Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Songs Of Perseverence

Here are the lines to "Am I A Soldier Of The Cross" that Hardshell churches sing.

Am I a soldier of the cross,
a follower of the Lamb,
and shall I fear to own his cause,
or blush to speak his name?

Must I be carried to the skies
on flowery beds of ease,
while others fought to win the prize,
and sailed through bloody seas?

Are there no foes for me to face?
Must I not stem the flood?
Is this vile world a friend to grace,
to help me on to God?

Sure I must fight, if I would reign;
increase my courage, Lord.
I'll bear the toil, endure the pain,
supported by thy word.

Thy saints in all this glorious war
shall conquer though they die;
they see the triumph from afar,
by faith they bring it nigh.

When that illustrious day shall rise,
and all thy armies shine
in robes of victory through the skies,
the glory shall be thine.

The author of this hymn realized the truth that being saved by grace, and being chosen and predestined to salvation does not exclude the chosen and called having to fight to win heaven. Also, it is clear that the author is not talking about obtaining some temporal good, but the obtaining of heaven and final salvation. The lines in bold, in the above song, make this clear.

Today's Hardshells think that salvation being of God and by his grace excludes any idea of the saints having to "win" the prize of salvation. Notice, however, these verses.

"Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead." (Phi. 3: 8-11)

Notice that Paul perseveres, works to stay true to Christ, in order that he may finally "win Christ." Again, this cannot be something unconnected with eternal or final salvation, or made to refer to a mere temporal deliverance. Further, notice the other language that is coupled with the idea of winning Christ. Paul says that he has endured suffering for Christ, not only to win Christ (an event not yet realized, but one expected in the future), but in order to "be found in him." Again, this cannot be made into a mere temporal good and unconnected with final salvation. It is also a being found in him with that righteousness which is "through the faith (belief) of Christ," or "the righteousness which is of God by faith." It is also in order to "know him" (in the intimate joys of heaven's full communion) and to know the power of his resurrection, and to "attain the resurrection of the dead," or "the out resurrection," or "first resurrection," that is, in order to experience the resurrection of the just. This salvation that Paul labors to finally obtain involves "being made conformable unto his death," which is not a mere temporal salvation.

In commenting upon what the apostle means by "If by any means I, might attain unto the resurrection of the dead," Dr. Gill wrote:

"...but in a literal sense and designs not the general resurrection of the just and unjust, which he believed; for he knew that everyone must, and will attain to this, even Pharaoh, Judas, and the worst of men; but the special and particular resurrection of the righteous, the better resurrection, which will be first, and upon the personal coming of Christ, and by virtue of union to him, and in a glorious manner, and to everlasting life and happiness: and when the apostle says, "if by any means" he might attain to this, it is not to be understood as if he doubted of it, which would be inconsistent with his firm persuasion, that nothing should separate him from the love of God, and with his full assurance of faith, as to interest in Jesus Christ; but it denotes the difficulty of attaining it, since through various afflictions and great tribulations a believer must pass, before he comes to it; and also the apostle's earnest desire of it, and strenuous endeavour for it..."

Further, Paul makes an additional summation in verse 14, saying:

"I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."

Dr. Gill says that this prize is "...the incorruptible crown; the crown of life, righteousness, and glory, that fadeth not away, (James 1:12) (2 Timothy 4:8) (1 Peter 5:4), styled "the prize of the calling of God"; because it is what God in the effectual calling calls his people to, even to a kingdom and glory, and to eternal glory and happiness; of which they have a sight, though but a glimmering view of it, and are blessed with hope in it; in which they rejoice, and see their right unto it, in the righteousness of Christ, and have a meetness for it..."

The Greek word for "press" means "to run swiftly in order to catch a person or thing" (Strong).

"Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway." (I Cor. 9: 24-27)

Notice how Paul exhorts the Corinthian Christians to strive to win "the prize." I do not see why this prize is any different from that described in the Phillipian passage just examined. Some believers in the sure perseverence of the saints find it difficult to interpret "the prize" as being the final winning of Christ and heaven, thinking that such an interpretation gives too much credence to Arminianism. Yet, many of these same Calvinists do not think that the striving to win Christ and obtain the resurrection of the righteous, in the Phillipians passage, can be anything but final salvation. But, if the Phillipians passage, which speaks of "winning" salvation, is consistent with the doctrines of grace, then why is this passage not also compatible with them?

It is obvious that the running of the marathon race, or the fighting contest, are symbols of the Christian life and therefore, the prize must be something that is obtained after the race is run, or contest is finished, which must correspond to the end of life, when the race and contest are finished. Paul says that the prize that is won is is an "incorruptible crown." This cannot be disconnected with final salvation in heaven or with the obtaining of immortality.

"Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing." (II Tim. 4: 8)

Notice that the crown is given to the overcomers at the return of Christ and therefore cannot be anything that is received in this life.

Paul says that he runs, fights, keeps his passions in check, all to win the prize and in order not to become a castaway, reprobate, or disqualified, that is, that he not fail to receive the prize and crown.

"Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not." (Gal. 6: 7-9)

Notice how this verse also demolishes the Hardshell reasoning against the idea that the saints are ever exhorted to persevere in order to be finally saved. Paul says that we should labor in sowing, and not to be weary and faint in that activity, in order that we might reap. And what is it that is reaped by our persevering in sowing and well doing? It is "everlasting life." Now, let the Hardshells who deny perseverence come forward and tell us how these verses do not overthrow his reasoning and belief.

"Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief." (Heb. 4: 11)

Notice that Paul speaks of the rest, or promised land, as that which is yet to be obtained. He also does not think that salvation being by grace excludes the need of the elect to persevere and strive to obtain heaven.

Thus, the author of the hymn cited at the outset of this article understood these verses of Scripture, and others like them, and of how the Christian must fight if he would gain heaven.

Those who God has chosen and predestined to salvation, to receive the prize, will surely persevere and win. God has promised to give them the victory. The victory, though the result of striving, is nevertheless the result of God's grace. Paul said "But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." (I Cor. 15: 57) He also said that the gift of Christ, as a sacrifice for sin, is proof that the elect will be given all things, which must include the will and strength to persevere. (Rom. 8: 32) Solomon said "safety (victory) is of the Lord." (Pro. 21: 31) With Christ as the coach of the Christian fighter and runner, how can he fail to win?

Another song that Hardshells sing is called "Palms of Victory," and which also expresses the truth that the saint must persevere to win heaven.

I saw a wayward traveler in tattered garments clad,
And struggling up the mountain, it seemed that he was sad
His back was laden heavy, his strength was almost gone,
It [sic] shouted as he journeyed, 'Deliverance will come!"

Then palms of victory, crowns of glory,
Palms of victory I shall wear

While gazing on that city, just o'er that narrow flood,
A band of holy angels came from the throne of God
They bore him on their pinions, they bore the dashing foam,
And joined him in his triumph, "Deliverance has come!"

When is this "deliverance"? Is it a reference to a mere temporal salvation? The words of the song will not allow such an interpretation. First, there is allusion to Revelation 7: 9 and the saints having "palms in their hands" as they stand in heaven. Also, the last line of the hymn says that the triumphant traveler does not exclaim "deliverance has come" until he has been born by the angels to his rest, and after death.

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