Monday, February 16, 2015

Perseverance: Three Observations

It seems that there is always some measure of fur flying over the topic of Preservation vs Perseverance among baptists. In many such discussions, a great deal of time is wasted debating the matter without anyone providing an explicit definition of perseverance, apart from which all such discussions prove to be more profitable in promoting vain contention than in defending the faith once delivered to the saints. 

It occurs to me that a sound, biblical definition of perseverance must, at a minimum, accommodate the reality of remaining sin in the lives of believers (I John 1:8) as well as the great breadth and depth of its practice that we find among the saints in the bible (I Kings 11:4). In addition, whatever else might be said regarding man's perseverance, a proper view of the role of perseverance must be governed by the following observations:
  • All Perseverance is Synergistic (John 15:5) - If it is required for eternal salvation then salvation is by works and not by grace, an idea that Paul explicitly excludes in no uncertain terms (Romans 11:6).
  • All Acts of Perseverance are Works of Righteousness (John 15:4) - If they are required for eternal salvation then salvation is according to our works, which again Paul explicitly states is not the case in too many texts to recount (II Timothy 1:9, Titus 3:5, Ephesians 2:9, etc.).
  • All Perseverance is Obedience (John 15:10) - If it is required for eternal salvation then we are saved by the obedience of two when Paul says we were made righteous by the obedience of "one" - the obedience of the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:19).
I can state it no more plainly than this: if one asserts that man's perseverance or personal performance in righteousness is required for eternal salvation, then one is likewise affirming that man is, in some sense, ultimately judged according to his own works. If that is true then the unfortunate consequence is that the imputed righteousness of Christ is of ABSOLUTELY NO SALVIFIC BENEFIT WHATSOEVER to God's people (II Corinthians 5:21). This in turn likewise destroys the salvific value of our sin's having been imputed to Christ. Indeed what good is imputation if at the end of the day, those sins are still sitting on our account so that we may be eternally judged by them?

Honestly, it is difficult to imagine a more blasphemous theological system than one that claims men are saved by God's grace and not by works but then insist upon determining one's meetness for eternity on the basis of personal performance. We are eternally saved by monergistic imputation, not by synergistic personal performance, and it is for this reason that we can say that God hath made with us an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure, for this is ALL our salvation. (II Samuel 23:5)

Those who posit eternal salvation via perseverance are guilty of thinking far too much of their imperfect efforts in discipleship (I John 1:8) and far too little of Christ's perfect intercession on their behalf (Hebrews 10:14).

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