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Perseverance of the Saints

TULIP  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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God will finish what He started, so we should grow in love and approve better things.

Notes & Transcripts

Prologue

Before I begin this morning, I have to make a note. I am not a pastor of this church, so I cannot officially speak for Highland View Baptist Church. But as a student of the Word, I am obligated to use this pulpit this morning, and reaffirm that the Scriptures are clear. In Christ, there is no Jew or Gentile. All ethnicities are equal. God made each of us the ethnicity He did for His own glory, and it is evil to speak of someone as “less than” because of the amount of melanin in their skin. The Bible condemns idealogies like white supremacy and Nazism. Our Lord redeemed for Himself a people from all tribes, all tongues, all nations. I do not believe that I am in the minority here, and I doubt that there is anyone here who doesn’t believe as I do. But when idealogical wickedness rears its ugly head, it is important that we speak out against it.
Coworker COGIC story - “You go to God how you died.”

Introduction

A few years back I had a coworker who was part of a group known as the Church of God in Christ. At first it seemed like the two of us agreed on much. But as we were talking it became clear to me that he denied the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. I asked him about it, and he told me that he grew up hearing this phrase: “You go to God in the state you die in.” If you die in Christ’s favor, then you’re good. But if you die while sinning, you have no hope. I remember walking away from that conversation, and I just pitied him. If he really believed that, such a terrifying life! At any moment, you could succumb to sin, and if you happened to die before coming back to Jesus, you’re done for. That’s it.
This is what we will be looking at today. The last four weeks we have looked at some of the core tenets of Calvinism, called the Five Points of Calvinism. Total Depravity; we are completely depraved. Unconditional Election; God chooses us based on nothing we bring. Limited Atonement; Christ died for the elect, and for those He died for, he definitively purchased salvation. Irresistable Grace; God’s regenerative grace is so amazing we won’t refuse it. Today we finish it up with Perseverance of the Saints. Those who Persevere are the Saints, and those who are Saints will Persevere. We will be looking at and 1:9-11 this morning, so you can go ahead and open up to our text. It’ll be a little while before we get into our text, because I want to lay some groundwork concerning perseverance of the saints, and the personal assurance of our salvation. Now, these two are so close that its confusing between the two. By “perseverance” I mean the idea that you can’t lose your salvation. By “assurance” I mean your personal awareness of being genuinely saved. Your perseverance doesn’t waver, but your assurance does.

Perseverance and Synergism

Opposing Views on Perseverance

But before we get too deep into the biblical view, lets quickly go over the opposing views. These are two extremes, and both popular.

No Assurance

First is the view that we can have no assurance at all over our salvation. It could be the view that my coworker had. It could be the Roman Catholic view which rejects assurance. Who knows if you’ll make it to Heaven, or how much time you’ll have to spend in Purgatory? They would say that we cannot have the hope of assurance.

Assurance by Profession or Relation

But the other extreme is the one we are probably more familiar with. This is the one that says that if you’ve professed faith in Christ, or if you have professing family, that you are assured salvation. That simply isn’t true. If you have professed faith, that all by itself doesn’t automatically guarantee that you are a Christian. If your parents are Christian, that doesn’t make you a Christian. If you were baptized in the church, and grew up in the church, that doesn’t automatically mean you a Christian. The real question is about perseverance.
God has made a separation between joy and idleness, between assurance and laziness; and therefore it is impossible for you to bring these together that God has put so far asunder. Assurance and joy are choice gifts that Christ gives only to laborious Christians. The lazy Christian has his mouth full of complaints, when the active Christian has his heart full of comforts.
God has made a separation between joy and idleness, between assurance and laziness; and therefore it is impossible for you to bring these together that God has put so far asunder. Assurance and joy are choice gifts that Christ gives only to laborious Christians. The lazy Christian has his mouth full of complaints, when the active Christian has his heart full of comforts.

Both God and Man Working

So let’s talk about perseverance. How does this work? Does our perseverance come from God, or from man? The fact is that it is both, it is something called “synergism” from the Greek “to work together”. Now some of you may have red flags going off now, so let me address the issue you might be having.

Synergism in Sanctification, Not Justification

Now, not everyone hears these theological terms much, but if you are familiar with the terms synergism and monergism, to hear me say that synergism is correct might be shocking. The reason is that these words are typically used in talking about justification, the act of making us right with God. The synergist believes that God has a part in man’s salvation, and that man has a part in his own salvation. That simply isn’t true. This church is a monergist church; We are dead in our sins, totally depraved, and it is God who does all the work. We agree with Jonathan Edwards when he said, “The only thing we contribute to our salvation is the sin that makes it necessary.” But that is justification, the act of making us right with God. But when we talk about sanctification, the act of making us more like Christ, the Scripture is clear. God works in us, but we actively participate as well. It is something that we do, as well as God.

Working in, Working Out

(Spurgeon on )
Charles Spurgeon, in his commentary on a different verse in Philippians, I think really helps us understand the relationship between God’s working in our sanctification and our working. This is what he writes:

God, we are told, works in us, therefore it is that we are to work the inward toward the outward. We work out, bring out, educe from within ourselves to our exterior life, that which God p 72 constantly works in us in the interior secret recesses of our spiritual being. If He does not work it in, you will never work it out.

1689 on Perseverance of the Saints

We are almost done with our groundlaying work, but I want to read one more resource, this time from a Confession. The 1689 London Baptist Confession has a full chapter on the Perseverance of the Saints. I’ve taken the first section, and modernized and slightly abridged the text to make it easier to understand. This is my view on the perseverance of the Saints.
On Perseverance of the Saints:
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 though 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 for a time be clouded and obscured from them, yet he is still the same, and they shall be sure to be 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.
Those whom God accepted, called, and santified by the Spirit, and whom He has given genuine faith, cannot fall from the state of grace, but will certainly persevere to the end, be eternally saved. Though many storms and floods shall arise and beat against, yet they shall never be removed from that foundation and rock which by faith they fastened upon. That being said, through times of unbelief, and temptations of Satan, the sight of God’s love and light may for a time be clouded and hidden from them, yet God is still the same, and they will certainly be kept by the power of God unto salvation, where they will enjoy their purchased possession, having their names written in the book of life from all eternity.
This certainty is not a bare conjectural and probable persuasion grounded upon a fallible hope, but an infallible assurance of faith founded on the blood and righteousness of Christ revealed in the Gospel; and also upon the inward evidence of those graces of the Spirit unto which promises are made, and on the testimony of the Spirit of adoption, witnessing with our spirits that we are the children of God; and, as a fruit thereof, keeping the heart both humble and holy.
This certainty is not a baseless conjecture, a probability grounded upon a fallible hope. Instead, it is an infallible assurance of faith founded on the blood and righteousness of Christ revealed in the Gospel; and also upon
But we do not believe this because it is in the Confession, but because it is in the Scriptures. So open up to . As I said earlier, we are looking at and . These are two parallel passages from different angles. looks at sanctification from the point of view of God’s work. Verses 9-11 look at our work.

God Finishes What He Starts (1:6)

So let’s read , one of the most famous verses in Scripture:
Philippians 1:6 HCSB
I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

The Good Work

God starts a good work in the believer. What is that good work? It is the work of saving a person, of Justifying them, of sanctifying them, of glorifying them. God, in one moment, justifies the believer. In the twinkling of an eye, God will glorify the believer on the last day. But in the middle is the long work of sanctification. And God doesn’t leave things unfinished. Listen church, if God has started in you the work of salvation, I speak with absolute certainty that He will finish it. He will carry it on to completion. God will not drop you because you aren’t sanctified enough. For the true believer, there will never be a time where God says “too little, too late, I’m done with you.” He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion. Some of you may be wondering “But did He start a work in me?” We’re going to get there. But for now, take comfort in this. Write this down if you have to. Because He started the work, and He will finish the work, my failures can’t stop the work. Let me say that again. Because He started the work, and He will finish the work, my failures can’t stop the work.
So let’s skip ahead a couple verses. 9-11 shows the same event of our sanctification, but from the perspective of the believer’s work. Now I have to make this clear. What you do does not save you. What you do does not keep you saved. What you do shows evidence of what God has, or has not, done in you.

Progressive Completion

So with that, let’s read .
Philippians 1:9–11 HCSB
And I pray this: that your love will keep on growing in knowledge and every kind of discernment, so that you can approve the things that are superior and can be pure and blameless in the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God.
Let’s go right into it.

Becoming Blameless (1:9-10)

Growing in Love (1:9)

In verse 9 Paul prays that “Your love will keep on growing in knowledge and every kind of discernment”. That seems odd to us in 21st century America. Isn’t love blind? Isn’t it irrational emotion that irresistably whisks us away? Yet Paul says that love isn’t irrational, rather it is to “grow in knowledge”. It isn’t emotional, rather it is to “grow in discernment”. So what does this mean? What does it mean for love to grow in knowledge?

Love Growing in Knowledge

D.A. Carson puts it well:
you really cannot grow in your knowledge of God if you are full of bitterness or other self-centered sins. There is a moral element in knowing God. Of course, a person might memorize Scripture or teach Sunday School somewhere or earn a degree in theology from the local seminary or divinity faculty, but that is not necessarily the same   p 21  thing as growing in the knowledge of God and gaining insight into his ways. Such growth requires repentance; it demands a lessening of our characteristic self-focus. To put it positively, it demands an increase in our love, our love for God and our love for others.
The more we know about God, the more you know about His love, and the more you know about those around you, the better you can love God, and the better you can love the people around you.

Love Growing in Discernment

But Paul doesn’t just pray that the Philippians would grow their love in knowledge, but in “Every kind of discernment”. What this means is that, as we love one another, we will inevitably do the wrong thing, say the wrong thing, and risk damaging the relationship. Of course, the one offended must forgive. But we need to grow our love in discernment. Our love should adapt to different circumstances, and we should grow in saying the right thing at the right time.

Approving Superior Things (1:10)

This goes right into verse 10.
Philippians 1:10 HCSB
so that you can approve the things that are superior and can be pure and blameless in the day of Christ,
If your love is growing in knowledge and every kind of discernment, you will be able to approve the things that are superior. When I hear this phrase, my mind immediately goes to the list in , so let’s go there.
Philippians 4:8 HCSB
Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise—dwell on these things.
Philippians 4:8–12 HCSB
Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise—dwell on these things. Do what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you. I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that once again you renewed your care for me. You were, in fact, concerned about me but lacked the opportunity to show it. I don’t say this out of need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content—whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need.
We should be approving these superior things.

List

Keep your mind on things that are accurate, that fit with reality.

Honorable

Do things that are honorable, t

Just

Pure

Lovely

Commendable

Moral Excellence

Praising

Approving Inferior Things

Yet all too often we find ourselves looking at the exact opposite of these things. Look at them one by one.

True

We should be looking at things that are accurate, yet oftentimes our focus is on things that aren’t just fiction, but wrong. Jesus’s parable were fiction, but they were true. They conveyed truth through a fictional story. So much of what we ingest is simply untrue.

Honorable

We are to do things that are honorable, and yet so often we bring dishonor by our behavior towards other people.

Just

We should seek justice, yet we love injustice if it benefits us.

Pure

Our eyes should be set upon that which is pure, and yet how many of us even in the church look at pornography and read gossip?

Lovely

How often we ignore things that are lovely for hate-filled.

Commendable

Can you commend what you read? I know its something of a running joke when the Pastor or I commend books, but it is a good thing to commend things to others. Our thoughts should go to things that are commendable.

Moral Excellence

We shouldn’t be consuming media that is morally disgusting, or morally questionable. Our thoughts should be on things that are morally excellent.

Praising

Finally, since we are made to praise God, that which we consume should praise God.
Let’s put it all together. Paul is praying that we would have a love that grows. This love is to grow in knowledge and discernment. This growing love allows us to approve superior things. All of this together comes to a crescendo at the end of verse 10.

Final Purity (1:6, 10)

Why are we to do this? The rest of verse 10 gives us the answer:
Philippians 1:10 HCSB
so that you can approve the things that are superior and can be pure and blameless in the day of Christ,
The ultimate goal is to be pure! It is to be blameless! What you do now will affect and work towards your purity and blamelessness. This is what connects verse 10 to verse 6. This brings it together. In verse 6, God is bringing to completion until the day of Jesus Christ. In verse 10, our love, our correct approval, these things result in purity and being blameless at the end.

Pure, Blameless, Complete

But we have another verse. Paul doesn’t just pray that we will grow in love, and approve superior things. He prays for something else, too.
(Praise Him for this!)

Fruit and Fruitlessness (1:11)

Philippians 1:11 HCSB
filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God.
Paul prays that we will be filled with the fruit of righteousness.

The Fruit of Righteousness

What is this fruit of righteousness? It is the result of a love growing in knowledge and discernment. It is the result of a person approving superior things in their life. It is love. It is joy. It is peace. It is patience. It is kindness. It is goodness. It is faithfulness. It is gentleness. It is self-control.

The Subject and Object of Faith for Assurance

So let’s combine verse 6 and verses 9-11, and talk about Assurance. So far we’ve really been talking about Perseverance of the Saints. But that can only be so comforting. The real question is “Am I saved?” Are you, personally, individually, saved? Isn’t that really the question?
Well, when we think about our assurance, there are two factors: the object of our faith, and the subject of our faith. The object of our faith is where we are placing our trust. You cannot have faith in faith. I heard someone talking about England the other day. For hundreds of years the ruling monarch of England, right now Queen Elizabeth II, has been given the title “The Defender of the Faith”. Of course, we wouldn’t agree with that, but we’re American Baptists, what would you expect? But apparently, Prince Charles, the man next in line to become King, has said that he wants to change the title to “The Defender of Faith”. There is a huge difference between the defender of “the faith” and simply the defender of “faith”. The difference is the object of our faith. Some have faith in themselves. Others have faith in government. Still others have faith in some god, goddess or force. But the only object of faith that has any saving power is Jesus Christ, the Son of God revealed in the Scriptures.
But what is the subject of our faith? The subject of faith is the believer. The believer is the visible indicator of our faith, and we see this in the Scripture. On the positive side we look at .
1 Thessalonians 1:3–5 HCSB
We recall, in the presence of our God and Father, your work of faith, labor of love, and endurance of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, knowing your election, brothers loved by God. For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, in the Holy Spirit, and with much assurance. You know what kind of men we were among you for your benefit,
Paul knew their election on the basis of their work of faith, their labor of love, and their endurance of hope. We are trees, and the presence of fruit indicates life in the root. It isn’t the other way around. You don’t make the root alive by producing fruit. You produce fruit because the root is alive.
We are trees, and the presence of fruit indicates life in the root. It isn’t the other way around. You don’t make the root alive by producing fruit. You produce fruit because the root is alive.

The Fruitless Tree

But there is also the negative end. The clearest example here is .
1 John 2:18–19 HCSB
Children, it is the last hour. And as you have heard, “Antichrist is coming,” even now many antichrists have come. We know from this that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not belong to us; for if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. However, they went out so that it might be made clear that none of them belongs to us.
It is possible that you could be sitting here uncomfortable this morning. You may be thinking, “But I don’t approve superior things. My love isn’t growing in knowledge or discernment. I don’t have the fruit of righteousness. What about me? Am I saved?” If that is you this morning, I want to pray a quick prayer for you before I continue.
Oh, Lord. You have written your Word that believers would be comforted in their salvation. Yet some here may be nervous. Perhaps some of them are waking up to this for the first time. I pray that you would give them clarity, Lord. Give some of them peace, and take away peace from others. Grant some comfort, and others discomfort. In Your Son’s name I pray, Amen.

Encouragement for Winter

That prayer may have been confusing. Why would I wish comfort on some, and discomfort on others? The reason is that, if you are nervous, if you are not bearing fruit as a Christian, there are two possible diagnoses. One diagnosis should be met with comfort, and the other with discomfort. And if you aren’t feeling this way today, you probably will at some point in your life.

Encouragement for Winter

For those not bearing fruit, look at your past. Has your life been one bearing fruit? Do you live a life leaning towards the fruit of righteousness? Have you typically desired to be closer to God? Have you desired to know more about Him? Look at your present. If you don’t bear fruit now, how does that make you feel? Do you feel guilty? Do you want to want God?
If you have historically lived a Christian life, and yet you find yourself slipping, caring less and less about God, I want to give you comfort. I want to give you peace. Even healthy, vibrant trees go through winter. They drop their leaves, they stop bearing fruit, and they look like a dead tree. But they are alive. Spring will come, and they will bud, blossom, and bear fruit. So I would encourage you to grow your love in knowledge of God and others. Analyze what you are looking at, listening to, reading, and approve superior things. If you do this, eventually you will bear fruit, and assurance of your salvation will overflow.
Thomas Brooks, a Puritan preacher from the 17th century, says this:
God has made a separation between joy and idleness, between assurance and laziness; and therefore it is impossible for you to bring these together that God has put so far asunder. Assurance and joy are choice gifts that Christ gives only to laborious Christians. The lazy Christian has his mouth full of complaints, when the active Christian has his heart full of comforts.

The Dead Tree

But now I speak to the other group. If your life since professing Christ has always looked like the world, if you have not loved God, if you have not repented of your sin, I don’t care if you made a profession, if you’ve been baptized, or what. I have no evidence to suggest you were ever a believer. For you, I want you to have no peace. I want discomfort for you. I want you to be in mental agony. I do not want your suffering to abide until you have trusted in Christ as your only hope.

The Gospel

I want you to understand that God created the world from the overflow of His love. He created it for His own glory. The crown of Creation was humanity. And since the Fall, every thought of every man was nothing but evil all the time. We have not given God the glory, but instead usurped the throne and made ourselves King. God is just to destroy us, and send us to eternal torment for all eternity. Even when He set apart a people for Himself and gave them His law, they consistently disobeyed, time and time again, and worshiped other gods. There is nothing about us that is worthy of being redeemed.
And yet, because of God’s great love for us, and because of His glory, He sent us His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, to redeem those under the Law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. On the Cross at Calvary, God poured out on Jesus of Nazareth all the wrath we deserve. His People, His Church, His Sheep, the sin of all of them were placed upon the head of Jesus, and He was slaughtered. The innocent was killed for the crimes of the guilty. But an amazing thing happened. In this divine transaction, the guilty receive the righteousness due the innocent. God treated Christ like He was guilty, and He treats us like we’re innocent! God raised this Jesus from the dead, and Jesus ascended to Heaven. One day He’s coming back, not as a baby but as a conquering King. Hear me. Whoever is not in Christ will die. They will receive the punishment they justly deserve. If you are not in Christ, you will go to Hell. If you are not in Christ, I do not want comfort for you. I do not come to preach peace but a sword. I want you to face discomfort, until you trust in Christ, and receive true comfort, true peace. I want you to be converted, have assurance of your salvation, and persevere in your faith.
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