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Persevere

March 16, 2008

I read Redemption Accomplished and Applied for my Theology Survey II class. It was a rather difficult book to read since it was written in the 50s in a style which seemed at times to mimic Shakespeare. But, the gigantic redeeming value of the book for me was the way Murray discussed the doctrine of perseverance, contrasting it to “Eternal Security.”

It is not in the best interests of the doctrine involved to substitute the designation, “The Security of the Believer,” not because the latter is wrong in itself but because the other formula is much more carefully and inclusively framed. The very expression, “The Perseverance of the Saints” in itself guards against every notion or suggestion to the effect that a believer is secure, that is to say, secure as to his eternal salvation, quite irrespective of the extent to which he may fall into sin and backslide from faith and holiness. It guards against any such way of construing the status of the believer because that way of stating the doctrine is pernicious and perverse. It is not true that the believer is secure however much he may fall into sin and unfaithfulness. Why is this not true? It is not true because it sets up an impossible combination. It is true that a believer sins; he may fall into grievous sin and backslide for lengthy periods. But it is also true that a believer cannot abandon himself to sin; he cannot come under the dominion of sin; he cannot be guilty of certain kinds of unfaithfulness. And therefore it is utterly wrong to say that a believer is secure quite irrespective of his subsequent life of sin and unfaithfulness. The truth is that the faith of Jesus Christ is always respective of the life of holiness and fidelity. And so it is never proper to think of a believer irrespective of the fruits in faith and holiness. To say that a believer is secure whatever may be the extent of his addiction to sin in his subsequent life is to abstract faith in Christ from its very definition and it ministers to that abuse which turns the grace of God into lasciviousness. The doctrine of perseverance is the doctrine that believers persevere; it cannot be too strongly stressed that it is the perseverance of the saints. And that means that the saints, those united to Christ by the effectual call of the Father and indwelt by the Holy Spirit, will persevere unto the end. It they persevere, they endure, they continue. It is not at all that they will be saved irrespective of their perseverance of their continuance, but that they will assuredly persevere. Consequently the security that is theirs is inseparable from their perseverance. Is this not what Jesus said? “He that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved.” — p.154, italics original

And yes, that is all one paragraph in the book. Simply because I hadn’t thought about it too much, I had just assumed the right title for the idea was Eternal Security. But as Murray points out, that is not accurate, nor just. It is not (in Scripture even), “Once a believer, always a believer,” but “Believers endure.” And to them will be given a crown of life.  I think some Revelation quotes are in order:

To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.

He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death.

To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.

He who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations; and he shall rule them a rod of iron, as the vessels of the potter are broken to pieces, as I also have received authority from My Father; and I will give him the morning star.

He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.

He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write on him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name.

He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.

He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 16, 2008 4:38 pm

    That’s pretty interesting stuff. Can’t imagine how long it would take and the degree of focus that would be necessary to get through that entire book, but good work on your part. This was interesting to read, as I have for a while struggled with both sides of the Eternal Security debate. Having worked briefly in a Nazarene church, where they don’t hold to Eternal Security, and then also having grown up in a church where Eternal Security was generally the considered to be true, I’ve struggled with it. I have friends on both sides of the aisle with compelling arguments for why they are right. My general stance has been that Eternal Security isn’t the point. The point is following Jesus. And a heart set toward following Jesus, regardless of failures to do so, has no need for wondering of their eternal security.

    It seems like Christians tend to think most of Eternal Security at funeral-time, when a loved one has died and their faith, which they may have at one time professed, failed significantly to be lived out. I get that the issue is extremely personal for lots of folks, because to let go of an eternal security viewpoint is to let go of the hope that so-and-so is going to spend eternity with God. I get it, because I have had family members who given room for that question to be a legitimate one.

    It’s an interesting question the author brings up, and he may very well be right. But for myself, anyway, I am fairly convinced that the question of whose in or whose out, regardless of how the debate takes shape, isn’t the point. The point is confessing Jesus as Savior and Lord and then following Him. And I really don’t think it’s a cop-out answer. I feel like it’s an answer that moves past the petty to higher ground of importance. (Hope that doesn’t come across condescending or holier-than-thou. I don’t have a clue what I’m talking about in comparison to a fellow like this author, so I’m not self-deluded enough to think he, or lots and lots of others, couldn’t shoot holes in my claim.)

    Yeah, it’s awkward at a person’s funeral when “Where did he/she go?” question is the big elephant in the room. And yeah, it feels good to at least have closure and “know” the answer. But it seems like the end of the book of John is perhaps a good reminder for us when we think we know how God has acted or will act in someone else’s life, where Peter asks Jesus “What about him?” in reference to John. And Jesus tells him “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.”

    The good news for me is that I don’t have to be the one to make the choice. I don’t hold in my hand the “salvation scepter”. God does. And He doesn’t need my opinion in order to decide. And that’s a good thing, because I ain’t that smart. Or wise. Or whatever else is needed.

  2. March 29, 2008 1:42 pm

    Allen, thanks for sharing this. It was good to think about and perspective. I appreciate the change of focus.

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