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!

 

Giving Glory to God Alone


jmbHaving a high view of God means something more than giving glory to God … it means giving glory to God alone. This is the difference between Calvinism and Arminianism. While the former declares that God alone saves sinners, the latter gives the impression that God enables sinners to have some part in saving themselves. Calvinism presents salvation as the work of the triune God—election by the Father, redemption in the Son, calling by the Spirit. Furthermore, each of these saving acts is directed toward the elect, thereby infallibly securing their salvation. By contrast, Arminianism views salvation as something that God makes possible but that man makes actual. This is because the saving acts of God are directed toward different persons: the Son’s redemption is for humanity in general; the Spirit’s calling is only for those who hear the gospel; narrower still, the Father’s election is only for those who believe the gospel. Yet in none of these cases (redemption, calling, or election) does God actually secure the salvation of even one sinner! The inevitable result is that rather than depending exclusively on divine grace, salvation depends partly on a human response. So although Arminianism is willing to give God the glory, when it comes to salvation, it is unwilling to give Him all the glory. It divides the glory between heaven and earth, for if what ultimately makes the difference between being saved and being lost is man’s ability to choose God, then to just that extent God is robbed of His glory. Yet God Himself has said, ‘I will not yield My glory to another’ (Isaiah 48:11).

James Montgomery Boice (July 7, 1938 – June 15, 2000)

HT: Ligonier

What are the Five Solas?


Sola Scriptura – Scripture Alone
Solus Christus – Christ Alone
Sola Gratia – Grace Alone
Sola Fide – Faith Alone
Soli Deo Gloria – The Glory of God Alone

Charles Spurgeon once said…

Reformed theology is nothing other than biblical Christianity.

…and as I continue to mature in faith I tend to agree with the Prince of Preachers. When we talk about the Reformation, topics such as Protestantism, Martin Luther’s 95 Theses, the doctrines of grace,  Calvinism, and the Five Solas are often at the forefront of discussions. Today – as the title of the post would hint – we’re going to look at a summary of each of the Five Solas of the Reformation courtesy of the late James Montgomery Boice.

The Five Solas of the Reformation by James Montgomery Boice

1. Scripture alone.When the Reformers used the words sola Scriptura they were expressing their concern for the Bible’s authority, and what they meant is that the Bible alone is our ultimate authority—not the pope, not the church, not the traditions of the church or church councils, still less personal intimations or subjective feelings, but Scripture only. Other sources of authority may have an important role to play. Some are even established by God—such as the authority of church elders, the authority of the state, or the authority of parents over children. But Scripture alone is truly ultimate. Therefore, if any of these other authorities depart from Bible teaching, they are to be judged by the Bible and rejected.

2. Christ alone. The church of the Middle Ages spoke about Christ. A church that failed to do that could hardly claim to be Christian. But the medieval church had added many human achievements to Christ’s work, so that it was no longer possible to say that salvation was entirely by Christ and his atonement. This was the most basic of all heresies, as the Reformers rightly perceived. It was the work of God plus our own righteousness. The Reformation motto solus Christus was formed to repudiate this error. It affirmed that salvation has been accomplished once for all by the mediatorial work of the historical Jesus Christ alone. His sinless life and substitutionary atonement alone are sufficient for our justification, and any ‘gospel’ that fails to acknowledge that or denies it is a false gospel that will save no one.

3. Grace alone. The words sola gratia mean that human beings have no claim upon God. That is, God owes us nothing except just punishment for our many and very willful sins. Therefore, if he does save sinners, which he does in the case of some but not all, it is only because it pleases him to do it. Indeed, apart from this grace and the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit that flows from it, no one would be saved, since in our lost condition, human beings are not capable of winning, seeking out, or even cooperating with God’s grace. By insisting on ‘grace alone’ the Reformers were denying that human methods, techniques, or strategies in themselves could ever bring anyone to faith. It is grace alone expressed through the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit that brings us to Christ, releasing us from our bondage to sin and raising us from death to spiritual life.

4. Faith alone. The Reformers never tired of saying that ‘justification is by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone.’ When put into theological shorthand the doctrine was expressed as “justification by faith alone,” the article by which the church stands or falls, according to Martin Luther. The Reformers called justification by faith Christianity’s “material principle,” because it involves the very matter or substance of what a person must understand and believe to be saved. Justification is a declaration of God based on the work of Christ. It flows from God’s grace and it comes to the individual not by anything he or she might do but by ‘faith alone’ (sola fide). We may state the full doctrine as: Justification is the act of God by which he declares sinners to be righteous because of Christ alone, by grace alone, through faith alone.

5. Glory to God alone. Each of the great solas is summed up in the fifth Reformation motto: soli Deo gloria, meaning ‘to God alone be the glory.’ It is what the apostle Paul expressed in Romans 11:36 when he wrote, ‘to Him be the glory forever! Amen.’ These words follow naturally from the preceding words, “For from him and through him and to him are all things” (v. 36), since it is because all things really are from God, and to God, that we say, ‘to God alone be the glory.’”

James Montgomery Boice, Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace? (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2001), pp. 65-149.

HT: Reformation Theology

Other recommended resources: 5 Solas, The Doctrines of Grace: Rediscovering the Essentials of Evangelicalism by James Montgomery Boice & Philip Ryken