lord’s oath-bound promise. And he knows that his preservation is sure. Then we also read in Hebrews 13:20-21: “Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, Make you perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ to Whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” What a mighty word of consolation also this Word of God is! To God be all the glory for ever and ever. And the inspired writer concludes this Scripture with the solemn Amen, which means that thus it shall be. Of this there cannot possibly be any doubt.