Chapter 17, Of the Perseverance of the Saints

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  1. Those whom God hath accepted in the Beloved, effectually called and Sanctified by his Spirit, and given the precious faith of his Elect unto, can neither totally nor finally fall from the state of grace; but shall certainly persevere therein to the end and be eternally saved, seeing the gifts and callings of God are without Repentance, (whence he still begets and nourisheth in them Faith, Repentance, Love, Joy, Hope, and all the graces of the Spirit unto immortality) and though many storms and floods arise and beat against them, yet they shall never be able to take them off that foundation and rock which by faith they are fastened upon: notwithstanding through unbelief and the temptations of Satan the sensible sight of the light and love of God, may for a time be clouded, and obscured from them, yet he is still the same and they shall be sure to be kept by the power of God unto Salvation, where they shall enjoy their purchased possession, they being engraven upon the palm of his hands, and their names having been written in the book of life from all eternity. (John 10:28, 29; Philippians 1:6; 2 Timothy 2:19; 1 John 2:19; Psalms 89:31, 32; 1 Corinthians 11:32; Malachi 3:6)

 

This chapter will address the last of the element in the ordo salutis (i.e. order of salvation) except glorification (31).  By way of review, the order of salvation is as follows in the Confession:  chapter 10, effectual calling/regeneration; chapter 11, justification; chapter 12 adoption; chapter 13, sanctification; chapter 14, faith; chapter 15, repentance; chapter 17, perseverance; and chapter 31, glorification. As we move to this last aspect in the order of salvation (notwithstanding the ultimate last act of glorification), perseverance is among the most important. Here is a basic outline of the chapter: Paragraph 1 will address the nature of perseverance of the saints and its significance. Paragraph 2 will speak of the basis for perseverance of the saints, and paragraph 3 will instruct us about the state of those elect who fall into grievous sin for a season.

Those whom God hath accepted in the beloved, effectually called and sanctified by his Spirit, and given the precious faith of his elect unto. Much of this portion is a review, but these are especially relevant to the new topic of perseverance. Let’s briefly review these four items as it relates to the perseverance of the saints. Those whom God accepted in the Beloved refers to a particular group of people, not of all humanity; it is only these wo will endure to the end.  This wording comes from Ephesians 1:6b “he hath made us accepted in the beloved” (KJV).  Only those who are in the Beloved, the Lord Jesus Christ, are accepted by the Father, and only these will persevere and be eternally saved. God hath effectually called them.  Scripture says of those effectually called: “Those whom he predestined he also called” (ESV). Effectual calling is the consequence of God’s eternal decree of election, and those were elected were done so in Christ, the Beloved.  These effectually called are also sanctified by the Spirit. It appears from the sentence structure (particularly the lack of a comma separating “effectually called and sanctified by the Spirit”) that these are intended to be tied closely together.  Given the Spirit’s work in effectual calling, we would expect them to be closely tied together.  The Spirit, in effectual calling sets us apart for God. Those who are spoken of in this portion are also given the precious faith to his elect. The phrasing “precious faith” likely reflects the wording of Scripture: Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:1 KJV). The precious faith God gives to his elect then is part of what is required to persevere.  If we look at Hebrews 11, for example, we see how much Scripture emphasizes the role of faith in endurance.  God gives a true faith that cannot fail.

And so, those accepted by the Father (in the Beloved), effectually called and sanctified by the Spirit, and given precious faith, can neither totally nor finally fall from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved, seeing the gifts and callings of God are without repentance. These who are beloved, called, sanctified and given a genuine faith cannot totally fall from the state of grace, and they cannot finally fall from that state.  By “totally” the Confession means these cannot completely fall from the state of grace, and “finally” means they cannot permanently or forever fall from the state of grace.  What is “the state of grace” referring to?  The state of grace then refers to that condition whereby God frees us from our natural state of slavery to sin in Adam, and translates us into a state of grace in Christ where by God’s enablement we freely desire and do spiritual good (9:4). Thus, the elect cannot totally or finally lose the enablement to will and to do spiritual good, for the state of grace is a work of God which is irreversible as we will see in a moment.   Paul said under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit: “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6 ESV).  Any who do fall will be sooner or later renewed unto God through repentance, and continue to persevere—moving forward.  We are also reminded of the provision in the covenant of grace of renewal through repentance (15:2). This paragraph provides a rebuttal to the Roman Church that teaches those who fall into “mortal sin” fall from “the state of grace.”  These, according to the Roman Church can only be renewed by absolution granted by the priest when the mortal sinners partakes of the sacrament of penance.  The Confession denies that any sin is mortal exists for those accepted, called, sanctified by the Spirit and given faith.

It not merely that the elect cannot totally and finally fall from grace, but it is that positively they shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved. James Montgomery Boice states: “The doctrine of perseverance means that God who has begun a good work in electing and then calling an individual to salvation, according to his own good purpose, will certainly keep on in that purpose until the person elected and called is brought home to the blessedness that has been prepared for him or her.”[1]  Puritan John Flavel states of perseverance: “It is a steady and constant continuance of Christians in the ways of duty and obedience, amidst all temptations and discouragements to the contrary.”[2]  We will note throughout this chapter both God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility. It is quite true that God preserves us: “The LORD will preserve him” (Psalm 41:2 KJV).  But God’s preserving us is so that by his power in us we persevere.  God work in us moves us to outwardly work.  Perseverance takes exertion on our part we cannot deny, even as we understand God is behind our exertion.  Jesus said of man’s responsibility: But the one who endures [perseveres] to the end will be saved” (Matt 24:13 ESV).

Why is it that the elect do not totally and finally fall from the state of grace, and persevere? Seeing[3] [i.e. because] the gifts and callings of God are without repentance. This is a direct citation from Romans 11:29: “For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance” (KJV).  In the citation, Paul refers to the fact that the Jews remain beloved by God because his gifts and calling is without repentance, or without revocation.  If this is true of Israel, it is certainly true of the church.  Thus, by God’s electing love he called his elect to himself and gives graces enabling the elect to persevere; the gifts and calling are irrevocable.  The wording “without repentance” is from the KJV version; it is clearer in the ESV:  “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.”  God does not elect, call, give graces and then change his mind.  And it is a good thing for us: “For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed” (Malachi 3:6 ESV).  

The God’s gifts and calling are irrevocable whence he still begets and nourisheth in them faith, repentance, love, joy, hope, and all the graces of the Spirit unto immortality. “Whence” refers back to the irrevocable gifts and call.  The word “still,” indicates the begetting and nourishing is something that God began, and “still” continues.  For God to “beget,” means that God produces in us.  For God to “nourish” means he keeps alive.  And so, begetting and nourishing are both necessary.  He produces and causes to grow “faith, repentance, love, joy, hope, and all the graces of the Spirit unto immortality.”  These, and all the other many graces given to us by the Spirit, cause us to persevere unto (i.e. with the result of) immortality. Reflection upon each word (“faith, repentance, love, joy, hope,”) is worthwhile, but there seems no need to provide commentary as each is probably familiar to most readers. This is a very tender picture of God’s care for his people.

And though many storms and floods arise and beat against them, yet they shall never be able to take them off that foundation and rock which by faith they are fastened upon. The trials and tribulations of this life are metaphorically referenced as “storms and floods.” The metaphor points to storms which cause powerful waves which beat not against the shoreline, but against God’s people. Despite this mighty beating, God’s people shall never be moved off that foundation and rock.  The faith is fastened upon the foundation and rock which would of course refer to Christ.  God’s people are not simply sitting upon the foundation and rock, but they are fastened to it.  What fastens them to the foundation?  It is faith.  As hard the waves beat upon God’s people, the mighty waves shall not take them off Christ the foundation and rock; he is their solid foundation, and their faith fastened to him shall not fail.  That Christ cannot fail them is a given, but that their faith will not fail is unexpected.  It would be expected, if it were not for God begetting and nourishing faith and all the other graces in them, that their faith would fail and the storm waves would move them off of Christ the foundation and rock.

 God’s people remain fastened upon the Christ by faith, despite the following: notwithstanding, through unbelief and the temptations of Satan, the sensible sight of the light and love of God may for a time be clouded and obscured from them. Even though they remain fastened upon the foundation and rock by faith, it does not mean that unbelief and temptation of Satan may not cause unbelief which obscures that sense of the light of God (i.e. the knowledge of God) and God’s love. It is not of necessity that this happen to all believers, but it seems most believers do indeed have this experience in one degree or another. There are various seasons which a believer finds himself or herself doubting or being tempted. Regardless of the obscuring clouds of doubt and temptation, those accepted in the Beloved, effectually called, sanctified by the Spirit, and given precious faith, cannot totally and finally fall from the state of grace.

Even though you lose a clear line of sight on God, yet he is still the same, and they shall be sure to be kept by the power of God unto salvation. God is still the same (Heb. 13:8).  We shall be “sure,” that is, securely fastened upon that foundation and rock, and kept by the power of God, and so eternally saved. “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:28 ESV).  What tremendous comfort there is which sees beyond the stormy gales and cloudy skies to the sureness and security we have because God keeping us fastened upon Christ the solid rock upon which we stand.

As a result of God’s power keeping the elect of God unto salvation, they shall enjoy their purchased possession. We will not be forever insensible of the light and love of God, because God will restore the joy of our salvation (Ps. 51:12).  God people have been purchased by Christ, and that purchase is our precious possession, and nothing can shake that salvation.  Because God is gracious to his people, they shall enjoy that purchased possession, and they shall not be forever insensible of the light and love of God. This is so because they [are] engraven upon the palm of his hands, and their names having been written in the book of life from all eternity. These reflect at least two biblical passages: “Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me” (Isaiah 49:16 ESV). “The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life” (Rev. 3:5a ESV).

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  1. This perseverance of the Saints depends not upon their own free will; but upon the immutability of the decree of Election flowing from the free and unchangeable love of God the Father; upon the efficacy of the merit and intercession of Jesus Christ and Union with him, the oath of God, the abiding of his Spirit and the seed of God within them, and the nature of the Covenant of Grace from all which ariseth also the certainty and infallibility thereof. (Romans 8:30; Romans 9:11, 16; Romans 5:9, 10; John 14:19; Hebrews 6:17, 18; 1 John 3:9; Jeremiah 32:40)

 This perseverance of the saints depends not upon their own free will. Reformed doctrine, dare we say, biblical doctrine of perseverance is juxtaposed to the Arminian view. Louis Berkhof states: “The Arminians rejected this view and made the perseverance of believers dependant on their will to believe and on their good works.”[4]  The Confession states that the cause of perseverance is not man’s will, but the immutability of the decree of election.  In other words, it depends on God’s decretive will, not man’s free will.  Jonathon Edwards states: “To suppose that a right to life is suspended on our own perseverance that is uncertain, and has nothing more sure and steadfast to secure it than our own good wills and resolution…is exceeding dissonant to the nature and design of the gospel scheme.”[5] It is a serious deficiency to place the ultimate cause of perseverance in man, and locate it in man’s free will. God’s decree is the first cause of all things; therefore, the first cause of perseverance is God’s decree of election which is immutable—unlike man’s will which could change hourly.  Scripture states: “Though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of his call” (Rom. 9:11 ESV).  God’s decree comes before perseverance and is the first cause of it.

The Confession indicates that God’s decree of election flows from the free and unchangeable love of God the Father. This harkens back to chapter 3, Of God’s Decree, paragraph 1: “God hath decreed in Himself…freely and unchangeably.” God decrees only because he is pleased to do so, and thus all his decrees are free and are of and in himself.  Since God’s essence is love, God’s decree of election freely flows out of his love—the love of God the Father.  This is something we must never forget:  God elected his people because he loves them with a particular love which he freely set upon them. It is beyond our grasp why he set his love upon us, but he did: “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are” (1 John 3:1a ESV).

This perseverance also depends upon the efficacy of the merit…of Jesus Christ. It is helpful to note the repeating word “upon” in this paragraph; it will point us back to the topic: perseverance is not based upon our free will, but based upon….  The first “based upon” was God’s decree of election.  The next “based upon” is found here.  The word “efficacy” applies to “merit,” and also to “intercession” by way of ellipsis.  Christ’s reward or merit he earned by his perfect life and death is effective.  Christ stood in the stead of his elect, as their representative (their federal head), and he did so effectively; Christ satisfied divine justice in full.  “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life” (Rom. 5:9-10 ESV). Jesus said: “Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live”(John 14:19 ESV).  Thomas Watson states: “Would Christ, think ye, have shed his blood that we might believe in him for a little while, and then fall away? Do we think Christ will lose his purchase?”[6]  Therefore, perseverance is based upon Christ’s effective purchase of his elect.

Further, this perseverance depends upon the efficacy of the…intercession of Jesus Christ. Christ’s intercession for us is effective; Jesus always prays according to the Father’s will, and since he sits at the right hand of the Father, there is no prayer that Jesus prays the Father will not answer. This makes Jesus an effective intercessor on our behalf. Do we think for one moment that any of Christ’s prayers for his elect fail?  John 17 records Christ’s prayer for his own while on earth; certainly the Father answers that prayer.  As well, certainly that prayer in John 17 is an excellent reflection of what his prayers look like now in heaven while he is seated at the right hand of the Father.  A.A. Hodge states: “Since, therefore, neither Christ’s redemption nor his intercession can fail of the ends for which they are designed, it is evidently impossible that those for whom he was substituted, and for whom he acquired a perfect righteousness, and for whom he offers an effectual intercession, can fail of salvation.”[7]  Puritan William Gurnall states: “Does Christ pray for us?  Yea, does He not live to pray for us?  Oh, how can children of so many prayers, nay of such prayers, perish?  Say not, your weak faith shall perish, till you hear that Christ has left praying, or meets with a repulse.”[8]

The Confession also adds that this perseverance depends uponunion with him.  Again, we are in a list of things “upon” which perseverance depends.  We discussed the importance of our union with Christ in 13:1.  Our union with Christ is eternal since it is rooted in election and the covenant of redemption whereby Christ agreed with the Father to become our federal head.  Thus, the elect are in union with Christ from eternity ideally in election, objectively by Christ’s perfect work in time, subjectively in the work of the Spirit whereby we are mystically joined with him at the time of our calling, and into eternity we shall forever remain in Christ.  Our union with him underlies all the benefits we receive from him, regeneration, justification, sanctification, adoption, and glorification.  The perseverance of the saints, then, is based upon our union with him.

 Perseverance is also based upon…the oath of God. Scripture states: “So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath (Heb. 6:17 ESV). And so, our perseverance does not depend upon our own free-will, but upon the very oath of God. This brings to mind a stanza of the hymn, “The God of Abraham Praise:”

  •  He by himself hath sworn, I on his oath depend
  • I shall on eagle’s wing up borne to heaven ascend
  • I shall behold his face, I shall his power adore
  • And sing the wonders of his grace forever more.[9]

Our perseverance is also based upon…the abiding of his Spirit, and the seed of God within them. Scripture states: “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God” (1 John 3:9 ESV). Samuel Waldron states: “By perpetuity is meant the idea that the indwelling of the Spirit is not temporary, but permanent.  The first three grounds of perseverance have, thus, focused attention respectively on God the Father in the decree of election, God the Son in the work of redemption, and God the Spirit in the application of redemption.  The gift of perseverance is from all three persons of the Trinity. The Confession speaks of ‘the abiding of the Holy Spirit and the seed of God within them’.  This implies (and I agree with the implication) that the seed of God mentioned in the Scripture refers to the indwelling of the Spirit of God (1 John 3:9).  1 John 3:9 (however the assertion that those born of God do not sin is to be understood) emphatically and unmistakably teaches the perseverance of the saints.”[10]

Now, the Confession moves to show additionally that perseverance does not depend upon free will, but uponthe nature of the covenant of grace. What is the nature of the covenant of grace in regards to perseverance? We see in the book of Jeremiah that God promises to make a “new covenant” in Jeremiah 31:31.  Still speaking of this “new covenant” in Jeremiah 32:40, God states: “I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me” (ESV). This covenant is what we often refer to in Reformed circles as the covenant of grace.  The nature of that covenant of grace consists of the following: 1) the covenant is eternal; 2) God will not cease doing good to the beneficiaries of this covenant; 3) God will put his fear in their hearts; 4) that they may not turn from God.    Based upon the nature of this covenant that they will not turn from God, the Confession then adds: from all which ariseth also the certainty and infallibility thereof. In other words, perseverance arises from (or is based upon) the certainty and infallibility of the nature of the covenant of grace which Jeremiah 32:40 describes is that “they may not turn away.” Thus in the provisions of the covenant of grace is the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints (see also 15:2).

As we review this paragraph, we see persuasive evidence that perseverance does not depend upon our free will; rather, we see it depends upon the Triune God and the nature of his covenant. This relieves a great deal of unsettledness from the unbiblical view that perseverance depends upon us.  Our wayward will and corrupt desire is not something we want our eternal salvation to depend upon.  Now, we ought not to conclude from all this that perseverance of the saints means we do not have to actively persevere.  We need to persevere to the end; the point is that it is God who causes and enables us to do so.

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  1. And though they may through the temptation of Satan and of the world, the prevalency of corruption remaining in them, and the neglect of means of their preservation fall into grievous sins, and for a time continue therein; whereby they incur God’s displeasure and grieve his holy Spirit, come to have their graces and comforts impaired, have their hearts hardened, and their Consciences wounded, hurt, and scandalize others, and bring temporal judgments upon themselves: yet shall they renew their repentance and be preserved through faith in Christ Jesus to the end. (Matthew 26:70, 72, 74; Isaiah 64:5, 9; Ephesians 4:30; Psalms 51:10, 12; Psalms 32:3, 4; 2 Samuel 12:14; Luke 22:32, 61, 62)

 While the saints do persevere, they do at times falter and waiver their way to glory. This paragraph views perseverance of the saints in light of the struggles Christians face this side of glory.  The Confession states: And though they may, through the temptation of Satan and of the world, the prevalency of corruption remaining in them, and the neglect of means of their preservation, fall into grievous sins, and for a time continue therein. The Confession in no way paints a picture of the Christian walk as a perfectionistic journey to the Celestial City.  We have observed several such statements of the Christian life which wages war against sin (5:5; 6:5; 9:4; 11:5; 13:2; 14:3; 15:2; 16:4).  Here is yet another statement which speaks realistically of the Christian life with remaining corruption.  The Confession indicates four means by which the believer may fall into grievous sin. The first is by the temptation of Satan.  The second is the temptation of the world.  The third is the prevalency of corruption remaining in them (see also 9:4b, 13:2).  The fourth is the neglect of the means of their preservation (see also 14:1b).  This refers to neglecting things that strengthen us in our walk with Christ.  Neglecting our growth in Christ is a sure path to grievous sin since both our external enemy, Satan, never ceases to look for an opportunity (Luke 4:13), and our internal enemy, remaining corruption, never ceases to look for an opportunity for sin). There is little need to expound on these four issues as they are self-explanatory.  It is, however, interesting to note that God gave us the Scriptures to address all four of these (1:1b).  Thus, we cannot afford to neglect the word of God in our lives.  These four may even lead us not only to serious sin, but may even lead to the continuation in that sin for a time (i.e. for a season).

As a result of these four things, several things may happen in the believer’s life. First, they incur God’s displeasure and grieve his Holy Spirit. Since God is not partial and hates all sin, even in his people—perhaps especially in his people—the believer’s sin brings God’s displeasure. Scripture says: “Be not so terribly angry, O Lord, and remember not iniquity forever. Behold, please look, we are all your people” (Isaiah 64:9 ESV). Also, Paul tells us: “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption(Eph. 4:30 ESV).  Secondly, believers will come to have their graces and comforts impaired. God may withhold the full measure of his graces from his people while they remain in grievous sin. Even their prayers may be impaired: “The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers” (1 Peter 4:7 ESV).  It is not that God won’t hear his people prayers, in the same sense that he will not regard the prayers of the wicked.  But Scripture seems to indicate God may not regard our prayers if we regard sin: “If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened” (Psalm 66:18 ESV; see also 1 Peter 3:7).  The comforts of the Spirit are impaired (i.e. reduced, hindered) while the believer remains in grievous sin.  We that the comforts of David salvation were impaired, and so he prays: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. 11 Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit” (Psalms 51:10-12 ESV).  David seems to have lost his graces and comforts, and in repentance he seeks their restoration to him.

By grievous sin, believers come to have their hearts hardened, and their consciences wounded. The Psalmists seems to be describing in what follows a lack of repentance:For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. 4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah” (Psalms 32:3-4 ESV). Paul talks about those who lack a clear conscious due to sin: “This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, 19 holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, 20 among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme”( 1 Tim. 1:18-20 ESV).

And believers by grievous sin hurt and scandalize others. Scripture speaks of the dishonor we bring to God when those who name the Lord do not depart from sin: “You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. 24 For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you” (Rom. 2:23-24 ESV).  Waldron wisely exhorts: “Brethren, there is no guarantee that anyone of us will not fall into such sins apart from perpetual watchfulness.  You may be a Christian, but that does not exclude the possibility that you may damn your children, hurt others, bring judgments on yourself and family, and/or have your assurance greatly weakened.  It is wise, then, dear Christian, to go on indolent, sluggish, careless, neglectful in known duty?”[11] Further, by grievous sin they bring temporal judgments upon themselves. We see an example of this when David and Bathsheba’s baby died: “Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord, the child who is born to you shall die” (2 Sam. 12:14 ESV).  God does discipline his own: “And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him” (Heb. 12:5 ESV).

Despite the grievous sin that the believer may fall into, yet shall they renew their repentance and be preserved through faith in Christ Jesus to the end. This echoes the statement in 15:2: “God hath, in the Covenant of Grace, mercifully, provided that believers so sinning, and falling, be renewed through repentance unto salvation.” Those believers who fall into grievous sin and remain in it for a time will yet renew their repentance.  Jesus spoke of Peter’s renewed repentance as an assured event that would occur: “but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:32 ESV). Later in that chapter, after Peter denied the Lord, we see the fulfillment of Jesus’ assurance that Peter would turn (repent). “And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, ‘Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.’ 62 And he went out and wept bitterly” (Luke 22:61-62 ESV).  Waldron states: “True Christians renew their repentance and faith in Christ (Luke 22:32, 61-62; 1 Cor. 11:32).  Just as the elect will not die before they are converted, so the regenerate will not die before they repent. This is a vital argument against Satan’s whisper, ‘If you sin, you can repent.’  Yes, and you will, but to truly repent is to vomit up the sin.  All the enjoyment of eating the dainty morsel of sin is more than made up for by the miserable nausea and vomiting.  There will always be more misery than pleasure in sin for a true Christian!”[12]

This chapter has expressed that the saint will persevere to the end, and will do so because: 1) God begets and nourishes the graces which enable them to persevere; 2) God the Father has unchangeably elected them by decree; 3) Christ’s effective merit and intercession for them; 4) the abiding Spirit of God who seals his elect; and 5) the nature of the covenant of grace. While the saints will persevere, they may by the temptations Satan, the world, and the remaining corruption of the flesh, and neglect of the means of grace, fall into great and grievous sin, and they may remain for a time in that sin; nonetheless, God will ensure that they renew their repentance, and thus they will not perish.  The robust doctrine of the perseverance of the saints stands juxtaposed to the view of today’s easy-believism.  Easy-believism superficially views eternal security as something that requires nothing of the believer but, well, easy-believism.  Such a view rests upon the core value of easy-believism: easiness. That view is vulnerable to the critique that eternal security fosters antinomianism, as indeed easy-believism often does.  However, such a critique cannot fairly be leveled at the perseverance of the saints, for in fact, the perseverance to the end is required for eternal salvation.  But while eternal salvation requires perseverance, that perseverance is found not in man’s free will, but in the Triune God who gives the grace and nourishment needed to sustain his own to the end. The biblical doctrine of the perseverance of the saints contains both God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility.  We seem to think God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility is an “either… or” proposition.  But biblically speaking they are both mutually inclusive in the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints.

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[1] James Montgomery Boice, Foundations of the Christian Faith: A Comprehensive and Readable Theology (InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove, Ill., Leicester, England: 1986), 518.

[2] John Flavel, An Exposition of the Assembly’s Catechism, in Works, 6:206. Cited by Joel R. Beeke and Mark Jones, Puritan Theology, Kindle Edition (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012), Loc. 22792.

[3] From the word “seeing” forward to the end of paragraph 1, the 1689 Confession adopts the wording from the 1646 First London Confession.  The Westminster Confession and the Savoy Declaration  stop at the word “saved” in paragraph 1.

[4] Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology (William B Eerdmans Publishing: Grand Rapids, Cambridge), 545.

[5] Jonathan Edwards: “Miscellanies,” no. 695, in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 18, “The Miscellanies,” 501-832, ed. Ava Chamberlain (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2000), 280.  Cited by Joel R. Beeke and Mark Jones, A Puritan Theology, Kindle Edition (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012), Loc. 23068.

[6] Thomas Watson, A Body of Divinity (1692, reprinted, Edinburgh, The Banner of Truth Trust, 1997), 283. Cited by Joel R. Beeke and Mark Jones, A Puritan Theology, Kindle Edition (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012), Loc. 22975.

[7] A.A. Hodge, The Westminster Confession: A Commentary (1869; reprinted, Carlisle, Pa.: Banner of Truth Trust, 2002), 236.

[8] William Gurnall, The Christian in Complete Armour: A Treatise of the Saints’ War Against the Devil (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1964), 1:265.  Cited by Joel R. Beeke and Mark Jones, A Puritan Theology (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012), Kindle loc. 22987.

[9] Trinity Hymnal (Philadelphia: Great Commissions Publishing, 1961), 32.

[10]   Samuel Waldron, 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith: A Modern Exposition, 3rd ed. (Webster, Ny.: Evangelical Press, 1999), 219.

[11]   Samuel Waldron, 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith: A Modern Exposition, 3rd ed. (Webster, Ny.: Evangelical Press, 1999), 222.

[12]   Samuel Waldron, 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith: A Modern Exposition, 3rd ed. (Webster, Ny.: Evangelical Press, 1999), 222.

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