From Your Pastor: Preservation and Perseverance in Christ

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Preservation from apostasy (falling away) and perseverance in our faith are blessed results of the priestly office and ongoing ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ for His own. To put it simply, Christ has done all that believers need to persevere in their faith, and He continually prays for us that our faith will not fail us (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25; 2 Peter 1:3-4; cf. Luke 22:31-32). As the Apostle Paul promises:

“Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died- more than that, who was raised- who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us” (Rom. 8:34).

Believers are preserved in their walk by God (or “kept or guarded by faith”, 1 Pet. 1:6). There is a “double bond” in our preservation and perseverance. From Christ’s side working through His Spirit, He guards true believers by His power and grace, and from our side by our dependence upon His Spirit, our faith keeps us focused on Him (1 Pet. 1:3-9; cf. Heb. 12:1-2).

Though we are taught in Scripture that some who profess to know Christ, who are even members of His church will be tempted to fall away, and some will indeed fall away (see Matt. 24:10; 26:31; Mark 14-27, 29; Luke 8:13; Heb. 3:12). Nevertheless, true believers united to Jesus Christ, will never fall away. Why? We are clearly taught in Holy Scripture that God the Father has elected His own to eternal life (Eph. 1:3-14). God the Son has laid down His life for His own sheep, and no one can snatch them out of His hands (John 10:28-29). God the Holy Spirit has sealed the believer to ensure that they will continue to the end blameless (Eph. 1:13-14). True believers can be confident in the words and work of the triune God who has graciously authored, faithfully accomplished, and sweetly and strongly applied their salvation. Our great hope and encouragement as believers is that the Lord Jesus will present believer blameless with great joy before our Heavenly Father at the end of our pilgrimage (Jude 20-21).

All believers will persevere by faith based on three important truths:

(1) The Father’s electing love and promises to the believer; God cannot change and will not change or ever forsake those whom He loves: “Never will I leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5; cf. Heb. 6:17-20).

(2) Christ the Son has shed His precious blood to make us a “people for His own possession who are zealous for good works” (Tit. 2:14); we are recipients of His love and freed from our sins by His blood so that our sins will never overpower us completely (Rev. 1:5b-6). Christ lives to ever-intercede and pray for His own. He is able to keep His own by the power of “an indestructible life” (Heb. 7:24-26).

(3) The Spirit has united us to Christ and nothing can break that bond and seal. In fact, He who began a good work will complete it (Phil. 1:6).

In light of the triune God’s preservation, we can rest, but we also must persevere or strive with all of our strength and working by His grace and Spirit (Phil. 2:12-13; 3:11ff; Heb. 10:22-12:15). The warnings against apostasy, particularly in Hebrews 6:4-6 are “Gospel warnings” to keep those who are in Christ, fearing God and desiring to do God’s will. As true believers, we should constantly pray for hearing of God’s Word and to obey (Heb. 2:1; cf. Isa. 66:2b). We should consider Christ by faith as our Savior and example and strength for our persevering pilgrimage each day, and pursue Him (Heb. 3:1). We should be careful to grow into maturity, having had the foundation of basic doctrine laid for us (Heb. 5:13-6:3). We should look to Christ as High Priest according to Melchizedek, and to know that we are forgiven by His blood (Heb. 8-10). We should seek to encourage and edify one another, particularly knowing the dangers of sinfulness and hard-heartedness, especially as we see the Day approaching (Heb. 3:12-13, 10:24-25).

Let us rejoice that we will be preserved and thus persevere by Christ’s grace and one day be presented blameless as another part of the completed work of Christ!

“Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen” (Jude 24-25)

Our Confession teaches in the Westminster Larger Catechism, Q & A 79: May not true believers, by reason of their imperfections, and the many temptations and sins they are overtaken with, fall away from the state of grace? A. True believers, by reason of the unchangeable love of God, (1) and his decree and covenant to give them perseverance, (2) their inseparable union with Christ, (3) his continual intercession for them, (4) and the Spirit and seed of God abiding in them, (5) can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, (6) but are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation. (7)

 

In Christ’s love,

Pastor Biggs

 

(1) Jer. 31:3

(2) 2 Tim. 2:19; Heb. 13:20,21; 2 Sam. 23:5

(3) 1 Cor. 1:8,9

(4) Heb. 7:25; Luke 22:32

(5) 1 John 3:9; 1 John 2:27

(6) Jer. 32:40; John 10:28

(7) 1 Pet. 1:5

 

From Your Pastor: Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 31

Question: WSC 31  What is effectual calling?

Answer: Effectual calling is the work of God’s Spirit,(1) whereby, convincing us of our sin and misery,(2) enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ,(3) and renewing our wills,(4) he doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the gospel.(5) (1)2 Tim 1:9; 2 Thess. 2:13,14 (2)Acts 2:37 (3)Acts 26:18 (4)Ezek. 36:26,27 (5)John 6:44,45; Phil. 2:13

 

Scripture Memory: “And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” (Romans 8:30).

 

An Explanation: God calls sinners to Himself with a general call as well as a specifically effectual call. Both are the works of God’s Spirit. The general call is a work of God’s Spirit in the sphere of common grace and this call can be resisted by sinners (Acts 5:33; 7:51-54). The effectual call is a work of God’s Spirit in the sphere of special grace that always results in powerfully making dead and sinful hearts alive (Ezek. 36:26-27; Eph. 2:4-6), and beginning the work of restoring the image of God in man in the sinner’s union with Christ (Col. 3:10; Acts 2:37-39). Effectual calling can be illustrated in Jesus’ raising Lazarus from the dead. Until Jesus called Lazarus, he was dead and unable to respond to Jesus’ call. Once Jesus called Him, the dead Lazarus could not resist (cf. John 6:44), for the Spirit had made Him alive, and thus He willingly responded to His master’s voice (John 11:40-43; cf. John 10:4).

 

God the Father particularly calls sinners by the Spirit through the Gospel (Rom. 1:16; 2 Th. 2:13-14). As the Apostle Paul testifies of the power of God through the Gospel: “…Who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began…” (2 Tim. 1:9). Effectual calling is a work of God’s Spirit that is not because of our works, but because of God’s “own purpose and grace” in Christ Jesus. The effectual call is completely the initiating and sovereign work of God, but sinners truly respond to this call. Note four things that the Spirit of God does in this work of effectual calling.

 

The Spirit convinces sinners of our sin and misery (John 16:8-11). We are convicted of our sins, and realize our need for a Savior (Acts 2:37: “What shall we do?”). The Spirit enlightens our minds (Acts 26:18; 1 Cor. 2:10,12; Eph. 1:17,18).  The natural man does not understand the things of God; the unregenerate sinner is blinded to the glory of God and “darkened in their understanding” (Eph. 4:18). The enlightening work of the Spirit is described in this way: “…To open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me” (Acts 26:18; cf. 2 Cor. 4:6).

 

The Spirit renews our wills (Ezek. 11:19; Phil. 2:13; Deut. 30:6; Ezek. 37:27). By nature our wills are in bondage and slavery to sin and Satan (Eph. 2:1-3; Rom. 6:16-18). The Spirit frees our wills by His power, so that we will freely choose the grace held out to us in the Gospel of Jesus (Phil. 2:13: “…To will and to work for His good pleasure”). The Spirit works powerfully in granting us freedom and we respond with the obedience of faith and repentance (Rom. 1:5; 16:26; cf. Acts 5:31-32): “But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness” (Rom. 6:17-18). The Spirit persuades and enables us to embrace Jesus Christ offered in the Gospel. This is real Holy-Spiritual power! The apostle describes it as “…The immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might…” (Eph. 1:19). (John 6:44,45; Ps. 110:3; John 6:37; Rom. 6:16-18).

 

A Prayer: Father, you predestined me from the foundation of the world. You sent your beloved Son to accomplish my redemption through His blood. In real history, you come by your Spirit to apply that completed redemption on my behalf and effectually call me to yourself by your Sovereign power. Let me live in your love, and dependent upon your power. Amen.

 

In Christ’s Love,

Pastor Biggs