Monday, September 3, 2012

Bad Views on Perseverance

Some good lessons were learned by the citations in our previous posting. Elder Burnam’s statements prove that preservation, while certainly true, does not itself convey if there is such a thing as a subjective or human side of the security we have in Christ. The term presents the truth strictly from the divine viewpoint. Yet as the elder demonstrated on trial, what we are saved “thru” in regeneration (Eph. 2:8), we are kept through “unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (1 Peter 1:5). Perseverance embraces this fact. It was a couple of key statements by Elder Guess, however, which are especially relevant in the current controversy of preservation vs. perseverance. What stands out is that he explicitly denied what others see as the reason why perseverance should be rejected. My guess is that he knows that there are many who have misrepresented the doctrine by claiming that it would suggest that final salvation can be earned. The explicit statements “we get no credit for our perseverance” and “perseverance is not works salvation” are probably specifically addressed to the mind which falsely charges the doctrine as being tantamount to Arminianism, that such is not the case. Just because there is necessary activity seen in the regenerate on his plod towards heaven, this is no cause to label it as a “works” system. Note as well in treating of Peter’s denial of Christ that temporal lapses of obedience are no cause for denying the reality of the saints’ perseverance, something which some of those we shall cite below fail to see. As the elder rightly notes, what we're talking about is their perseverance, not their perfection. Unfortunately, these are the objections which are usually raised against the doctrine, in the effort to prove that preservation is the only admissible term.

Having therefore taken a look at some good views of the perseverance of the saints, it is now time to look at some “not so good”. All emphasis is mine.

“Scripture only uses ‘perseverance’ one time, Ephesians 6:18, and in that passage the word is used as an exhortation to the Ephesians, not in any way teaching a divine decree that causes or ensures the faithful obedience of those whom God has regenerated by grace..” (Joseph R. Holder, Studies in Romans 13:11-14)

It matters not that perseverance only occurs once in the scriptures as there are comparable terms such as “continue” (Col 1:23) and “endure” (Mark 13:13) which teach the doctrine all the same. The decrees of God do ensure the faithful obedience of his people. It is guaranteed by those covenant passages where it is seen as the effect of God’s workings in regeneration (Jer. 32:40, Ez. 36:26-27). And since promised by one who cannot fail, it is certain to be accomplished in those for whom the promise was made.

Nor is classifying a text as exhortative in nature reason to dismiss the certainty that the elect shall obtain that unto which they are exhorted. The means should not be divorced from the end. The certainty of something does not render exhortation unto the same as unnecessary. The land of Canaan was the children of Israel's by promise, but they were still commanded to go up and take it (Deut.1:8). The elect shall positively abide in Christ (1 John 2:27) but are immediately exhorted thereafter to do so (v.28). Eternal life is given unto us but our Savior did not fail in exhorting us to labor for that which shall be given (John 6:27).

 In the same chapter, we read:

“The foundational premise of electing, redeeming, saving grace does not lie in our merit, be it Arminian merit or perseverance merit.”
Here we see the common charge that perseverance is on par with Arminianism. It is a caricature which may be refuted by Elder Guess’s own statement: “We get no credit for our perseverance”. Surely, if merit resulted from perseverance, we would receive credit for its performance.
Nothing done by man unto God can be considered as meritorious, in the strict sense of the term. “No work of man to God can bring Him by its own intrinsic merit, under an obligation to reward. All our works are owed to God; if all were done, we should only ‘have done what was our duty to do’. No right work is done in our own mere strength” (R.L. Dabney, Sanctification and Good Works). It must be understood that in all things we are “unprofitable servants” (Luke 17:10), before and after regeneration.

The same author writes further:
“Apparently after Sarah’s death, Abraham not only married another woman, not in Scripture at all condemned, but, according to the inspired record of Scripture in these two verses, he also embraced the common practice of his day to take concubines in addition to his wife. Abraham didn’t “…hold on his way.”

In response, let us consider this. If we have a verse from the inspired Word of God which explicitly states that the righteous “shall hold on his way” (Job 17:9) and an “example" from scripture where one did not, then one of two things must necessarily follow. Either the Word of God is wrong or our so-called example is no example at all!  If the New Testament includes Abraham as one of the heroes who “died in faith” (Heb. 11:13 w/8), then any microscopic examination of his life to prove otherwise is doomed to failure. The simple mistake Holder makes is feeling that times of disobedience on the part of God’s people is cause to reject the notion that they persevere. Yet the London Confession did not follow such a rule, but openly declared that though the saints can “fall into grievous sins”, they nevertheless persevere to the end! And to this agrees the Fulton Confession itself! More importantly, however, is the testimony of scripture:

“For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again…” (Prov. 24:16)

Perseverance is not that the just shall never fall, but that when they do fall they shall stand up!

Next, in a sermon-transcribed pamphlet entitled Predestination & Providence/Perseverance & Preservation, Elder Ronald Lawrence states:

“The last time we read anything about Lot in Genesis, chapter nineteen, he is in an immoral relationship with his two daughters; they are going to bear two sons by him, and he is drunk. Hardly an example of perseverance. He did not perseverance, did he? Obviously not.”

Later he says:

“…Agrippa made this statement. “Almost, Paul, thou persuades me to be a Christian.” Not all children of God are Christians. All true Christians are children of God, but not all God’s children are Christians."

We can reply to the case of Lot just as we did with Abraham. Times of sin in the lives of God's elect do not overthrow perseverance. As pertains to King Agrippa, the author’s conclusion is what happens when there’s a failure in distinguishing between saving and nominal faith. Possessing the latter is seen as evidence of regeneration. King Agrippa is thus treated as a born-again individual, only one who was not “converted” to the gospel. In Hardshell lingo, he didn’t get his time salvation. And then follows the inevitable deduction that men can be saved but not be Christians! Obviously, if this be the case, then perseverance must be wrong, for how can one continue in that to which he was never originally converted? It is this tendency in some of lumping nominal faith with true “saving faith” that has led those of such mind to view all the grounds mentioned in the parable of the seed-sower (Matt. 13:3-8) as representative of regenerate but unconverted children of God, something which Elder Sylvester Hassell saw in his day as a new theory.
Next, in an article entitled Warning to the Backslider: Hebrews 6, we read:
“How does one define perseverance? If perseverance means that every one of the regenerated elect will be a baptized, active, faithful, growing member of the church, the answer would have to be 'no'. Consider the Rich Young Ruler, whom Jesus loved, that walked away from the Lord because he was covetous. Lot, whom Peter calls a righteous man, was a compromiser. He certainly was not persevering in faith while in Sodom and Gomorrah. Lot's sermon lacked credibility to his daughters when he announced that God would judge the cities of the plain. Many are the sons of God for Jesus gave His life a ransom for many, but only a few are on the narrow way of discipleship.” (Bernard Gowens, Warning to the Backslider: Hebrews 6)

The error here lies in narrowing down the definition of perseverance below that which we should. This allows for ease of the teachings dismissal, as all it would take to overthrow the doctrine is to point out a case where a child of God was not baptized or became stagnant in his church growth. Then we have the case mentioned of the rich young ruler and Lot pointed out again as we’ve already seen, neither of which refute the doctrine of perseverance. Of course, the worst thing seen here is claiming that Heb. 6:4-6 is describing regenerated children of God!
Finally, one of the boldest quotes of which I’m acquainted:
Calvinism asserts that all the elect will persevere in faith and holiness. If an individual does not persevere, then he proves by his apostasy that he was merely a professor, not a possessor, of eternal life. Primitive Baptists insist that Divine Preservation, rather than human perseverance, is the Biblical emphasis, preservation being the term employed in Scripture to describe the eternal security of God’s people.” “A child of God may indeed fall from his own steadfastness in the faith, but will not fall from God's covenant favor. The chastisements upon God's children in disobedience are parental and remedial [corrective], not punitive. All of God's people will be preserved for they are "kept by His power", but they are responsible for "keeping the faith", "keeping their hearts with all diligence", and "keeping themselves in the love of God" (that is, behaving in such a way that He will manifest His blessing upon them and that they may adorn rather than reproach the doctrine they believe). Their preservation, not their perseverance, is guaranteed by covenant decree.”(Michael Gowens and Lonnie Mozingo, Jr., Ten Reasons Primitive Baptists Are Not Calvinists)

It is misleading to say that preservation is the aspect of eternal security emphasized by the Bible. Two truths may co-exist in which one may be said to occupy the forefront, but this is no denial that the second is false. The scriptures teach both preservation and perseverance. To deny the latter is the stubborn refusal to admit that the scriptures teach that there is such a thing as human responsibility within the context of eternal salvation. Whether intentional or not I do not know, but an important passage which teaches both viewpoints of our security in Christ is only partially quoted. Most likely a thought derived from 1 Peter 1:5, our authors tell us that we are "kept by His power" without the adjoining expression "through faith" as the text declares. Why the omission? Perhaps it would be destructive of the very thing sought to be erected here, that men may be kept by the power of God without faith. By including "through faith" countenance is given to the very thing denied, that God's elect do in fact persevere in faith unto final salvation (Heb. 10:39). They are kept by the power of God through faith! Moreover, the subjective experience of salvation and its objective fact would be viewed as joined, two things sought to be separated by the time salvation grid.
And the statement that only preservation and not perseverance, is guaranteed by God’s decree is simply false.


Jeremiah 32:40:
“And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me.”
Ezekiel 36:27:
“And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and you shall keep my judgments, and do them.”
Both of these passages speak of our security from the viewpoint of the creature. The fear of God having been placed in the hearts of His people, the result is guaranteed. They shall not depart from Him! The indwelling of the Spirit inevitably causes the soul to walk in God’s statutes.
As our forefathers rightly declared:
"This perseverance of the saints depends not upon their own free will, but upon immutability of the decree of election…”(1689 London Confession of Faith)
May more and more come to see this comforting fact.

No comments: