Paul's Passing Thoughts

Romans Series Interlude: Predestination, a Potter’s House Journey; Part 8, “What’s in the Word, ‘Perseverance’”? Part 2 on “Perseverance”

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on July 15, 2014

HF Potters House (2)

“It boils down to a distinction between gift and reward. Is the reward salvation?”

“This is the Reformed gospel to a “T.” Already—not yet. Salvation/justification as a process that includes our present lives is unavoidable.”

“Hence, because past and present Reformers see salvation as a present/future process, the future redemption of the body is applied to an incomplete salvation of the soul. This is VERY problematic…Though this position shocks the spiritual sensibilities of the average Christian, it is in fact the Reformed position on salvation.”

An institutional church to replace Rome was Luther’s idea; Calvin articulated it in his Institutes of the Christian Religion. The Reformation gospel is primarily responsible for sucking the life out of many professing Christians, but that is rounded out by the caste system inherent in most institutions. The Reformation gospel killed our soul while the institution puts us in a straightjacket for good measure.

The Reformation gospel accomplished this by making justification, or salvation, a PROCESS instead of a finished work. The gift of salvation, and the gifts we receive at salvation, are just that, gifts that we cannot earn. However, the Bible has much to say about Christians being rewarded for putting those gifts into practice. When you begin to see the Bible’s emphasis on blessings and rewards for putting our gifts into practice—a very energetic call to action arises.

John Calvin and his wicked wannabe theologians made the various rewards/blessings in the Bible one thing and one thing only: salvation. The reward for running the race of faith is salvation. When justification, or salvation, is a PROCESS, that must necessarily include our Christian lives; so, REWARD cannot be a part of that—the reward must be salvation. And, since no part of justification can have reward, the reward must be living our Christian lives the same way we originally received the gift: by faith alone, or living by the gospel, or preaching the gospel to ourselves, etc.

In contrast, when we see the biblical Grand Canyon that we should see between the finished work of salvation and the call to hard work in our Christian lives, a whole new world of possibilities is seen. Blessings and promises aside, we see that we are very unique individually as Christians. No, we are not merely, “ALL just sinners saved by grace.”  We ALL have unique gifts that distinguish us from other believers by kind and degree of faith. Those who excel at certain gifts will receive a crown that makes that distinction.

Institutional caste is designed to take focus off of the individual. Instead, the institution and its leaders become the focus. In addition, because living by faith alone in order to keep the salvation process moving along correctly is really tricky business, Christians will be understandably introspective about what they do in their Christian lives; i.e., constant fear of “moralism” etc.

It boils down to a distinction between gift and reward. Is the reward salvation? As we discussed in last week’s lesson, the book, The Race Set Before Us posits the traditional Reformed line on this question:

In this chapter we shall attempt to show that our salvation is both present and future (p. 47).

Both the present and future dimensions of salvation should be viewed as two aspects of an invisible whole. Almost inevitably the impression that separable parts are intended will tend to creep into readers’ minds, but we must fix in our minds from the beginning that the wholes instead of parts are in view. The present possession of all the gifts we will ascribe is ours because the eschaton (end time) has invaded history…Salvation is not merely a past reality; it is also our future destiny (p.47).

When we study the New Testament writers, however, we discover something quite surprising. Though they occasionally describe salvation as a present possession of believers, they usually envision salvation as something that will occur in the future. For example, Jesus says, “All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.” (Mt 10:22 NIV; cf. also Mt 24:13). Matthew does not say that the one who endures to the end has been saved or that this person shows evidence that he or she is saved. Matthew says that the one who stands fast and perseveres will be saved, that is, will be saved on the future day of the Lord (p. 49).

This is the Reformed gospel to a “T.” Already—not yet. Salvation/justification as a process that includes our present lives is unavoidable. Notice, as a proof text, that the authors use Matthew 10:22 and 24:13. We addressed this last week: the context of those verses is the tribulation period, and Christ is speaking of the salvation of the body/life, not eternal salvation. Christ instructs those who are living during that time to flee from town to town, and before they run out of towns to flee to, Christ will have returned. This fact should get our attention in regard to this sloppy proof texting.

This necessarily requires a discussion in regard to one of many flaws in the Reformation gospel: the confounding/fusion of salvation and redemption. Salvation is the saving and regeneration of the soul, but redemption is the saving of the mortal body when Christ comes for us. Redemption is guaranteed, and spoken of as a possession in regard to its guarantee (Romans 8:30), but it is a separate consideration from eternal salvation in regard to the saving of the body. Paul clearly spoke of this as a separate and future salvation:

Romans 7:24 – Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

As we have discussed before, the word for “wretched” used in many English translations means “afflicted.” The law of sin and death (the law that we used to be under and enslave to) continually provokes us and wages war against the law of our regenerated minds. The Amplified Bible renders the passage this way:

24 O unhappy and pitiable and wretched man that I am! Who will release and deliver me from [the shackles of] this body of death?

25 O thank God! [He will!] through Jesus Christ (the Anointed One) our Lord! So then indeed I, of myself with the mind and heart, serve the Law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.

Hence, because past and present Reformers see salvation as a present/future process, the future redemption of the body is applied to an incomplete salvation of the soul. This is VERY problematic. “Salvation” to them, ALWAYS means eternal salvation. This also necessarily confounds/fuses gift and rewardGift and reward both are applied to eternal salvation. The race of faith now becomes, The Prize To Be Won: Our Present & Future Salvation (Ibid: title of chapter 2, p. 46). Though this position shocks the spiritual sensibilities of the average Christian, it is in fact the Reformed position on salvation.

We strongly contend that rewards pertain to present and future blessings for the Christian. This is irrefutable by process of elimination. If the gift of salvation is not past tense and complete, it is not a gift, but exactly what the Reformers say it is, a reward, and that in blatant contradiction to the very words of the apostle Paul:

Romans 4:4 – Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due.

Romans 11:6 – But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.

Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers: The proposition is put in a general form. Those who base their claim on works have a right to their reward. It is not conceded to them by any sort of imputation, but is their desert.

The reward.—Literally, his wages. The relation between what he receives and what he does is that of wages for work done. He can claim it, if need be, in a court of law. There is in it no element of grace, or favour, or concession.

Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary: From this example it is observed, that if any man could work the full measure required by the law, the reward must be reckoned as a debt, which evidently was not the case even of Abraham, seeing faith was reckoned to him for righteousness.

The idea of reward is synonymous with earned wages. “reward” is an official synonym of something earned.

Revelation 22:10 – And he said to me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near. 11 Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy.”

12 “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”

14 Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. 15 Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.

The word for “recompense” follows:

g3408. μισθός misthos; apparently a primary word; pay for service (literally or figuratively), good or bad:— hire, reward, wages. AV (29)- reward 24, hire 3, wages 2; dues paid for work wages, hire reward: used of the fruit naturally resulting from toils and endeavours in both senses, rewards and punishments of the rewards which God bestows, or will bestow, upon good deeds and endeavours of punishments

For the saved, there are all kinds of various and sundry blessings and rewards for work in the Christian life. In fact, God would be unjust to not remember them:

Hebrews 6:10 – For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do.

Why would God be unjust to forget our works in the Christian life? Well, this is radical, but plain in Scripture, and something that Christians must come to grips with: we are owed a reward for our work in the Christian life—God would be unjust to overlook our works. This completely upsets the Reformed applecart. If justification is in-process, it goes without saying that the reward must be made synonymous with a gift. Again, one can add this to the long list of common words that must be redefined as metaphysical anomalies. A reward is redefined as a gift.

But the gift of salvation is ALWAYS spoken of in the past tense within the pages of Scripture, and God’s calling and gifts are without repentance:

Romans 11:28 – But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. 29 For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.

Clearly, the Reformers DO teach that God revoked Israel’s election and replaced her with the “church. “ Who would deny this? For Christians, the gift of the Holy Spirit is a done and settled issue, Period!

Galatians 3:1 – O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. 2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?

The “’gift’ of the Spirit” is a phrase found in the New Testament often, and also the idea that we are “sealed” by the Spirit until the day of redemption and therefore, at times, “grieve” Him when not walking in His ways. Justification is a settled issue. Certainly, part of our reward is the blessings we will receive at redemption, but redemption is not salvation. Salvation is a settled issue, complete, and irrevocable. Redemption, though guaranteed, is future. Rewards include present blessings, future blessings, and recognition by God…in the form of CROWNS.

This is where perseverance is a reward and not the attaining of salvation. One of the rewards of perseverance is a “rich” entry into the kingdom. Perseverance doesn’t reward us with salvation—that’s a gift, the reward is the “rich entry” as opposed to those who have forgotten that they were cleansed and see salvation from afar:

2Peter 1:5 – For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 11 For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

For the most part, the word for “crown” in the New Testament is stephanos:

g4735. στέφανος stephanos; from an apparently primary στέφω stephō (to twine or wreathe); a chaplet (as a badge of royalty, a prize in the public games or a symbol of honor generally;

The exception is diadēma which is only used three times in the Bible—all in the book of Revelation. Several titles are attached to these crowns regarding rewards, honor, or recognition. Curiously, the Reformed crowd insists that these crowns represent salvation. And seemingly, this makes since. Take for instance the “crown of righteousness” (2Timothy 4:8). Righteousness is a word closely linked to salvation, but it is also attached to the idea of a reward for doing righteousness:

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.”

Each crown title is probably a category with its own list of good works. We know that the crown of righteousness is a reward for those who love the appearing of Christ. I firmly believe that Christians with an intense interest in eschatology will receive this crown. But according to what we have just noted from Matthew 10, this could also be a crown for those who help other Christians as a lifestyle. We should all do that, but I believe crowns represent those who excel in that particular spiritual gift given to them.

This brings us to the subject of perseverance and the crown of life:

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.

Revelation 2:10 – Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. 11 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death. ‘

Perseverance is one of the building blocks of the Christian life, and those who excel in overcoming, even unto death, will receive a crown. I believe these crowns represent blessings that we cannot presently comprehend (1Corinthians 2:9). However, failure to persevere does not mean that you are not saved. Remember, the apostles abandoned Christ before He was crucified.

But, doesn’t the “second death” in Rev. 2:11 refer to the great white throne judgment? It would seem that conquering is a prerequisite to not being hurt by that judgment. I don’t think conquering is a prerequisite or requirement to escaping the second death, I think what we have here is a statement of fact as a way to encourage. Again, if it’s a prerequisite, salvation is a reward owed to the believer by God and not a gift. I don’t think Christ is stating this as a requirement, but rather a reminder of future blessings in order to encourage.

I realize that the Reformed would be quick to cite this passage as proof that Christians will all be standing in that judgment, but if they persevere they will not be hurt by it. But note Revelation 20:6, “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.” Those who partake in the first resurrection will not stand in the white thrown judgment at all, so that is an argument they cannot use to begin with. Remember, they believe that the law is still the standard for justification, so there is only one judgment and one resurrection. We discussed this at length last week.

The book of 1John was written so that we can “KNOW” that we have eternal life (1John 5:13). The key to that book is a life of love. Christians who are slothful in the practice of love will doubt their salvation. I also believe that there will be believers that will be ashamed at His coming:

1John 2:28 – And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. 29 If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.

2Timothy 2:15 – Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

These passages address “children” and workers. These are Christians who need not be ashamed at His coming; instead of shrinking back in shame, they love and long for His appearing.

A required perseverance or fruit to finish a salvation process must be rejected—perseverance is a gift among Christians that some will excel at and receive a reward accordingly, but it is a reward for the application of a gift—not a wage owed.

 

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