I’m participating in Tim Challies’ Reading the Classics Together program. The book is Redemption Accomplished and Applied by John Murray, and this week’s reading is the eigth chapter of Part 2: The Order of Application.
John Murray starts this chapter by admitting that there are, at first glance, strong arguments against the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. We all know, from scripture and history and our own experience, those who have appeared to be genuine believers but have fallen away from the faith.
The first step, then, in building the case for this doctrine is establishing what it is not. “It does not mean,” he writes, “that every one who professes faith in Christ and who is accepted as a believer in the fellowship of the saints is secure for eternity and may entertain the assurance of eternal salvation.”
No, Jesus himself gives us the criterion for determining true believers: true believers continue in the faith until the end. The kind of temporary faith that doesn’t endure can look very much like the real thing.
…[I]t is possible to have very uplifting, ennobling, reforming, and exhilarating experience of the power and truth of the gospel, to come into such close contact with he supernatural forces which are operative in God’s kingdom of grace that these forces produce effects in us which to human observation are hardly distinguishable from those produced by God’s regenerating and sanctifying grace and yet be not partakers of Christ and heirs of eternal life.
But true believers persevere. They sin, they may backslide, but they will not finally fall away because they “are kept by the power of God through faith” until the end.
What scripture does Murray appeal to in his defense of perseverance of the saints? He starts with Romans 8:28-30, the Golden Chain of Redemption. The called are justified and the justified are glorified. If true saints—those who are called and justified—can be lost, it would go against what Paul is plainly teaching in these verses.
Next he moves to the teachings of Jesus in John 6 and 10. Jesus says that those given to him by the Father—who are also those who believe, who are also those who come to him, who are also those who are drawn by the Father—will be raised on the last day. And no one who is given to Jesus by the Father can be snatched away. In fact, believers have a kind of double security because they are held in the hand of Christ and the hand of the Father. Two powerful hands are grasping us tightly until the end.
Have we not in this truth new reason to marvel at the grace of God and the immutability of his love?
When my kids were younger, they’d enthusiastically affirm something by saying, “Yes! Yes! Double yes!” Doubly held so that we can never perish gets a double yes from me.
Glossary for Part 2, Chapter 8
- quietism: a form of mysticism that requires withdrawal from human effort.