Grudem-Perseverance

Grudem-Perseverance - Chapter 40 The Perseverance of the...

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Unformatted text preview: Chapter 40 The Perseverance of the Saints (Remaining a Christian) Can true Christians lose their salvation? How can we know we are truly born again? EXPLANATION AND SCRIPTURAL BASIS Our previous discussion has dealt with many aspects of the full salvation that Christ has earned for us and that the Holy Spirit now applies to us. But how do we know that we shall continue to be Christians throughout our lives? Is there anything that will keep us from falling away from Christ, anything to guarantee that we will remain Christians until we die and that we will in fact live with God in heaven forever? Or might it be that we will turn away from Christ and lose the blessings of our salvation? The topic of the perseverance of the saints speaks to these questions. The perseverance of the saints means that all those who are truly born again will be kept by God’s power unit' will persevere as Christians until the end of their lives, and that only those who persevere until the end have been truly born again, This definition has two parts to it. It indicates first that there is assurance to be given to those who are truly born again, for it reminds them that God’s power will keep them as Christians until they die, and they will surely live with Christ in heaven forever. On the other hand, the second half of the definition makes it clear that continuing in the Christian life is one of the evidences that a person is truly born again. It is important to keep this aspect of the doctrine in mind as well, lest false assurance be given to people who were never really believers in the first place. It should be noted that this question is one on which evangelical Christians have long had significant disagreement. Many within the Wesleyan/Arminlan tradition have held that it is possible for someone who is truly born again to lose his or her salvation, while Reformed Christians have held that that is not possible for someone who is truly born again.1 Most Baptists have followed the Reformed tradition at this point; however, they have frequently used the term “etemal security” or the “etemal security of the believer” rather than the term ‘perseoerante of the saints.” A. All Who Are Truly Born Will Persevere to the End There are many passages that teach that those who are truly born again, who are genuinely Christians, will continue in the Christian life until death and Will then go to be with Christ in heaven. Jesus says, 1The doctrine of the perseverance of the saints is represented by “P” in the acronym TULIP, which is often used to summarize the “five points of Calvinism.” (See full list at p. 679, n. 1].) 40 : PERSEVERANCE OF THE SAINT S 789 I have come down from heaven, not to do my 0W1] will, but the will of him who sent me; and this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up at the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that every one who sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:38740) Here Jesus says that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life. He says that he will raise that person up at the last day—which, in this context of believing in the Son and having eternal life, clearly means that Jesus will raise that person up to eternal life with him (not just raise him up to be judged and condemned). It seems hard to avoid the conclusion that everyone who truly believes in Christ will remain a Christian up to the day of final resurrection into the blessings of life in the presence of God.2 Moreover, this text emphasizes that Jesus does the will of the Father, which is that he should “lose nothing of all that he has given me” (John 6:39). Once again, those given to the Son by the Father will not be lost. Another passage emphasizing this truth is John 10:27—29, in which Jesus says: My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to match them out of the Father’s hand. Here Jesus says that those who follow him, those who are his sheep, are given eternal life. He firrther says that “no one shall snatch them out of my hand” (v. 28). Now some have objected to this that even though no one else can take Christians out of Christ’s hand, we might remove ourselves from Christ’s hand. But that seems to be pedantic quibbling over wordsw—does not “no one” also include the person who is in Christ’s hand? Moreover, we know that our own hearts are fat from trustworthy. Therefore if the possibility remained that we could remove ourself from Christ’s hand, the passage would hardly give the assurance that Jesus intends by it. But more importantly, the most forcefisl phrase in the passage is “they shall never perils ” (v. 28). The Greek construction (ou me‘ plus aorist subjunctive) is especially emphatic and might be translated more explicitly, “and they shall certainly not perish forever.” This emphasizes that those who are Jesus” “sheep” and who follow 2Grant R. Osborne, “Exegetical Notes on Calvinist Texts,” in Grace Unlimited, pp. 170—71, does not give an alternative explanation for Jesus’ statement, “I will raise him up at the last day,” when he deals with this passage. But he does say that in this context v. 35 emphasizes the fact that eternal life is dependent on the individual person “coming and believing” in Christ (p. 171) and that the present tense verbs used for “believe” in these passages imply not merely an initial decision of faith, but rather continuing in that state. _I regret having to differ with my friend and colleague on this question, but there is something to be said in response: while no one would deny that it is necessary for people themselves to believe in Christ for eternal life, and while it is also true that Jesus here speaks not just of initial saving faith but of a faith that [continues over time, the verse does not go so far as to specify that “everyone who believes §0nttnuously until his or her death will have eternal life,” but rather simply says that “he who is presently m astute tfbelieving in Christ” will have eternal life and Jesus will raise him up at the last day. The verse Speaks about all who presently are in a state of believing in Christ, and it says that all of them will be raised up by Christ at the last day. No further objections to this specific verse are given in Osbome’s Econd essay, “Soteriology in the Gospel of John,” in The Grace of God, the Will ofMan, p. 248. 790 40 : PERSEVERANCB OF THE SAINTS him, and to whom he has given eternal life, shall never lose their salvation or be separated from Christ—they shall “never perish.”3 D ‘c There are several other passages that say those who believe have eternal fife.» One example is John 3:36: “He who believes in the Son has eternal life” (cf, also John 5:24; 6:47; 10:28; 1 John 5:13). Now if this is truly eternal life that believers have, then it is life that lasts forever with God. It is a gift of_God that comes with salvation (it is put in contrast to condemnation and eternal judgment in John 3: 16—17, 36; 10:28). Arminians have objected that-“eternal life” 18 Simply a quality of life, a type of life in relationship with God, which one can have for a time and then lose. But this objection does not seem to be convmcmg in view of the clear nuance of unending time involved in the adjective eternal (Gk. 315nin “eternal, without end”).‘1 Certainly there is a special quality aboutthis life, but the emphasis in the adjective eternal is on the fact that it is theopposne of death; it is the opposite of judgment and separation from God; it is life that goes on forever in the presence of God. And he who believes in the Son has this “eternal life” (John 3:36). . - . Evidence in Paul’s writings and the other New Testament epistles also indicates that those who are truly born again will persevere to the end. There remains “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1); therefore, it would be unjust for God to give any kind of eternal punishment to those who are Christians—no condemnation remains for them, for the entire penalty for their sins has been paid. . Then in Romans 8:30, Paul emphasizes the clear connection between‘God’s eternal purposes in predestination and his working out of those purposes in life, together with his final realization of those purposes in “glorifi/mg’ or giving final resurrection bodies to those whom he has brought into union With Christ: “And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.” Here Paul sees the future event of glorification as such a certainty in God’s settled purpose‘that he can speak of it as if it were already accomplished (“he also glorified”). This is true of those who are called and justified—that is, all those who trulybecome Christians. Further evidence that God keeps those who are born again-safe forletemity is the “seal” that God places upon us. This “seal” is the Holy Spirit Within us, who 3The Greek word used here for “perish” is apolljmi, the same term John uses in John 3: 16 to say that “whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” A Grant Osborne, in “Exegetical Notes on Calvinist Texts,” p. 172,. says that this verse must not be interpreted apart from the teaching about the vine and the branches in John 15:1- 7, but he gives g3 alternative explanation for the phrase “they shall never perish,” and gives no reason why we should I to understand it to mean that these people will certainly have life With forever in heaven. In his subsequent article, “Soteriology in the Gospel of John,” Osborne again mentions John 10:23, but gives no alternative explanation for it other than to say that this passage emphasizes God’s sovereignty, but other passages in John emphasize the faith-response that works together With God 5 sovere1gnty- These articles do not seem to provide a reason why we should not understand these words in an ordinary sense, indicating that one who believes in Christ Will certainly never fall away. i d Of course, those who believe in the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints (such as myself) woill affirm that the way God keeps us safe is by causing us to continue to be11eve in Christ (see diSCiISSlm below), so to say that Scripture also emphasizes the necesmty of conttnumg in faith is not to objectttlo the doctrine of perseverance of the saints as it has been expressed by. Reformed theologians frcqtlfll Y in the history of the church. In other words, there is a way to believe in both sets of texts without concluding that people who are truly born again can lose their salvation. 43AGD, p. 23. 40 : PERSEVERANCE OF THE SAINTS 791 also acts as God’s “guarantee” that we will receive the inheritance promised to us: “In him you also, who have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, which is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory” (Eph. 1:13—14). The Greek word translated “guarantee” in this passage (awabfin) is a legal and commercial term that means “first installment, deposit, down payanent, pledge” and represents “a payment which obligates the contract- ing party to make fiirther payments.”5 When God gave us the Holy Spirit within, he committed himself to give all the further blessings of eternal life and a great reward in heaven with him. This is why Paul can say that the Holy Spirit is the “guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it” (Eph. 1:14). All who have the Holy Spirit within them, all who are truly born again, have God’s unchanging promise and guarantee that the inheritance of eternal life in heaven will certainly be theirs. God’s own faithfulness is pledged to bring it about.‘5 Another example of assurance that believers will persevere to the end is found in Paul’s statement to the Philippians: “I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6). It is true that the word “you” here is plural (Gk. laymar), and thus he is referring to Christians in the Philippian church generally, but he is still talking about the specific believers to whom he is writing, and saying that God’s good work that began in them will continue and will be completed at the day Christ returns.7 Peter tells his readers that they are those “who by God’s power are guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:5). The word guarded (Gk. phronreo‘) can mean both “kept from escaping” and “protected from attac ” and perhaps both kinds of guarding are intended here: God is preserving believers from escaping out of his kingdom, and he is protecting them from external attacks. The present participle that Peter uses gives the sense “You are continually being guarded.”8 He stresses that this is by God’s power. Yet God’s power does not work apart from the personal faith of those being guarded, but through their 5Ibid., . 109. “OsborfiJe, “Exegetical Notes on Calvinist Texts,” p. 181, answers this verse by saying that Paul also teaches personal responsibility, since “the Christian is warned not to ‘grieve’ the Spirit (cf. 1 Thess. 4:8)” and “the danger of apostasy is real, and he dare not ‘grieve’ the Spirit.” But once again this objection provides no alternative interpretation to the verse at hand, but simply refers to other verses that teach personal responsibility, a fact that a Reformed theologian would also be eager to affirm. Amiinian dieologians frequently assume that if they affirm human responsibility and the need for continuing in faith they have thereby negated the idea that God’s sovereign keeping and protection is absolutely certain and eternal life is guaranteed. But they often to do this without providing any other Convincing interpretations for the texts cited to demonstrate the doctrine of perseverance 0f the saints, 0! any explanation that would show why we should not take these words as absolute guarantees that those who are born again will certainly persevere to the end. Rather than assuming that passages on hunian responsibility negate the idea of God’s sovereign protection, it seems better to adopt the Reformed position that says that God’s sovereign protection is consistent with human responsibility, because it works through human responsibility and guarantees that we will respond by maintaining the faith that is necessary to persevere. 7Osborne rightly rejects the idea that this refers only to the fact that the church will continue. He sayS, “Paul does intend that the promise extend to the individual. He will be kept by God with a view t0 the final salvation, but this does not obviate the need for perseverance” (“Exegetical Notes on Calvinist Texts,” p. 182). 8The following three paragraphs are taken from W. Grudem, The First Epistle of Peter (Leicester: [liter-Varsity Press, and Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988), pp. 58759. 792 40 .' PERSEVERANCE OF THE SAINTS faith. (“Faith,” pitta}, is regularly a personal activity of individual belieVers in '- Peter’s epistles; see 1 Peter 1:7, 9, 21; 5:9; 2 Peter 1:1, 5; and commonly in the New Testament.) The parallel examples of God working “through” someone or something in Peter’s writings (1 Peter 1:3, 23: 2 Peter 1:4, and probably also 1 Peter 1:12; 2:14; 3:1) suggest that the believer’s personal faith or trust in God‘ is the means God uses to guard his people. Thus we might give the sense C.de j versc by saying that «God is continually using his power to guard his people by means of their faith,” a statement that seems to imply that God’s power in fact ' energizes and continually sustains individual, personal faith.9 This guarding is not for a temporary goal but for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. “Salvation” is used here not of past justification of of present sanctification (speaking in theological categories) but of the fiitm-c full . possession of all the blessings of our redemption—of the final, com let: i' fiilfillment of our salvation (cf. Rom. 13:11; 1 Peter 2:2). prepared or “ready,” it will not be “revealed” by God to mankind generally until the “last time,” the time of final judgment. 2 This last phrase makes it difficult if not impossible to see any end to Godu guarding activity. If God’s guarding has as its purp05e the preservation of believers until they receive their full, heavenly salvation, then it is safe to conclude .2 that God will accomplish that purpose and they will in fact attain that final salvation. Ultimately their attainment of final salvation depends on God’s power, Nevertheless, God’s power continually works “through” their faith. Do they wish to know whether God is guarding them? If they continue to trust God throng; Christ, God is working and guarding them, and he should be thanked. :- This emphasis on God’s guarding in combination with our faith provides a natural transition to the second half of the doctrine of perseverance. ' ? 8 “E— B. Only Those Who Pei-severe to the End Have Been Truly Born Again While Scripture repeatedly emphasizes that those who are truly born again persevere to the end and will certainly have eternal life in heaven with God, I are other passages that speak of the necessity of continuing in faith throu life. They make us realize that what Peter said in 1 Peter 1:5 is true, namely, _, -' God does not guard us apartfrom our faith, but only by working through our ' so that he enables us to continue to believe in him. In this way, those continue to trust in Christ gain assurance that God is working in them guarding them. ' One example of this kind of passage is John 8:31—32: “Jesus then said to _ Jews who had believed in him, ‘Ifyou continue in my word, you are truly disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.’ ”.J «i _ here giving a warning that one evidence of genuine faith is continuing in his that is, continuing to believe what he says and living a life of obedience to ElI'he translation by J. N. D. Kelly, “as a result of . . . faith,” is an extremely unlikely rendering L very common construction dia with the genitive (the few examples of this construction meaning result of” which are suggested in, BAGD, p. 180, IV, are all ambiguous, and Kelly mms€1f examples: see J. N. D. Kelly, A Commentary on the Epistle: of Peter and Jude, Black’s New T Commentaries [Londom Black, 1969), p. 52). - 40 .' PERSEVERANCE OF THE SAINTS 793 c0mmands. Similarly, Jesus says, “He who endures to the end will be saved” (Matt. 10:22), as a means of warning people not to fall away in times of persecution. Paul says to the Colossian Christians that Christ has reconciled them to God, «in order to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him, that you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel which you heard” (Col. 1:22—23). It is only natural that Paul and the other New Testament writers would speak this way, for they are addressing groups of people who profess to be Christians, without being able to know the actual state of every person’s heart. There may have been people at Colossae who had joined in the fellowship of the church, and perhaps even Professed that they had faith in Christ and had been baptized into membership of the church, but who never had true saving faith. How is Paul to distinguish such People from true believers? How can he avoid giving them false assurance, assurance that they Will be saved eternally when in fact they will not, unless they come to true repentance and faith? Paul knows that those whose faith is not real will eventually fall away from participation in the fellowship of the church. Therefore he tells his readers that they will ultimately be saved, ‘jirovided that you continue in the fiiith” (Col. 1:23). Those who continue show thereby that they are genuine believers. But those who do not continue in the faith show that there was no genuine faith in their hearts in the first place. A similar emphasis is seen in Hebrews 3:14 (NASB): “For we have become Pariakers of Christ, we hold fart the beginning of our assurance firm to the end.” This verse provrdes an excellent perspective on the doctrine of perseverance. How do we know if “we have become partakers of Christ”.> How do we know if this being joined to Christ has happened to us at some time in the pasth One wav in which we know that we have come to genuine faith in Christ is if we contiqu in faith until the end of our lives. . Attention to the context of Hebrews 3: 14 will keep us from using this and other sunilar passages in a pastorally inappropriate way. We must remember that there are other evidences elsewhere in Scripture that give Christians assurance of salvation,11 so we should not think that assurance that we belong to Christ is impossible until we die. However, continuing in faith is the one means of assurance that is named here by the author of Hebrews. He mentions this to warn his readers that they should not fall away from Christ, because he is writing to a situation where Such a warning is needed. The beginning of that section, just two verses earlier said, “Take care, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart: leading you to fall away from the living God” (Heb. 3:12). In fact, in all of the passages where continuing to believe in Christ to the end of our lives is mentioned as one indication of genuine faith, the purpose is never to make those who are _ Presently trusting in Christ worry that some time in the future they might fall My (and We should never use these passages that way either, for that would be to 3m Wrongful cause for worry in a way that Scripture does not intend). Rather, die purpose lS always to warn those who are thinking offalhng away or have fallen “my that if they do this it is a strong indication that they were never saved in the i . _"The symbor uses the perfect tense verb ggonamen, “we have become” (at some time in the past, PCS ts that continue into the present). 1 . . . 13°C the list of evrdences of salvation given in- section D, pp. 803—6, below. 794 40 : PERSEVERANCE OF THE SAINT S first place. Thus, the necessity for continuing in faith should just used as a warning against falling away, a warning that those who fall away give evident: that their faith was never real. _ John clearly states that when people fall away from fellowship with the church and from belief in Christ they thereby show that their faith was not real in the first place and that they were never part of the true body of Christ. Speaking of people who have left the fellowship of believers, John says, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for they had been efns, they would have continued with m; hm I .- they went out, that it might be plain that they all are not of us” (1 John 2:19). . ,- John says that those who have departed showed by their actions that they “were not of dus”fthat they were not truly born again. C. Those Who Finally Fall Away May Give Many External Signs of Conversion Is it always clear which people in the church have genuine saving faith and which have only an intellectual persuasion of the truth of the gospel but no genuine faith in their hearts? It is not always easy to tell, and Scripture mentions in several places that unbelievers in fellowship with the visible church can give some external signs or indications that make them look or sound like genuine believers, For example, Judas, who betrayed Christ, must have acted almost exactly like the other disciples during the three years he was with Jesus. So convnncmg was his conformity to the behavior pattern of the other disciples, that at the end of thrcc years of Jesus’ ministry, when he said that one of his disciples would betray him, they did not all turn and suspect Judas, but they rather “began to say to him one after another, ‘15 it I?’ ” (Matt. 26:22; cf. Mark 14:19; Luke 22:23; John 13:22). However, Jesus himself knew that there was no genuine faith in Judas’ heart, because he said at one point, “Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?” (John 6:70). John later wrote in his gospel that “Jesus knew from the first who those were that did not believe, and who it was that would betray him” (John 6:64). But the disciples themselves did not know. Paul also speaks of ‘false brethren secretly brought in” (Gal. 2:4), and says that . in his journeys he has been “in danger from false brethren” (2 11:26). He '; also says that the servants of Satan “disguise themelver as servants of righteousness? (2 Cor. 11:15). This does not mean that all unbelievers in the church I nevertheless give some signs of true conversion are servants of Satan undermining the work of the church, for some may be in process of consrdcnng the claims of the gospel and moving toward real faith, others may have heard only ‘ 7 an inadequate explanation of the gospel message, and others may not have come“ under genuine conviction of the Holy Spirit yet. But Paul’s statements do mean, that some unbelievers in the church will be false brothers and Sisters sent disrupt the fellowship, while others will simply be unbelievers who Will events-3L!" come to genuine saving faith. In both cases, however, they give several ext signs that make them look like genuine believers. We can see this also in Jesus’ statement about what will happen at the judgment: 40 .' PERSEVERANCE OF Tm SAINTS 795 Not every one who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?” And then will I declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.” (Matt. 7:21—23) Although these people prophesied and cast out demons and did “many mighty works” in Jesus’ name, the ability to do such works did not guarantee that they were Christians. Jesus says, “I never knew you.” He does not say, “I knew you at one time but I no longer know you,” nor “I knew you at one time but you strayed away from me,” but rather, “I never knew you.” They never were genuine believers. A similar teaching is found in the parable of the sower in Mark 4. Jesus says, “Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it had not much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil; and when the sun rose it was scorched, and since it had no root it withered away” (Mark 4:5—6). Jesus explains that the sced sown upon rocky ground represents people who “when they hear the word, imrnediately receive it with joy; and they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away” (Mark 4:16—17). The fact that they “have no root in themselves” indicates that there is no source of life within these plants; similarly, the people represented by them have no genuine life of their own within. They have an appearance of conversion and they apparently have become Christians because they receive the word “with joy,” but when difliculty comes, they are nowhere to be found—their apparent conversion was not genuine and there was no real saving faith in their hearts. The importance of continuing in faith is also affirmed in the parable of Jesus as the vine, in which Christians are portrayed as branches (John 15: 1«—7). Jesus says: I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. . . . If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned. (John 15:1-2, 6) Arminians have argued that the branches that do not bear fruit are still true branches on the vine—Jesus refers to “Every branch qfnn'ne that bears no fruit” (v. 2). Therefore the branches that are gathered and thrown into the fire and burned must refer to true believers that were once part of the vine but fell away and became subject to eternal judgment. But that is not a necessary itnplication of Jesus’ teaching at this point. The imagery of the vine used in this parable is limited In how much detail it can teach. In fact, if Jesus had wanted to teach that there were true and false believers associated with him, and if he wanted to use the analogy of a vine and branches, then the only way he could refer to people who do not have genuine life in themselves would be to speak of branches that bear no fi'Ult (somewhat after the analogy of the seeds that fell on rocky ground and had “no root in themselves” in Mark 4:17). Here in John 15 the branches that do not but fi'uit, though they are in some way connected to Jesus and give an outward aPPtfaI‘ance of being genuine branches, nonetheless give indication of their true State by the fact that they bear no fruit. This is similarly indicated by the fact that 796 40 .' PERSEVERANCE OF THE SAINTS the person “does not abide” in Christ (Iohn 15:6) and is cast off as a branch and withers. If we try to press the analogy any further, by saying, for example, that all branches on a vine really are alive or they would not be there in the first Pla then we are simply trying to press the imagery beyond what it is able to teach... and in that case there would be nothing in the analogy that could represent false believers in any case. The point of the imagery is simply that those who bear fruit thereby give evidence that they are abiding in Christ; those who do not, are net abiding in him. Finally, there are two passages in Hebrews that also afiirm that those who finally fall away may give many external signs of conversion and may look in many ways like Christians. The first of these, Hebrews 6:4—6, has frequently been used by Arminians as proof that believers can lose their salvation. But on closer inspection such an interpretation is not convincing. The author writeS, For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they then commit apostasy, since they crucify the Son of God on their own account and hold him up to contempt. (Heb. 6:4—6) The author continues with an example from agriculture: For land which has drunk the rain that Often falls upon it, and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed; its end is to be burned. (Heb. 617—8) In this agricultural metaphor, those who receive final judgment are compared in land that bears no vegetation or useful fruit, but rather bears thorns and thistlcs. a When we recall the other metaphors in Scripture where good fruit is a sign of mi spiritual life and fruitlessness is a sign of false believers (for example, Matt. 3:8— 10; 7:15—20; 12:33—35), we already have an indication that the author is speaking of people whose most trustworthy evidence of their spiritual condition (the fruit they bear) is negative, suggesting that the author is talking about who are not genuinely Christians. . Some have objected that the long description of things that have happened these people who fall away means that they must have been genuinely born ., ' But that is not a convincing objection when we look at the individual terms The author says they have “once been enigmatic ” (Heb. 6:4). But I enlightening simply means that they came to understand the truths of the gOS not that they responded to those truths with genuine saving faith.12 Similarly, the word once that is used to speak of those who “have once 12The word enlightened translates the Greek term phfin'zfi, which refers to learning in general. necessarily a learning that results in salvation—it is used in John 1:9 of “enlightening” every man comes into the world, in 1 Cor. 4:5 of the enlightening that comes at the final judgment, and In 1:18 of the enlightening that accompanies growth in the Christian life. The word is not a “t term” that means that the people in question were saved. ‘ After completing the following discussion of Hebrews 6:4r6, I wrote a much more extenslvc ' with additional analysis, supporting data, and interaction with other literature: see Wayne “Perseverance of the Saints: A Case Study From Heb. 6:4—6 and the Other Warning Hebrews,” in The Grace of God, the Bondy: of the Will, vol. 1, ed. Tom Schreincr and 31110: (Grand Rapids: Baker. forthcoming in 1995). 40 .' PERSEVERANCE OF THE SAINTS 797 enlightened” is the Greek term hapax, which is used, for exam le in Phi ' ‘ 416 of the l’htlippians’ sending Paul a gift “once and again,” an% Hebrleliz’EEI-I’; of entrance In the Holy of Holies “once a year.” Therefore, this word does not mean that something happened “once” and can never be repeated, but simply that it happened once, Without specifying whether it will be repeated or not.13 The text further says that these people “have tasted the heavenly gift” and that they “have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come” (Heb. 624—5).-Inherent in the idea of tasting is the fact that the tasting is temporary and one might or might not decide to accept the thing that is tasted For example, the same Greek word (gamut) is used in Matthew 27:34 to say that those cruc1fying Jesus “offered him wine to drink, mingled with gall; but when he mail. it, he would not drink it.” The word is also used in a figurative sense mc-anlng ‘ come to know something.”14 If we understand it in this figurative sense as it must understood here since the passage is not talking about tasting literal food, then it means that these people have come to understand the heavenly gift (which probably means here that they had experienced some of the power of the Holy Spirit at work) and to know something of the Word of God and the powers of the age to come. It does not necessarily mean that they had (or did not have) gcnlllnc savuig faith, but may sitnply mean that they came to understand it and have some experience of spiritual power}5 "The text also further says that these people “have become partakm of the Holy Spirit” (Heb. 6:4). The question here is the exact meaning of the word metacbar which is here translated “partaker.” It is not always clear to English-speaking readers that this term has a range of meaning and may imply very close participation and attachment, or may only imply a loose association with the other person or persons named. For example, the context shows that in Hebrews 3:14 to become a “par-taker” of Christ means to have a very close participation with him in a saving relationship.lfi On the other hand, Wroclaw can also be used in a much looser sense, Simply to refer to associates or companions. We read that when the distiples took in a great catch of fish so that their nets were breaking, “they “This is not the same word as cphnpux, which is more re ar noliltrReApEggble iggiyit'sréRom. 6:10; Heb. 7:27; 9:12; HIM)?“J [y , p. . . ey mention other examples of gem “taste” , such as Herodotus gpgoplégf Miletus had “tasted of freedom,” but it was certainly not)thClr own possession éTfiie::l:§ io ryso’stom, 32.72, where he speaks of the people of Alexandria in a time when they “had a mm of warfare in an encounter With Roman troops who were simply harassing them and not actually flgfihgenume war: Josephus, Tbejrwitb War, 2.158, speaks about the theological views of the lose h alilireby they irresrstibly attract all who have once tat-mi their philosophy.’l Here again thchp us Iq3 es it clear that those who have “once tasted” have not yet made the Essene philosophy the hating] urge simply very strongly attracted to it. By analogy, in Heb. 6 those who have “tasted” am thin; y g1 and the word of God and the powers of the age to come may be strongly attracted to I th gs, or they may not be, but mere tasting does not mean that they have made it their own—- at; c clpritrary, if all the author can say of them is that they have “tasted” these mings it suggests “Th 3", 0:11: “at; 111:1(116 whgt- thlply bragtgd to be their own. 3 I I is so pse in I e . : to say that Jesus “tasted death,” indicatin th m BREE expefiience (but tasted” is an apt word because he did not remain dead). Tlgie agingcchadlnd 1:: 7:22. 1 0:6 10 had some experience of heavenly gifts, as can be true even of unbelievers (cf. Matt. ear and 4, 2 Peter 2:20—22). In Heb. 6:4_—5 these people’s experience of the Holy Spirit’s itself d0 e Word of God was of course a genome axpefimce (just as Iesusgmuincly died) but that Des not show that the people had an experience of regeneration. , i“The s ‘ ' ' Iwc sharzmi: (gfipfitgiord memoirs: is used In Heb. 3:14, even though the English text of the RSV says used in the New Testament of 798 40 .' PERSEVERANCE OF THE SAINTS beckoned to their partners in the other boat to come and help them” (Luke 5:7)_ Here it simply refers to those who were companions or partners with Peter and the other disciples in their fishing work.” Ephesians 5:7 uses a closely related word (rymmtocbos, a compound of metochos and the preposition syn [“withnh when Paul warns Christians about the sinful acts of unbelievers and says, “do net associate with them” (Eph. 5:7). He is not concerned that their total nature will be transformed by the unbelievers, but simply that they will associate with them and have their own witness compromised and their own lives influenced to some degree by them. By analogy, Hebrews 624—6 speaks of people who have been “associated with” the Holy Spirit, and thereby had their lives influenced by him, but it need mt imply that they had a redeeming work of the Holy Spirit in their lives, or that they were regenerated. By similar analogy with the example of the fishing companions in Luke 5:7, Peter and the disciples could be associated with them and even to some degree influenced by them without having a thoroughgoing change of life caused by that association. The very word metochos allows for a range of influence from fairly weak to fairly Strong, for it only means “one who participates with or shares with or accompanies in some activity.” This was apparently what had happened to these people spoken of in Hebrews 6, who had been associated with the church and as such associated with the work of the Holy Spirit, and no doubt had been influenced by him in some ways in their lives.18 Finally, the text says that it is impossible “to restore again to repentance” peoplc who have experienced these things and have then committed apostasy. Some have argued that if this is a repentance to which they need to be restored again, then it must be genuine repentance. But this is not necessarily the case. First, we must realize that “repentance” (Gk. metamia) does not need to refer to inward heart 1"'Heb. 1:9 also uses the same word to speak of “comrades” (RSV) or “companions” (Niv, Hm). 18The other uses of mztocbos in Hebrews (3:1 and 12:8) do suggest closer association or participation, but even 12:8, which talks about people becoming partakets in discipline, certainly allows for the fact that some may receive that discipline but not be transformed by it. In any case, die , evidence is not strong enough to make us think that the author of Hebrews used this word as a) “technical term” that always referred to a saving kind of participation (it did not in Heb. 1:9 and 12:3); _' and our understanding of the sense of the word must be governed by an examination of the range of meaning it can take in the Greek literature of the New Testament and in other literature that shares a " similar vocabulary with the writers of the New Testament. The usage of the Septuagint is also instructive with respect to this word, since in several instances only refers to companionship, not any kind of regenerating or life-changing experience with God with the Holy Spirit. For instance, in 1 Sam. 20:30, Saul accuses Jonathan of being a “partner” ' David. In Ps. 119163, the psalmist says he is a “companion” ofall those who fear God. Eccl. 4:10 53 that two are better than one, for if they fall, the one will lift up his “partner.” Prov. 28:24, in “It translations of Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotian, uses this word to say that a man who father or mother is a “companion” of ungodly men. Examples of somewhat stronger association - seen in Esth. 8:13; Prov. 29:10, Hos. 4:17; 3 Mace. 3:21. The conclusion of this examination of the term Mocha: is that, while it can be used of very ' association with saving results in a person’s life, it can also be used simply of I ‘ participating with someone else. Therefore the term itself does not require that the people In . 6:4—6 had saving participation with the Holy Spirit or had been regenerated. It simply means thCY " in some ways been associated with and influenced by the Holy Spirit. , The people who prophesied and cast out demons and did many mighty works in Jesus’ Balm Matt. 7:22 are good examples of ople who certainly did have some sharing in the work of the ,i. Spirit or who had become “part ers” of the Holy Spirit in this sense, but had not been saVch says, “I never knew you” (Matt. 7:23). 40 : PERSEVERANCE OF THE SAINT S 799 repentance unto salvation. For exam le, Hebrews 12:17 uses thi of a change of mind that Esau souglit concerning the sale of his5 fligh‘i'igfitspatiiald refersto it as “repentance” (metanoi'a). This would not have been a repentandc for salvation, but simply a change of mind and an undoing of the transaction mgardll'lg his birthright. (Note also the example of Iudas’ repentance in Matt 27:3flhowbeit with a different Greek word.) . The cognate verb “to repent” (Gk. metanoeo) is sometimes used to refer not to Sawing repentance, but Just to sorrow for individual ofienses in Luke 17:3—4: “If your brother Sins, rebuke him, and he repent: forgive him; and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, and says, ‘I repent ’ you must forgive him.” We conclude that “repentance” simply means a sorrow for actions that have been done or for sins that have been committed. Whether or not it ,5 a genuine savmg repentance, a “repentance unto salvation,” may not be always Fwdent right away. The author of Hebrews is not concerned to specify whether it 13 a genuine repentance or not. He is simply saying that if someone has a sorrow for sin and comes to understand the gospei and experiences these various blessings of the Holy Spirit’s work (no doubt in fellowship with the church) and then turns away, it Will not be possible to restore such a person again to a plaiie of sorrow for 5111. But this does not necessarily imply that the repentance was genuine savin repentance in the first place. g At this pomt we may ask what kind of person is described bv all of these terms These are no doubt people who have been affiliated closely with the fellowship of the church. They have had some sorrow for sin (repentance). They have clearly understood the gospel (they have been enlightened). They have come to appreCiate the attractiveness of the Christian life and the change that comes about in people’s lives because of becoming a Christian, and thev have probably had answers to prayer in their own lives and felt the power of the Holy Spirit at work perhaps even usmg some spiritual gifts in the manner of the unbelievers Matthew 7:22 (they have become “associated with” the work of the Holy Spirit or have become “partakers” of the Holy Spirit and have tasted the heavenly gift and $2 p‘grigleciis ofdthfi age of come). élI‘hey have been exposed to the true preaching of an ave a recrate muc ' ' ess of the wordpgf GOd). h of its teachings (they have tasted the But then in spite of all this, if they “commit a stas ’ and “cruci t God on their own account and hold him up to eightemgt” (Heb. 6:2), [flieiotrhgyfr‘ are Willfully rC]CCtll‘lg all of these blessings and turning decidedly against them i’hcrhaps all of us'have known in our own churches people who (sometimes by buCll' own profession) have long been affiliated with the fellowship of the church f0 t are not themselves born—again Christians. They have thought about the gospel Pcl‘rlyparstialnd hafye continfileld to resist the wooing of the Holy Spirit in their lives ps rou an unw‘ ‘n ess to ive ' ' ' , Figuring to glmg to it thflgniIidecs' g up lordship of their lives to Iesus and 0W e author tells us that if time people Will it turn own all 0 Wavy blessings, then it will be impossible to reftbfle them aggmfitad’zany kiniigif calfigfl'fiinice or sorrow for 51!]. Their hearts will be hardened and their consciences Sm 0:16 .'What more could be done to bring them to salvation? If we tell them If“); tfi is true they Will say that they know it but they have decided to reject it. t6 them God answers prayer and changes lives they will respond that they 800 40 : PERSBVERANCE OF THE SAINTS as well, but they want nothing of it. If we tell them that the Holy Splm fingjwtgfihi to work in people’s lives and the gift.of eternal life is gophd beyogd description, they will say that they understand that, but they want-no mg of In Their repeated familiarity with the things of God and their experience 0 many influences of the Holy Spirit has simply served to harden them against conversmn, Now the author of Hebrews knows that there are'some in the commmgity to which he writes who are in danger of falling away in just this way (see He . 2:3; 3:8 12, 14—15; 4:1, 7, 11, 10:26, 29, 35—36, 38f39; 12:3,15717).d11-Ie wants to warn them that, though they have particrpated in the. fellowship of p church and experienced a number of God’s blessings. in their lives, yet if tlllieyl-lawagr after all that, there is no salvation for them. This does not imply that e i that true Christians could fall away—Hebrews 3: 14 implies ‘quite the oppoSitfe,£ut he wants them to gain assurance of salvation through their continuing in a1 l; ,md thereby implies that if they fall away it would show that they never twig fC nst’s people in the first place (see Heb. 3:6: “We are his house if we o as: our d ride in our ho e”). I I COTIfiifgfdrearihepauthor wants rd: give a seyere warning to those in danger of slipping away from their Christian profession. He wants to use the strongest language possible to say, “Here is how far a person can. come in CXPCFlCl-[llcmg temporary blessings and still not really be saved.” He is warning them to wgtcT 0131:, because depending on temporary blessings and experiences is not enoujg . dob 0 this he talks not of any true change of heart or any good fruit pro Lice ,th 11: simply about the temporary blessings and experiences that havecome to cse persons and have given them some understanding of Christianity.f th h For this reason he immediately passes from this description 0 cps]: w o commit apostasy to a further analogy that shows that these people who? e8 away never had any genuine fruit in their lives. we explained above, verges I —b speed; of these people in terms of “them; and thirtler,” the kind of crop at is roughd forth on land that has no worthwhile life in itself even though it receives rapegatlals blessings from God (in terms of the analogy, even though rain frequen y net upon it). We should notice here that people who commit aposttahsy fie are compared to a field that once bore good fruit and now does not, bult dat ey k like [and that never boregoodfiait, but only thorns and thistles. The may 00 good before the crops start to come up, but the fruit gives the genuine ev1 ence, ' 's bad. ' - amSltrlbnlg support for this interpretation of Hebrews 614—3 is founp1 mlltlheagirpl: immediately following. Though the author has been speaking very arsfflyc eat the possibility of falling away, he then returns to speak to the Situation 0 He gs: majority of the heaters, whom he thinks to be genuine Christianshi 5 fly; “Though we speak thus, yet in your case, beloved, we fieel sure offljben‘er 1: bag: The belong to salvation” (Heb. 6:9). But the question is “better Ethings than ,wmaéhavc plural “better things” forms an appropriate contrast to the good thingfsh. a adm been mentioned in verses 4—6: the author is convinced that most Olnfllscfccs of have experienced better things titulanasligngly ge partial 31:: timgorary i u S irit and the churc t e a ut in vets f . th‘langcli: tilie author talks about these things by saying (hterally) that they 31" 40 .' PERSEVERANCE OF THE SAINTS 801 “better things, also belonging to salvation” (Gk. leai eclmnena seem)»; These are not only the temporary blessings talked about in verses 4—6, but these are better things, things having not only temporary influence, but “also belonging to salvation.” In this way the Greek word me (“also”) shows that salvation is something that was not part of the things mentioned in verses 4—6 above. Therefore this word leaf, which is not explicitly translated in the RSV or NIV (but the NASB comes close),20 provides a crucial key for understanding the passage. If the author had meant to say that the people mentioned in verses 4-6 were truly saved, then it is very difficult to understand why he would say in verse 9 that he is convinced of better things for them, things that belong to salvation, or that have salvation in addition to those things mentioned above. He thus shows that he can use a brief phrase to say that people “have salvation” if he wishes to do so (he does not need to pile up many phrases), and he shows, moreover, that the people whom he speaks of in verses 4—6 are not saved.21 What exactly are these “better things”? In addition to salvation mentioned in verse 9, they are things that give real evidence of salvation— genuine fruit in their lives (v. 10), full assurance of hope (v. 11), and saving faith, of the type exhibited by those who inherit the promises (v. 12). In this way he reassures those who are genuine believers—those who show fruit in their lives and show love for other Christians, who show hope and genuine faith that is continuing at the present time, and who are not about to fall away. He wants to reassure these readers (who are certainly the great majority of the ones to whom he writes) while still issuing a strong warning to those among them who may be in danger of falling away. A similar teaching is found in Hebrews 10:26—31. There the author says, “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left” (v. 26 NIV). A person who rejects Christ’s salvation and “has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him” (v. 29 NIV) deserves eternal punishment. This again is a strong warning against falling away, but it should not be taken as proof that someone who has truly been born again can lose his or her salvation. When the author talks about the blood of the covenant “that sanctified him,” the word sanctified is used simply to refer to “external sanctification, like that of the ancient Israelites, by outward connection with God’s people.”22 The passage does not talk about someone who is genuinely “‘BAGD, p. 334, III, translates the middle participle of echo as “hold oneself fast, cling to,” and lists Heb. 6:9 as the only New Testament example of this form used “of inner belonging and close association” (cf. LS], p. 750, C: “hold oneself fast, cling closely”). However, even if we translated the middle voice in the same way as the active, the phrase would mean, “things also having salvation,” and my argument in this section would not be affected. “The NASB translates, “and things that accompany salvation.” “Someone might object that the phrase “better things” does not contrast with the tempor blessings in vv. 4—6, but with the judgment mentioned that is coming to the thorns and thistles who are about to be “burned” in v. 8. But it is unlikely that the author would refer to not being cursed Simply as “better things.” The comparative “better” (kreirson) is used thirteen times in Hebrews, and it I‘Fgularly contrasts something better with something good (better covenant, better sacrifice, ere); Similarly, here it suggests a comparison with things that are already good (such as the blessings in vv. 4‘6), much more than it suggests a contrast with the horrible fate of eternal judgment in v. 8. 32A. H. Strong, Systematic Theology, p. 884. Strong mentions an appropriate parallel use of the verb “Sauctify’ in 1 Cor. 7:14, which speaks about the unbelieving husband being “sanctified” by the 'Cving wife (I Cor. 7:14, where the same Greek word, hagiaao, is used). Outward ceremonial Sanctification is also referred in Heb. 9:13; cf. Matt. 23:17, 19. 802 40 : PERSEVERANCE OF THE SAINTS saved, but someone who has received some beneficial moral influence through contact with the church.23 ' ' _ ' One other passage in John’s writings has been claimed to teach the possrbility of loss of salvation. In Revelation 3:5, Iesus says, “He who conquers ghall be clad thus in white garments, and I will not blot his name out of the hook oflifi’. Some hawc claimed that when Jesus says this he implies that. it is possublc that he would him out the names of some people from the book of life, people who had already had their names written in it and were thus already saved. But the fact that Jesus emphaticallv states that he will not do something should not be taken as teaching that he will do that same thing in other cases! ‘The same kind of Greek construction24 is used to give an emphatic negationin John 10:28, where Jesus savs, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.” This does not mean that there are some of Iesus’ sheep who do not hear his voice and follow him who will perish; it is simply affirming that his sheep certainly Will not perish: Slmllafly, when God says, “I will never fail you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5), it does not imply that he will leave or forsake others; it just emphatically states that he will not leave nor forsake his people. Or, in even a closer parallel, in Matthew 12.132,']esu5 says, ‘Whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will befergwen, either in this age or in the age to come” This does not imply that some sms Will forgiven in the age to come (as Roman Catholics claim in support for the doctrine of purgatory)25_. that is simply an error in reasoning: to say that something Will not happen in the age to come does not imply that it might happen in the age to come! In the same way, Revelation 3:5 is just a strong assurance that those who are clad in the white garments and who have remained faithful to Christ will not have their names blotted out of the book of life.16 _ . Finally, one passage from the Old Testament is sometimes used to argue that people can lose their salvation: the story of the Holy Spirit departing from Saul. But Saul should not be taken as an example of someone who lost his salvation, for when “the Spirit of the LORD departed from Sa ”“(1 Sam._16:14), ‘ p. it was immediately after Samuel had anointed DaVld king and the Spirit of the . Loan came mightily upon David from that day forward” (1 Sam. 16:13). In ._ the Spirit of the Lord coming upon David is reported in the immediately previous _ sentence to the one in which we read that the Spirit departed from Saul. This close connection means that Scripture is not here talking about a total loss of all work of the Holy Spirit in Saul’s life, but simply about the withdrawing of the Holy Spirit’s function of empowering Saul as king.” But that does not mean that Saul ; ’ le even '. 23E . 24:7—8 s aks of the blood of the covenant that set apart the people as Gods peop ; thouin not all we}: truly born again. In the context of Heb. 10, such imagery, taken from‘the 0‘1: Testament process of sanctifying a people so diat they could come before God to worship, I! riate bac round. I t _ aPE‘l'quie construkcltgion uses on me plus the aorist subjuncuvc4tlo exprgsls7enighauc negation. 258 di cussion of the doctrine of purgatory in chapter , pp. — . 2fAciiilfesient kind of book is probably in view in Ex. 32:33, where God says to Moses, sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book.” Here the New Testament idea of the is not mentioned. Rather, the image is one of God keeping a record of: those currently dWCbofkm his people much as an earthly king would do. To “blot out” someone 5 name from such a that God imply that’the rson had died. Using this imagery, Ex. 32:33 is best understood to meancw in m Will take the ligof anyone who sins against him (see v. 35). Eternal destiny 15 nor in VI Passage. ' ' ‘ ' - ‘ ak our holy "* 27We should give a similar interpretation to Band 5 prayer “'1 Ps. 51:11. ‘T e not y 40 : PERSEVERANCE OF THE SAINT S 803 was eternally condemned. It is simply very hard to tell from the pages of the Old Testament whether Saul, throughout his life, was (a) an unregenerate man who had leadership capabilities and was used by God as a demonstration of the fact that someone worthy to be king in the eyes of the world was not thereby suited to be king over the Lord’s people, or (b) a regenerate man with poor understanding and a life diat increasingly strayed from the Lord. D. What Can Give a Believer Genuine Assurance? If it is true, as explained in the previous section, that those who are unbelievers and who finally fall away may give many external signs of conversion, then what will serve as evidence of genuine conversion? What can give real assurance to a real believer? We can list three categories of questions that a person could ask of himself or herself. 1, Do I Have a Present Trust in Christ for Salvation? Paul tells the Colossians that they will be saved on the last day, “provided that you continue in the fizith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel which you heard” (001. 1:23). The author of Hebrews says, “‘We share in Christ, if only we hold our first confidence firm to the end” (Heb. 3:14) and encourages his readers to be imitators of those “who through fizith and patience inherit the promises” (Heb. 6:12). In fact, the most famous verse in the entire Bible uses a present tense verb that may be translated, “whoever continues believing in him” may have eternal life (see John 3:16). Therefore a person should ask himself or herself, “Do I today have trust in Christ to forgive my sins and take me without blame into heaven forever? Do I have confidence in my heart that he has saved me? If I were to die tonight and stand before God’s judgment seat, and if he were to ask me why he should let me into heaven, would I begin to think of my good deeds and depend on them, or would I without hesitation say that I am depending on the merits of Christ and am confident that he is a sufficient Savior?” This emphasis on present faith in Christ stands in contrast to the practice of some church “testimonies” where people repeatedly recite details of a conversion experience that may have happened 20 or 30 years ago. If a testimony of saving faith is genuine, it should be a testimony of faith that is active this very day. 2. Is There Evidence of a Regenerating Work of the Holy Spirit in My Heart? The evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts comes in many different fotms. Although we should not put confidence in the demonstration of nuraculous works (Matt. 7:22), or long hours and years of work at some local church (which may simply be building with “wood, hay, straw” [in terms of 1 Cor. 3: 12] to further one’s own ego or power over others, or to attempt to earn {nerit with God), there are many other evidences of a real work of the Holy Spirit In one’s heart. .______~____ {rpm me.” David is praying that the Holy Spirit’s anointing for kingship would not be removed from a and that the presence and power of God on his life would not depart; he is not praying against a Of eternal salvation. ' 804 40 .' PERSEVERANCE OF THE SAINTS First, there is a subjective testimony of the Holy Spirit within our hearts bearqu witness that we are God’s children (Rom. 8: 15— 16; 1 John 4:13). This testimony will usually be accompanied by a sense of being led by the Holy Spirit in paths of obedience to God’s will (Rom. 8:14). In addition, if the Holy Spirit is genuinely at work in our lives, he will be producing the kind of character traits that Paul calls “the fruit of the Spirit” (Gay 5:22). He lists several attitudes and character traits that are produced by the Holy Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness self—control” (Gal. 5:22—23). Of course, the question is not, “Do 1 perfect]; exemplify all of these characteristics in my life?” but rather, “Are these things a general characteristic of my life? Do 1 sense these attitudes in my heart? Do others (especially those closest to me) see these traits exhibited in my life? Have I hm“ ‘ growing in them over a period of years?” There is no suggesdon in the New Testament that any non-Christian, any unregenerare person, can convincingly fake these character traits, especially for those who know the person most closely, Related to this kind of fruit is another kind of fruit——the results of one’s life and ministry as they have influence on others and on the church. There are some people who profess to be Christians but whose influence on others is to discourage them, to drag them down, to injure their faith, and to [310th controversy and divisiveness. The result of their life and ministry is not to build up others and to build up the church, but to tear it down. On the other hand, there are those who seem to edify others in every conversation, every prayer, and every work of ministry they put their hand to. Jesus said, regarding false prophets, “You will know them by their fruits. . . . ry sound tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears evil fruit. . . . Thus you will know them by their fruits” (Matt. 7:16— 20). Another evidence of work of the Holy Spirit is continuing to believe and accept the sound teaching of the church. Those who begin to deny major doctrines of the faith give serious negative indications concerning their salvation: “No one who denies the Son has the Father. . . . If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you will abide in the Son and in the Father” (1 John 2:23—24). John also says, “W'hoever knows God listens to us, and he who is not of God does not - listen to us” (1 John 4:6). Since the New Testament writings are the curren replacement for the apostles like John, we might also say that whoever knows God will continue to read and to delight in God’s Word, and will continue to believei fully. Those who do not believe and delight in God’s Word give evidence that they , are not “of God.” ' Another evidence of genuine salvation is a continuing present relationship with Jesus Christ. Jesus says, “Abide in me, and I in you” and, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you” (Johlf 15:4, 7). This abiding in Christ will include not only day-by-day trust in him In various situations, but also certainly regular fellowship with him in prayer an worship. I Finally, a major area of evidence that we are genuine believers is found in a Ii of obedience to God’s commands. John says, “He who says ‘I know him’ I disobeys his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but wh keeps his word, in him truly love for God is perfected. By this we may be sure I we are in him: he who says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way * 40 : PERSEVERANCE OF TTIE SAINTS 805 which he walked” (1 John 2-4—6) A rf ' ' ‘ i I . . pe ect life IS not nocess .5 3:11:33: :y'lpg htillizt 1n glfneral our lives ought to be ones of fitghbzugblhnohnst at, s o in w at we do and say. Ifwe have enuin ' ' mil be clear results m‘obedience in our lives (see also IgJohn Thus Jarirliles can say, ‘Farth by itself, if it has no works, is dead” and “I, b. m. works w show you my faith” (James 2: 17—18). One large area of obedieniie rd Effjriguileilllogc 1%); feclégw kihnstians. “He who loves his brother abides in the g o : .‘ e owthatwehave assed tf ‘ ' because we love the brethren. He who does not love abiizlizs iii lillolblltiii €14, 17;; h‘figdgne evidence of this love is continuing in Christian cowsp o : ,andanth ' " ' 3:17; cfi Matt. 25:31—36). 0 er is givmg to a brother in need (1 John 3, Do I See a Long-Term Pattern of Growth in M Chris ‘ ' twoareas of assurance dealt with present faith and prisent evihadircIiltlfcffP ital-lid? Spu'lt at work in our lives. But Peter gives one more kind of test that we can use t2: aslt Whether we are genuinely believers. He tells us that there are some charact 33155 which, if we keep on increasing in them, will guarantee that we will “n er fall (2 Peter 1:10). He tells his readers to add to their faith “virtu ever knowledge . . . self-control . . . steadfastness . . . godlm' ess . . . brotherl afi'gcd . I .. . love (2 Peter_1:5—7). Then he says that these things are to belgn to 1‘1); reader: and to continually “abound” in their lives (2 Peter 1:8). He adds that th are to the more zSalous to confirm your call and election” and says then that you do that (hterally, these things,” referring to the character traits mentioned ' wig—7) girth mil mgfhfl” (2 Peter 1:10). m e way St we co rm our call and election, then, is to co ' ' “these dungs. This implies that our assurance of salvation can increases over time in our lives. Every year that We add to these character traits in our lives, we gain greater and greater assurance of our salvation. Thus though young believers can have a quite strong confidence in their salvation that assurance can increase to even deeper certainty over the years in which theysgrow toward Christian maturi ,zs Ifth - , _ their call and election atiid will 33:12:33.3? um add these thmgs they Wlll confirm The result of these three questions that we can ask ourselves h uld ' gong assurance to those “who are genuinely believers. In this wzyzhe dmnglbf w; parseverance of the saints Will be a tremendously comforting doctrine No one In ofifcas such assurance should wonder, “Will I be able to persevere to the end of 56% and therefore be saved?” Everyone who gains assurance through such exanunanon should rather think, “I am truly born again: therefore I will wcertamlorkiny t[Elvirsevere to the end, because I am being guarded ,‘by God’s 3power" will raisgc mpugh mt);1 faith (1 Peter 1:5) and therefore I will never be lost. Jesus 6:40). up at e last day and I Will enter into his kingdom forever” (John on the other hand, this doctrine of ' the perseverance of th ‘ ' ' understood, should cause genuine worry, and even fear, in the Edgy; "Cfil Tim. 3:13, de1 says, that those who have “served Well” as deacon: gain “great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus” (m). 806 40 .' PBRSEVERANCE OF THE SAINT S are “backsliding” or straying away from Christ. Such persons mg: clearly be warned that only those who persevere to the end. have been d‘ nagging: If thev fall away from their profession of faith in Christ and life 0 o e 16H. that in, they may not really be saved—in fact, the evidence that they are giVing is Ch £7 seminar saved, and they never really were saved. Once they stop trusplpg 11; mt and obeying him (I am speaking in terms of outward ev1dence) ey age no genuine assurance of salvation, and they should consider themselvesunsave , and turn to Christ in repentance and ask him for forgiveness of theirdsms. fr At this point, in terms of pastoral care with those who have straye‘ awaythom their Christian profession, we should realize that Calvinists and iris:ng .056 who believe in the perseverance of the saints and those. who thin atA 53:15 can lose their salvation) will both counsel af‘liaekslider’ m the same am}. Tcor g to the Arminian this person was a Christian at one time but is ugh (anger-a Christian. According to the Calvinist, such a person never really w: a [‘lsltiay] m the first place and is not one now. But in both cases. the bith counse glvcn would be the same: “You do not appear to be a Christian HOW—YOIEEUStrcpcnt of your sins and trust in Christ for your. salvation! Thoughithe dyinist Arminian would differ on their interpfletation of Else prevrous history, ey wo what should be done in e present. - _ v I aggfit (l:ng we see why the phrase eternal security can be quite misleading. In singe evangelical churches, instead of teaching the full and balanced presentation oht c doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, pastors have soul-iletiines taugd a watered-down version, which in effect tells people that allnwho avel one;1 ma e a profession of faith and been baptized are “eternally se‘cure. The reg: t 15th at scam; people who are not genuinely converted at may come forwar dath Ied en aft; an evangelistic sermon to profess faith in Christ, and may be baptizef s 0 diyfermr that, but then they leave the fellowship of the church and hve a : r11: this wa from the one they lived before they gained this eternalsecdurity. [hm th y people are given false assurance and are being cruelly deceive into g ey are going to heaven when in fact they are not.3 QUESTIONS FOR PERSONAL APPLICATION 1. Do you have assurance that you are truly born again? What 63511623? you see in your own life to give you that assurance? Do'you b0 hath“ God wants true believers to go on throughout life worrying a at they are really born again, or to have firm assurance that thfvythare our people? (See 1 John 5:13.) Have you seen a pattern of gro inkeyfi on Christian life over time? Are you trusting in your own-power- to dpafivc? ‘ believing in Christ, or in God’s power to keep your faith active an - . . ' ' ' ' 1d allow for the possibility that both the Calvmist and the Arnuruan won I d “bigliddelrliicperson is truly born again and had ]U.St fallen into sm and doubt. 12:2}:011l tflg \ that it is pastorally wise to assume that the person is not a Christian until some ev1 en r5561 . ls mggflgnm all who use the phrase enamel security make mistakes of this sort, but the p certainly open to such misunderstanding. 40 : PERSEVERANCE OF THE SAINT S 807 2. If you have doubts about whether you are truly born again, what is it in your life that is giving reason for those doubts? What would Scripture encourage you to do to resolve those doubts (see 2 Peter 1:5—11; also Matt. 11:28—30; John 6:37)? Do you think that Jesus now knows about your doubts and understands them? What do you think he would like you to do now to gain greater assurance of salvation? 3, Have you known people, perhaps in your church, whose “fniit” is always destructive or divisive or harmful to the ministry of the church and the faith of others? Do they have very much influence, perhaps even positions of leadership in the church? Do you think that an evaluation of the fruit of one’s life and influence on others should be a qualification for church leadership? Is it possible that people would profess agreement with every true Christian doctrine and still not be born again? What are some more reliable evidences of genuine conversion other than intellectual adherence to sound doctrine? SPECIAL TERMS assurance of salvation eternal security perseverance of the saints BIBLIOGRAPHY (For an explanation of this bibliography see the note on the bibliography to chapter 1, p. 38. Complete bibliographical data may be found on pp. 1223—29.) Sections in Evangelical Systematic Theologies 1. Anglican (Episcopalian) 1882-92 Litton, 345—51 2. Arminian (Wesleyan or Methodist) 1847 Finney, 544—619 1875—76 Pope, 3:100—147 1892—94 Miley, 2:268—70, 339—54 1960 Purkiser, 298—304 3. Baptist 1767 Gill, 2:151—78 1887 Boyce, 425—37 1907 Strong, 881—86 1917 Mullins, 432—38 1933—35 Erickson, 935—97 4. Dispensational 1947 Chafer, 3:267—355 1949 Thiessen, 290—95 ...
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This note was uploaded on 04/19/2008 for the course TH 1110 taught by Professor Barbieri during the Fall '07 term at Moody Bible Institute.

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Grudem-Perseverance - Chapter 40 The Perseverance of the...

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