WCF CHAPTER 17: OF THE PERSEVERANCE OF THE SAINTS


1. They, whom God hath accepted in his Beloved, effectually called, and sanctified by his Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved.

2. This perseverance of the saints depends not upon their own free will, but upon the immutability of the decree of election, flowing from the free and unchangeable love of God the Father; upon the efficacy of the merit and intercession of Jesus Christ, the abiding of the Spirit, and of the seed of God within them, and the nature of the covenant of grace: from all which ariseth also the certainty and infallibility thereof.

3. Nevertheless, they may, through the temptations of Satan and of the world, the prevalency of corruption remaining in them, and the neglect of the means of their preservation, fall into grievous sins; and, for a time, continue therein: whereby they incur God’s displeasure, and grieve his Holy Spirit, come to be deprived of some measure of their graces and comforts, have their hearts hardened, and their consciences wounded; hurt and scandalize others, and bring temporal judgments upon themselves.

Perseverance Is A Gift (from Ligonier Ministries, Devotionals)

We have noted that Reformed theology prefers to speak of the perseverance of the saints because this terminology better reflects the New Testament passages which stress our role in holding fast to our salvation. Persevering in faith and not falling away means that we must hold fast to our confession and “work out our salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12).

This synergistic view of perseverance where God and man work together in order to keep man from falling away from Christ seems a bit strange to our ears. Does not God do all the work in salvation? Is not all the Christian life the monergistic work of God alone?

Contrary to popular belief, Reformed theology does not teach that all of the Christian life is the monergistic work of God. We are insistent that regeneration is solely by the monergistic work of the Holy Spirit. We only come to faith initially through the work of God. However, once we have been converted, our growth in actual and personal holiness is the result of cooperation between man and God.

Though perseverance is partly our work, we must never miss the chief reason to be confident of our security in Christ. Perseverance, as a reality, is not an achievement accomplished by human effort. Ultimately it is a gift. The only way anyone ever perseveres to the end is by virtue of the unmerited grace of God that sustains us.

The gift of perseverance is a necessary deduction from passages like Philippians 2:12–13, which tells us that it is God who works in us, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. This idea is also clearly articulated in Romans 8:29–30, where the apostle Paul writes that all who have been predestined are also glorified.

We work out our salvation with fear and trembling, but we do so because God has elected and regenerated us. All those whom He has predestined will receive the full inheritance of salvation. We know this to be true from Ephesians 1:13–14, which tells us that the Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantor of our inheritance. God seals Christians and gives them the Holy Spirit as an indwelling presence so that they may persevere. The Spirit is the promise from the One who never breaks His promise that those who love Christ will inherit salvation.

Coram Deo

Augustine was one of the first to remind the church of the donum perserverantiae, the gift of perseverance. Perseverance as a gift means that even in our working to keep our faith, God receives all the glory. Praise Him for His mercy in causing and guaranteeing that all of His elect children will never fall away. Unto Him be all glory!

 

idolatry in eden


This singular invitation to worship was soon muted when Adam allowed the serpent – the craftiest of creatures – to enter the garden-temple. Through Eve, the serpent presented Adam with an alternative liturgy. He called Eve (and through her, Adam) to abandon the call of God and follow his call: to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and become like God. It was an invitation to act in unbelief and disobedience toward God, but in faith and obedience toward the devil – to bow down and worship the creature instead of the Creator. The one who had abandoned the worship of God in heaven – angelic Lucifer himself – had come to spoil the worship of God on earth. In careless and sinful rebellion, Adam followed the lead of his wife and obeyed the voice of the serpent, eating from the forbidden tree. He abandoned his probationary fast, disobeyed the voice of his God, and bowed down to the serpent. Since evil and error are always parasitic on goodness and truth, the worship of the serpent became a counterfeit worship of God. Adam and all his descendants remained in the same state: homo liturgicus. The liturgical structure for humanity remained the same: call – response – meal. But the object of worship had changed. God had been dethroned in the heart of man, and the devil had been enthroned. The worship of the Creator had been exchanged for the worship of the creature. An alternative liturgy – idolatry – had been introduced into the world and would remain the liturgical disposition of all Adam’s descendants. Reformation Worship

the marks of the true church


Belgic Confession (1561)

Article 29: The Marks of the True Church

We believe that we ought to discern diligently and very carefully, by the Word of God, what is the true church—for all sects in the world today claim for themselves the name of “the church.”

We are not speaking here of the company of hypocrites who are mixed among the good in the church and who nonetheless are not part of it, even though they are physically there.
But we are speaking of distinguishing the body and fellowship of the true church from all sects that call themselves “the church.”

The true church can be recognized if it has the following marks: The church engages in the pure preaching of the gospel; it makes use of the pure administration of the sacraments as Christ instituted them; it practices church discipline for correcting faults. In short, it governs itself according to the pure Word of God, rejecting all things contrary to it and holding Jesus Christ as the only Head. By these marks one can be assured of recognizing the true church—and no one ought to be separated from it.

As for those who can belong to the church, we can recognize them by the distinguishing marks of Christians: namely by faith, and by their fleeing from sin and pursuing righteousness, once they have received the one and only Savior, Jesus Christ.

They love the true God and their neighbors, They love the true God and their neighbors, without turning to the right or left, and they crucify the flesh and its works.

Though great weakness remains in them, they fight against it by the Spirit all the days of their lives, appealing constantly to the blood, suffering, death, and obedience of the Lord Jesus, in whom they have forgiveness of their sins, through faith in him.

As for the false church, it assigns more authority to itself and its ordinances than to the Word of God; it does not want to subject itself to the yoke of Christ; it does not administer the sacraments as Christ commanded in his Word; it rather adds to them or subtracts from them as it pleases; it bases itself on men, more than on Jesus Christ; it persecutes those who live holy lives according to the Word of God and who rebuke it for its faults, greed, and idolatry.

These two churches are easy to recognize and thus to distinguish from each other.

(HT: R. Scott Clark)