devotional

22APR
2019

LBCF 1689 Reflections. Part 144

Reflections on the Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689

23 Aug 14 began a perhaps unbroken, orderly, and personal journey through my favorite written confession of faith. These are my personal reflections on this beloved historic Particular Baptist confession of the Christian Faith.

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Section 17, “Of the Perseverance of the Saints.” 17.1a: “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…”

Everything about our perseverance is based upon God’s free grace. If God ever saves someone, he will keep them saved forever. I believe the Gospel loses its beauty entirely if we deny this. If God saves someone, he will keep them saved. That’s this doctrine restated. I wrote a letter many years ago I’d like to share with you here dealing in part with the Doctrine of Perseverance:

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I love this doctrine. Entering the Sabbath rest of Christ is nothing short of knowing where you are and how you were brought there.

Jesus teaches a parable about a person building a tower to illustrate the sobriety of choosing to follow him. His followers always need to understand that a decision to follow him may cost them everything. It certainly will not cost them nothing. So, he tells this parable: “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’” Luke 14:26-30. There is no “National Guard” for Jesus. That is there are no soldiers in this army who serve just one weekend a month and two weeks a year. This is full time service. If you’re going to follow Jesus, have you thought about what you’re committing to? That’s the question here. This decision may even thrust you into fierce combat. Jesus wants his own to count the cost of following him because it helps them come to him appropriately. Those who’ve seen him will do so and follow him seeing his surpassing worth. But let’s apply this parable to God himself and anyone’s salvation.

In Exodus 32:12, Moses says to God: “Why should the Egyptians speak, saying, ‘With evil intent He brought them out to kill them in the mountains and to destroy them from the face of the earth’? Turn from Your burning anger and change Your mind about doing harm to Your people.” Redeeming Israel would be a long work of God. The nation was birthed and sustained for a very long time. From Moses’ day, there was the Exodus itself, the bread and water in the desert, the wilderness wandering, God’s dealing with their rebellion(s), the taking of Canaan, and then their many years of life therein, etc. Did God first count the cost with it all? Yes. In fact, Paul in Romans 9 hinges all that we believe on the success of God in his plans with Israel saying, “it is not as though the word of God has failed.” I submit to you that I see in this parable a parallel truth with Israel that translates to any individual redeemed today. God simply does not do half works. Just as he doesn’t bring Israel out of Egypt to let them die, so he does not bring a sinner out of the state of sin and death to let them die in their sins as well. If in the parable man will not be mocked for not first counting the cost, how much less will God be mocked that he saved someone from judgment just to leave them to it afterward?

What these writers mean to affirm here is that if God has saved you, he did it with a view to the very end. He was not unaware of who you were. He was not unaware of the sin you’d commit post the day he first saved you and then put the onus on you to not do what he infallibly knew you’d do. John MacArthur once jested about the arrogance of someone saying, “I could lose my salvation, but I haven’t.” No. God counted the cost for your redemption before Adam. He came and bought redemption for perhaps billions of us. If he saved you from your sin, you will be finally saved from it. Romans 8:29-30. This then leads us to understand another facet of perseverance. This isn’t necessarily the same as, “Once saved always saved” though I suspect many use the titles interchangeably.

How does God keep us? It is through faith. Again, it is all of grace, but it is through faith. Christians will sin, but their faith remains. He disciplines those he loves. The sin comes from us. The grace to sustain our love for him comes from him. When Christians sin, their God-granted faith leads them to repent, to seek out forgiveness and to extend it, to stay in church, to fight onward, etc. You need a Gospel bigger than your on-going sins or none would be free from them. Well, here it is. The Gospel is a sustaining Gospel. We are not blind in it. We persevere because perseverance came with the grace to save. I’ll leave you with two wonderful quotes from John Calvin. These two points from Calvin put the blood into the veins of why I believe Christians, without fail, always persevere to the end. Beyond the end in fact-

1) “We dream not of a faith which is devoid of good works, nor of a justification which can exist without them….would you then obtain justification in Christ? You must previously possess Christ. But you cannot possess him without being made a partaker of his sanctification: for Christ cannot be divided….Thus it appears how true it is that we are justified not without, and yet not by works.”

2) To a Catholic bishop Sadoleto, Calvin wrote: “We deny that good works have any share in justification, but we claim full authority for them in the lives of the righteous….It is obvious that gratuitous [grace-wrought] righteousness is necessarily connected with regeneration. Therefore, if you would duly understand how inseparable faith and works are, look to Christ, who, as the Apostle teaches (1 Corinthians 1:30) has been given to us for justification and for sanctification. Wherever, therefore, that righteous of faith, which we maintain to be gratuitous, is, there too is Christ, and where Christ is, there too is the Spirit of holiness, who regenerates the soul to newness of life. On the contrary, where zeal for integrity and holiness is not vigor, there neither is the Spirit of Christ nor Christ himself; and wherever Christ is not, there is no righteousness, nay, there is no faith; for faith cannot apprehend Christ for righteousness without the Spirit of sanctification.”

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