Paul's Passing Thoughts

Romans Series Interlude: Predestination, a Potter’s House Journey; Part 8, “What’s in the Word, ‘Perseverance’”? Part 1 on “Perseverance”

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on July 7, 2014

HF Potters House (2)

The doctrine of perseverance is a confused mess. In the book, The Race Set before Us: A Biblical Theology of Perseverance & Assurance  by Thomas R. Schreiner and Ardel B. Caneday, they try to clear up the confusion about the doctrine. However, the book merely toes the traditional Reformed line of already but not yet. What is that?

It’s the belief that those who have already been chosen (already) and predetermined for salvation can have assurance by working out their salvation through obedience. This doesn’t necessarily determine with certainty whether or not you have been chosen, but it can give you the best peace and assurance possible until the one final judgment where God separates the sheep from the goats (not yet). Shreiner and Caneday assert that God uses “warnings and admonitions” as a means to complete the PROCESS (Ordo Salutis) of salvation.

Let’s be clear, the Reformed Ordo Salutis (Latin for “order of salvation”) includes justification (salvation), regeneration, sanctification, and glorification. It’s not semantics about what happens first, second, and maybe third at the point of salvation. Yet, the Reformed crowd insists on being indignant about the accusation of “progressive justification.” Clearly, they teach salvation as a process and not a finished work.

So, as a believer, you merely take part in the means and outcome of what God has already predetermined. If you don’t persevere, that means you were not given the “gift” of perseverance. It’s not works salvation per se, the outcome has already been determined, your work in sanctification is merely the MEANS God uses to complete what He has already predetermined. However, you don’t have any chance at all unless you enter The Race Set Before Us. This same explanation is used for evangelism; viz, you are participating in what God has already predetermined.

This fits perfectly with Calvin’s three classes of persons in regard to election: the non-elect, the general elect, and those who persevere. The non-elect do not enter the race of salvation at all; those of the general call are temporarily illumined, but only those who persevere are the true elect—those who have been given the “gift” of perseverance…

Let us, therefore, embrace Christ, who is kindly offered to us, and comes forth to meet us: he will number us among his flock, and keep us within his fold. But anxiety arises as to our future state. For as Paul teaches, that those are called who were previously elected, so our Savior shows that many are called, but few chosen (Mt. 22:14). Nay, even Paul himself dissuades us from security, when he says, “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall,” (1 Cor. 10:12). And again, “Well, because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not high-minded, but fear: for if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee,” (Rom. 11:20, 21). In fine, we are sufficiently taught by experience itself, that calling and faith are of little value without perseverance, which, however, is not the gift of all (CI 3.24.6).

The expression of our Savior, “Many are called, but few are chosen,” (Mt. 22:14), is also very improperly interpreted (see Book 3, chap. 2, sec. 11, 12). There will be no ambiguity in it, if we attend to what our former remarks ought to have made clear—viz. that there are two species of calling: for there is an universal call, by which God, through the external preaching of the word, invites all men alike, even those for whom he designs the call to be a savor of death, and the ground of a severer condemnation. Besides this there is a special call which, for the most part, God bestows on believers only, when by the internal illumination of the Spirit he causes the word preached to take deep root in their hearts. Sometimes, however, he communicates it also to those whom he enlightens only for a time, and whom afterwards, in just punishment for their ingratitude, he abandons and smites with greater blindness (CI 3.24.8).

The Reformed gospel is little more than an invitation to enter the salvation lottery. Some Reformed pastors do teach that you can know that you are saved, but the prescription is entering a rest wherein you stay at the foot of the cross rather than picking it up and walking according to the Spirit. Supposedly, doubt is always the result of “legalism” and the cure is a return to faith alone in our Christian walk. It’s about “what Jesus has done, not anything you do.” Nevertheless, proponents of this view say that sanctification is “hard work” because admitting our sin and “deep repentance” is hard for us to do. The essence of all sin is the “pride of life” and “thinking that we have some semblance of good.”

A myriad of Scripture texts are used to support this motif.

Philippians 2:12 – Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

We are to work out the already salvation, with fear and trembling, because it is God within us that is using the Christian life as a means to complete the work he began in us:

Philippians 1:6 – 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.

“Fear and trembling” denotes uncertainty, and this is exactly what John Calvin advocated in the Christian life:

Certain learned men, who lived long before the present days and were desirous to speak simply and sincerely according to the rule of Scripture, held that repentance consists of two parts, mortification and quickening. By mortification they mean, grief of soul and terror, produced by a conviction of sin and a sense of the divine judgment. For when a man is brought to a true knowledge of sin, he begins truly to hate and abominate sin… By quickening they mean, the comfort which is produced by faith, as when a man prostrated by a consciousness of sin, and smitten with the fear of God, afterwards beholding his goodness, and the mercy, grace, and salvation obtained through Christ, looks up, begins to breathe, takes courage, and passes, as it were, from death unto life. I admit that these terms, when rightly interpreted, aptly enough express the power of repentance; only I cannot assent to their using the term quickening, for the joy which the soul feels after being calmed from perturbation and fear. It more properly means, that desire of pious and holy living which springs from the new birth; as if it were said, that the man dies to himself that he may begin to live unto God (CI 3.33).

The four words that must be considered here are judgment, salvation, fear, and perseverance. There are two judgments, two fears, two salvations, but only ONE perseverance. Perseverance is not related to justification or salvation. There are two judgments; one pertaining to justification, and another pertaining to the Christian life. There are two fears; one pertaining to the unregenerate, and one pertaining to the saved. And there are two salvations; one is the eternal saving of the soul, and the other is being saved from our present mortality. We must also make a distinction between works of the law and love.

The problem with Reformed doctrine is it makes justification (salvation), sanctification (the Christian life), and glorification (redemption) all one process. That means one judgment; one salvation; one fear that must apply to fear of eternal judgment in the Christian life, and one perseverance that must take place between salvation and resurrection. It must define perseverance as a necessary process to complete salvation, and that’s where many problems come into play.

Calvin states clearly that sin in the Christian life should create fear in regard to the final judgment (CI 3.25.9), but in contrast, the Bible states clearly that Christians will not stand in a judgment that determines our justification. There are two judgments: one for rewards and one for the condemned who will be judged by the law:

2 Corinthians 5:6 – So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

1Corithians 3:10 – According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

Luke 14:12 – He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. 13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”

“Resurrection of the just” seems to be a specific judgment for believers in which they will receive rewards for things done in the body. In contrast, the judgment of those under law is a separate judgment that does not include believers:

Revelation 20:1 – Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. 2 And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, 3 and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.

4 Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 5 The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.7 And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison 8 and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea. 9 And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them, 10 and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

This is clearly a separate judgment that pertains to being judged by the law that the unregenerate are under. The redeemed are not under the law, and will not even stand in that judgment. In fact, there are two other judgments; one pertaining to the Gentiles which I believe to be the bema seat, and another pertaining to Israel:

Revelation 20:4 – Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 5 The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.

Matthew 19:28 – Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Luke 20:28 – “You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, 29 and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, 30 that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Obviously, this judgment involves multiple judges, i.e., the Apostles, and more than likely at the end of the tribulation period. There is also a judgment of the nations that involves both saved and unsaved who are left living, probably at the end of the tribulation period as well. The final white throne judgment only pertains to the second death:

Matthew 25:31 – “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

At the end of the Millennial kingdom, just prior to the white throne judgment, the angels do not gather the nations together for judgment, God merely rains fire down from heaven and consumes those who have surrounded Jerusalem. Also, Christ will rule the world from David’s throne and Israel is the head of the nations and not the tail; so, whether or not people helped His people is hardly an issue. These are different judgments, for different purposes, at different times. At this time, I am not sure when the bema seat takes place and who those receiving rewards are, but the judgment of the nations and the judgment of the 12 tribes of Israel probably take place at the end of the tribulation period. It is likely that the bema seat takes place after the rapture and involves the so-called “church” age believers.

So, in our endeavor to examine perseverance, we have laid an important foundation by examining judgment. Let me suggest that justification is not determined by any of these judgments, but rather FRUIT. That would be fruits of reward, and fruits of death:

Romans 7:4 – Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. 5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

The judgments determine fruit: degree of reward or degree of death. Justification is not determined by any judgment. Certainly, Christians are called to persevere, but for what purpose? We reject with prejudice any idea that perseverance is part of the justification process. Let’s just look at one example where care in interpretation is called for:

Matthew 24:13 – But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

In the next parts, we will be looking at the various salvations of the Bible. Salvation doesn’t always mean the salvation of the soul, and this is one such case. Note the following text that speaks also of the tribulation period:

Matthew 10:21 – Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, 22 and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 23 When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

Here, Christ is giving instruction for Jews living during the tribulation period on persevering to the salvation of the body. This becomes even more evident if you read Matthew 24 in its full context. Also, notice the colaboring in this endeavor: you flee from town to town, and Christ will put an end to the tribulation period before they can get you. One may also note the significance Christ puts on the saving of life—even that of mortals.

In addition, note the following:

Matthew 10:40 – “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. 41 The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and the one who receives a righteous person because he is a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. 42 And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.”

Right here, we have three rewards spoken of. The reward is not the salvation of the soul (justification), but rewards for acts of love in the Christian life. In James, we read the following:

James 1:12 – Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.

The word for “crown” follows:

4735 stéphanos – properly, a wreath (garland), awarded to a victor in the ancient athletic games (like the Greek Olympics); the crown of victory (versus 1238 /diádēma, “a royal crown”).

Now, I know Reformed types mock the concept of “the victorious Christian life,” but is that not in fact exactly what we have here, the “crown of life,” or a crown/reward that denotes victory over trials in the Christian life? Is the reward salvation of the soul, or a reward for persevering in the Christian life?

We have noted that the vast majority of teachings on predestination comes from the Reformed camp, and it is irrefutable that they have the gospel dead wrong. No doubt, predestination is a difficult subject, but our theory is that if we focus on what we know definitively about justification and sanctification, we will be led to a proper understanding of predestination. So we will continue to look at the other aforementioned words next week and how they lend proper understanding to perseverance.




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