Monday, February 21, 2011

What Is Reformed Theology?: Preservation of the Saints

     "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time."  (1 Peter 1:3-5).

     "For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called, and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified." (Romans 8:28-30).

     "For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 1:6).  Emphasis mine.  

     "Those whom God hath accepted in the beloved, effectually called and sanctified by His Spirit, and given the precious faith of His elect unto, can neither totally nor finally fall from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved, seeing the gifts and callings of God are without repentance, whence He still begets and nourisheth in them faith, repentance, love, joy, hope, and all the graces of the Spirit unto immortality; and through many storms and floods arise and beat against them, yet they shall never be able to take them off that foundation and rock which by faith they are fastened upon; notwithstanding, through unbelief and the temptations of Satan, the sensible sight of the light and love of God may be for a time be clouded and obscured from them, yet He is still the same, and they shall be sure to to kept by the power of God unto salvation, where they shall enjoy their purchased possession, they being engraven upon the palm of His hands, and their names having been written in the book of life from all eternity."  Chapter 17:1 of the 1689 London Baptist Confession.
(John 10:28-29; Philippians 1:6; 2 Timothy 2:19; 1 John 2:19; Psalms 89:31-32; 1 Corinthians 11:32; Malachi 3:6)

     "They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us." (1 John 2:19).

     Well, here we are at the end of our video study of Reformed Theology with R. C. Sproul.  I hope and pray that in going through this series you have a better understanding of the Reformed view of the Scriptures and have found them biblically thorough, Christ-centered, historically orthodox, and personally edifying.  It is important to recognize that our study over the last couple of weeks is merely an overview of the key components that characterized Reformed Theology rather than a comprehensive compilation.  I would recommend coming back to these Reformed Theology posts at your convenience, looking up the Scriptures that are the basis for the doctrines, and perhaps even purchasing some of the referenced books for further study.  What any good theology does is labor intensively to discern what the Word is saying rather than attempt to sway others to a definitive theological perspective per se.  The Reformed doctrines were a rediscovery and recovery of biblical truth at a time in which the Roman Catholic church had corrupted the sound doctrine of Scripture and the gospel of our Lord Jesus.  In our day, there are different attacks on orthodoxy and they seem to me more subtle, but no less dangerous.  The Reformed faith answers these attacks well and brings us soberly back to the timeless truths of God's Word!  As one brother says, "The Christian faith does not need to be re-invented, it needs to be re-discovered."
     Our last doctrine for consideration in the doctrines of grace is that of the perseverance of the saints.  As R. C. mentions in today's video, this tag can be misleading because it implies that Christians need to preserve their faith through self-effort.  For this reason, we will refer to this biblical doctrine as the preservation of the saints.  The gist of this doctrine is:  all whom God sovereignly elects in eternity, foreknows will be called to faith in Christ by the gospel, calls efficaciously to new birth in time by the power of the Spirit, and justifies to stand blameless before Him in the imputed righteousness of Christ, will certainly be kept by God in the faith until final glorification in His presence (Rom. 8:28-30).  Philippians 1:6 is a wonderful and concise expression of this certain preservation of God's invisible church/actual church . . . what He begins in salvation, He will complete.  This doctrine by no means teaches that God's people cannot commit egregious sins, subjectively doubt their standing from time to time, be assaulted by spiritual forces whom attempt to undermine our faith, or face severe obstacles in life that can make our profession of faith appear tenuous.  These things and more will happen to each one of us on the path to glory, but God will see those whom are His through until the very end!
     Have you ever wondered why some who seem to be strong and grounded in the faith end up denying Christ and sometimes even become outward enemies of Christianity (e.g. Judas).  Have you been perplexed by those in the visible church who clearly abandon the essential doctrines of the faith, but still regard themselves (and are regarded by many) as Christians?  In your reading of Scripture, have you been disillusioned or confused at times with the sins of God's people?  Abraham's lying?  Moses' murder?  David's adultery (and conspiracy to murder)?  Samson's treachery and rebellion?  How about Peter's denial of His Lord with swearing (with oaths, not cussing as some teach!)?  What about our own sins?  Can we lose our salvation or "fall from grace" as is taught in most Arminian camps?  The Scriptures are clear that God's people will make it to glory despite themselves and are thus preserved by God through all of life as He is working everything for the good of those whom are His (Rom. 8:28).  For those who willfully leave and finally deny the faith, the Scripture is clear that they never possessed eternal life.  As Dr. Sproul said, "If you have it you cannot lose it; if you lose it, you never had it."
     Reformed Theology emphasizes that salvation is and must be God's work.  His Spirit powerfully applies the benefits of Christ's redemption from the beginning to the end.  After His resurrection and exaltation to the right hand of the Father, Christ lives to make intercession for His own as our Mediator and Great High Priest!  When we sin He pleads His merit and blood at the throne, when we are wayward He grants us repentance through conviction by the Spirit and the confession of our sins, when we are smug and self-sufficient He disciplines us to humility, when downcast He restores us through the joy of the Spirit, when we stray into lies He brings us back to truth, etc. etc. etc..  His work, His faithfulness, His power is more than enough to keep us in the faith.  "Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass." (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24) Emphasis mine.  

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