The Doctrines of Grace, Part 8
INTRODUCTION – In the last century, the gracious doctrine of the saints’ perseverance has been “streamlined” down to the inadequate term, eternal security. Eternal security, or “once saved always saved,” is indeed true and valid, but it can be misleading by what it leaves unsaid.
Believers are eternally secure because God preserves His saints and keeps them secure by means of perseverance in faith (1 Pet. 1:5). It is God’s power that does the keeping, but that divine power is manifested in the saints’ endurance and obedience (2 Thess. 2:13).
The doctrine of the saints’ perseverance and security, when correctly understood, promotes vigilance, not carelessness. It motivates godliness, not sloth and indulgence. The doctrine of perseverance teaches that where God gives genuine faith, there will be reliable evidences. Those evidences are the proof that a saint possesses the kind of faith that can save (James 2:14-26).
Application - The doctrine of the saints’ perseverance does not induce holiness by the fear of falling every moment. Instead it induces holiness by faith working through love (Gal. 5:6). God is honored because our security is traced to His power and purposes, not to our decision (2 Pet. 1:2-4). The persevering believer magnifies God for His intercession, justification, promises and sanctifying work. The Christian knows that he owes his stability, growth and comfort to God’s working on his behalf. (For scriptural examples of God’s power working in tandem with the believer’s diligence see the following texts: Heb. 6:11,12; 2 Thess. 2:12-14; 2 Pet. 1:9-11; Phil. 2:12,13.)
THE EPIDEMIC PROBLEM OF ANTINOMIAN, OR LAWLESS “CHRISTIANS”
The “once saved, always saved,” understanding of eternal security has contributed to the problem of antinomianism (or fleshly living). Countless individuals have regarded their profession of faith to be equated with eternal security. In many instances, well meaning counselors have suggested, “Pray this prayer and you shall be eternally secure.” Untold numbers of souls have been led to believe that their security flows from God honoring a decision they made. (NOTE: According to Scripture, the foundation of our salvation’s inception is attributed to God’s call, 2 Peter 1:3.)
Some are truly saved, but many are not. It is possible to be self-deceived into thinking that by a decision, one has bound or obligated God. Those under that deception commonly go forth to live for themselves and their own interests. It is tragic that the church is often indistinguishable from the world. The doctrine that personal holiness is absolutely necessary for entrance into heaven is all but lost in much of today’s Evangelicalism (Heb. 12:14).
The Church needs many voices to raise again the issue of Christ’s Lordship. His Lordship is directly tied to the doctrine of the saints’ perseverance. When Christ is Lord of a person’s life, faith working through love will produce perseverance and universal obedience (obedience in all areas of a man’s life).
The teaching of perseverance under Christ’s Lordship is needed to restore sanity to the Church, for much of Evangelicalism is pitching about on a sea of moral failure. “Cheap grace,” as Bonhoeffer referred to it, touts the freeness of the offer of salvation, but says little about the cost of discipleship.
Application – The Scriptures know nothing of a “two-tiered” Christianity made up of two classes of individuals. The Body of Christ is not broken down into two groups made up of those who are disciples and those who are not. (See the passages on the cost of discipleship, Luke 9:23-26; Matt. 10:34-39; John 12:25).
THE BIBLE STRESSES THE BELIEVER’S SECURITY WHILE AT THE SAME TIME CALLING FOR DILIGENCE AND PERSEVERANCE.
God has provided believers with all the resources necessary to make growth possible. 2 Peter 1 was written that Christians might match their calling and resources with growth in practical holiness. The command is to apply all diligence (1:5). To neglect this kind of progress is to have forgotten the depths from which one was rescued. It is to be blind to the glorious possibilities of spiritual development in Christ (2 Pet. 1:9).
THE GLORIOUSNESS OF GOD’S PROMISES ASSURES THE BELIEVER OF A COMPLETE SALVATION.
Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have received a
faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ:
Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord;
seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and
godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and
excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises
so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the
corruption that is in the world by lust (2 Peter 1:1-4, all Scripture citations from The
New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, (La Habra, California: The Lockman
The majesty and immutability of God’s promises secure the believer’s perseverance and everything necessary for eternal life. These magnificent promises of God nourish our faith, affection, love and trust in Christ. Everything that is necessary for godliness and salvation is reckoned to be included among the supernatural gifts of God.
The knowledge of God is the basis of life (Jn. 17:3). The knowledge of God is the “doorway” to all godliness. God makes us sharers of these great blessings by the knowledge of Himself: byrevealing Himself in the gospel (2 Cor. 4:6). God’s glory, virtue, excellence and power are in view as the cause of our rescue. Everything promised to us by God can rightly and fittingly be thought of as a result of His glory and power. God’s character and attributes are the “foundry” of His promises. That is where they are conceived, cast, formed and molded. (NOTE: To “become partakers of the divine nature,” does not mean that we will become an extension of God. Instead it refers to the kind of existence that is immortal, eternal, holy and completely blessed. We will eternally “house” the Spirit of God according to Ephesians 2:22.)
Application – Our personal, experimental (or practical) knowledge of Christ continues to grow as we walk in dependence upon Him. We experience answered prayer, chastisement and counsel. Christ lets His people know when they are doing His will. He delights in His people, drawing near to them when they share their inner life with Him. As a result of these experiences, our faith is strengthened and we come to know Him more and more. In this text, the promises of God are given the highest possible value. The believer is to respond by treasuring them, living upon them and feeding faith by them.
These promises remind us that Christ is the source of all virtue. Even in our diligence to grow in character, it is the power of God behind the promises that drives all our progress. We ought to notice that it is the purpose of the gospel to make us like God in holiness sooner or later. The higher premium we place upon the worth of the heavenly glory, the more we will be weaned away from the vanity of the present world.
BECAUSE OF THE PROMISES AND PURPOSES OF GOD (WE PARTAKE OF THE DIVINE NATURE), WE CANNOT BE APATHETIC ABOUT GROWTH.
Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness,
and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:5-8).
God’s purpose is that we might grow more like Christ, especially since we have divine resources.
We ought to treasure the divine promises that assure us we are no longer powerless against our soul’s enemies. “We have escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust (v. 4).”
“Apply all diligence,” means that we must make it our business. This kind of language infers that it will be a difficult task involving immense labor. The only way to remain on track is to set or fix one’s heart upon things above (Col. 3:1-4). The life of faith is to translate into moral excellence. A steady increase in the knowledge of God gives the ability of greater self-control. That quality is necessary in order to cope with trying people and circumstances. We need grace even to cope with our own weaknesses. An increase in the knowledge of God establishes us in steadfastness, perseverance and godliness.
Application – By faith, we apprehend that Christ is our Source Person for all we lack. As we grow in character, we are to trust Him for what we lack in character. We will experience breakthroughs when we consciously attempt obedience in the strength of Another (Phil. 4:13).
Christ’s sufficiency is learned gradually. It will involve repeatedly coming to the end of self-reliance.
Unbelief retards our growth in service and character because we are unable to see past our own inadequacy. With our eyes off of Christ and His promises, we are left with the impotency of self as a source. We are prone to compromising decisions while in that condition. Spiritual paralysis sets in until we look to the Lord again.
All the virtues produced in your life are ultimately generated by the character of Christ reproduced in you by the Holy Spirit. This fact does not rule out the principle of presentation or yielding ourselves to God for obedience (Rom. 6:13-19).
THE BELIEVER’S COMFORT AND THE BELIEVER’S CONSISTENT ASSURANCE OF SALVATION FLOW FROM A LIFE OF DILIGENCE.
For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his
purification from his former sins. Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make
certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you
will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and
Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you (2 Peter 1:9-11).
When Christians neglect the kind of progress enjoined in this chapter, their spiritual vision becomes shortsighted. In that myopic condition, the person does not see the glorious possibilities of growth in Christ. They are blind to the riches and glories of God’s grace and they do not behold the wonder of their divine calling (Eph. 1:17-23).
When professing Christians miss the virtues commanded, they lack the consistent comfort of assurance of salvation. The reason for this resides in the very nature of God’s calling. It is a calling and election unto obedience and holiness (Eph. 1:4). Holiness and obedience are the fruits that confirm God’s divine choice. They give evidence of genuine faith.
Believers are urged to pursue such character and behavior because by that life they will apprehend full assurance of their salvation now. In this way, they will safely and certainly reach their glorious destination. The warranty of assurance is given to those who are diligent.
Diligence is also rewarded by a favorable entrance into the Kingdom. Diligence affects the way we will greet the King of kings. Those who have abided in Christ will not shrink away in shame at His coming, but will greet Him in confidence (1 John 4:17).
A SUMMARY OF THE BENEFITS OF DILIGENCE.
1.) You will walk in step with the Holy Spirit. You will be living consistently with the purpose of your divine calling. As you value the gracious promises, you will find that the world’s allure and appeal is increasingly diminished.
2.) The development of Christian character will make you useful and fruitful in the Master’s service. The people you draw close to will be encouraged in their spiritual growth. Christ’s character will be operating in you.
3.) Confidence, comfort and assurance will be yours in great measure. You will make your election and calling sure. Your confidence in the Lord will result in more spontaneous worship.
4.) On the last day, you will greet the Lord in confidence instead of shame. Your works will survive the judgment seat of Christ. You will hear, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant (Matt. 25:21, KJV).”