In applying covenant theology, we need to recognize that God covenants corporately and not simply individually. God’s covenant with Abraham was not just to Abraham but “to [his] offspring” (Genesis 15:18. 17:7). This does not remove the individual, but the individual does not simply remain an individual. Every individual is born naturally into a family and a people. Likewise, an individual believer is born supernaturally from above into a fellowship with Christ as Head. The individual Christian is part of a family; the “household of God” (Galatians 6:10, Ephesians 2:19, 1 Timothy 3:15, Hebrews 3:6, 10:21). Thus the application of the covenant primarily happens in the household of God, that is, in the church. It certainly has implications for the individual and for the natural family, but is seen primarily in the church. This means that a faith expressed solely as “just God and me” is foreign to the pages of scripture.
Covenant Theology Applied, Donny Friederichsen, Tabletalk, October 2020
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.
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!
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The providential timing of this month’s theme in Tabletalk magazine, “Fear,” is hard to miss. To encourage you and build you up in a time when our families, neighbors, and coworkers need to see Christians firmly trusting in Christ alone, we have made the March 2020 issue free to read.
Christians fight fear with faith in the Lord. Moreover, God’s people must remember that the fear of the Lord rightly orders all other fears. Long before this latest global health threat surfaced, the editors of Tabletalk planned this issue to address many of the concerns and anxieties that can beset all of us:
“Fear is a primal emotion so powerful that it can wreak havoc on our hearts. The question is, What do we do with our fears? Do we wallow in the mire of fear, act as if we have no fear, attempt to hide our fear, or try to face our fears with sheer tenacity? Or do we turn to the Lord? Only when we turn to the Lord do we hear Him say, ‘Do not fear.’ However, the Lord commands us not to fear not so that we might ignore our fears or overcome them by sheer willpower but because He has promised, ‘I am with you.’”
Thank you to the many supporters of Ligonier Ministries who enable us to provide timely service and edifying words to the church around the world.
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