Preservation and the Call to Repentance

The question box has received the question: 

Is it proper for a minister in addressing the congregation to use the words of our Lord as in Luke 13:3, 5, “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish,” or something similar to that, when the Bible says that theelect can never perish

It is, of course, extremely difficult to take a single statement that a minister. might make in his sermon and judge that statement apart from its context. To lift a statement out of its context could possibly change the entire meaning of the statement, or cause it to be understood entirely differently than was intended by the minister. 

We do agree with heart and soul that the elect can never perish. There is no falling away of saints. When the minister addresses the congregation as, “Beloved congregation in our Lord Jesus Christ,” he is deeply aware of the fact that he is not addressing unconverted people, but he is speaking to “saints in Christ Jesus,” even though he is also aware of the fact that there may be, and likely is, a carnal element present. No believer of Reformed persuasion, whether minister on the pulpit or listener in the pew, will want to ignore or say anything contrary to the doctrine of the preservation of the saints, “which God hath most abundantly revealed in His Word, for the glory of His Name, and the consolation of pious souls, and which he impresses upon the hearts of the faithful.” “The spouse of Christ hath always most tenderly loved and constantly defended it, as an inestimable treasure; and God, against whom neither counsel nor strength can prevail, will dispose her to continue this conduct to the end” Canons V, article 15. 

Looking more directly at the text in Luke 13:3, 5, we see at once that Jesus is addressing the Jewish leaders in particular, with also others present. Jesus is answering those Jews who made it a point to tell Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with the blood of their sacrifices. These Galileans had come to the temple for the purpose of sacrificing. Pilate, for some unknown reason, sent his soldiers into the temple, contrary to the Jewish law, and had; possibly in cold blood, killed these Galileans. The blood of these victims was mingled with the blood of the sacrifice, and therefore made the sacrifice impure and unacceptable before God. The conclusion of the Jewish leaders seems to be that these Galileans were such wicked people that God had struck them down and rejected their sacrifice. Reading the minds of these self-righteous Jews, Jesus warns them that if they do not repent of their sins, they also will likewise perish under the judgment of the living God. Our Lord even adds the incident that involved eighteen men of Judea who were killed, not by the violence of Pilate, but by a direct act of providence, for they were killed by the falling of the wall of Siloam. This happened to people from the area of Jerusalem and not to despised Galileans. And again Jesus warns these self-righteous Jews, who feel no need of repentance, that they must repent before a greater evil befalls them. From the parable that follows it becomes evident that these wicked leaders were guilty of rejecting the Christ, and that they would seal their hatred against Him by nailing Him to the cross. Their judgment and condemnation would, therefore, be the greater. 

It is conceivable that a minister is plainly preaching a sermon that condemns all those who are guilty of spiritual indifference, or cold complacency, or even opposition to the Word of God. These may feel no need for repentance, taking the attitude, “The people of the Lord are we.” To those the minister might issue the warning, in order to stress the need of a hearty repentance, “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” 

Never, under any circumstances, should such a statement be made to deprive a sincere believer of the assurance of his faith. Never should such a statement undermine the truth, of the believer’s eternal security. The Word certainly has a twofold purpose and a twofold effect; it must always serve to condemn and admonish the wicked in their evil ways, but positively it must always strengthen the saints in their faith and hope in Jesus Christ. 

It is my sincere hope that this may serve as a bit of help to the one who sent the question. Our Question Box is always open to those who search the Scriptures and have questions pertaining to the Scriptures and our faith in the Word.