Thursday, January 28, 2010

Reading the Classics with Challies - Redemption Accomplished and Applied

Perseverance of the Saints

When I was a quasi-Arminian-semi-Pelagian, the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, or 'once saved always saved' as I referred to it, caused me no small amount of frustration. The clear Biblical teaching and simple logic that evidenced this great truth, and is an integral part of Murray's treatment of the order of salvation, was foreign to my way of thinking. As I look back on my ignorance, I can only be thankful that the Spirit of God helped me to see what I know consider the clearly obvious truth.

As with the rest of the book, Murray is concise and thorough in explaining and expounding this controversial doctrine. He begins like this: " In order to place the doctrine of perseverance in proper light we need to know what it is not. It does not mean that every one who professes faith in Christ and who is accepted as a believer in fellowship of the saints is secure for eternity and may entertain the assurance of eternal salvation." ((Murray, John. Redemption Accomplished and Applied. Boston: Wm. B. Eerdmans Company, 1984) The puritans would use an interesting term for those who professed Christ but were not regenerate; professors! In today's lingo we might call them 'posers'. Claiming one is a Christian and attending church does not assure on of eternal security. In fact, there is but crucial test according to Murray; "The crucial test of true faith is endurance to the end, abiding in Christ, and continuance in his word." (152)

According to Murray, this particular emphasis of Scripture should indicate two things: first, it provides one with the meaning of falling away, of apostasy; second it helps us appreciate the heights to which temporary faith may carry some. As to apostasy, the author writes, "It is possible to give all the outward signs of faith in Christ and obedience to him, to witness for a time a good confession and show great zeal for Christ and his kingdom and then lose all interest and become indifferent, if not hostile, to the claims of Christ and of his kingdom." (152)

Murray goes on to positively affirm what perseverance is. "The doctrine of perseverance is the doctrine that believers persevere; it cannot be too strongly stressed that it is the perseverance of the saints. And that means that the saints, those united to Christ by the effectual call of the Father and indwelt by the Holy Spirit, will persevere unto the end. If they persevere, they endure, they continue. " (154) This should be a clarion wake up call to all believers, for the saints must "recognize that we may entertain the faith of our security in Christ only as we persevere in faith and holiness to the end." (155)

And though the doctrine comes with warnings, it also comes with great assurances: "The guarantee of infallible preservation is that the persons given to the Son are in the Son's hand and though given to the Son they are still mysteriously in the Father's hand. From the hand of neither can anyone snatch them. This is the heritage of those given by the Father." (160)

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