Arthur W. Pink
Chapter 2 - It's Importance
The theme of this present series of articles is far more than a theological dogma or sectarian tenet: it is an essential portion of that Faith once for all delivered to the saints, concerning which we are exhorted to "contend earnestly". In it is displayed, respectively, the honor and glory of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and therefore they who repudiate this truth cast a most horrible aspersion upon the character of the triune Jehovah. The final perseverance of the saints is one of the grand and distinctive blessings proclaimed by the Gospel, being an integral part of salvation itself, and therefore any outcry against this doctrine is an attack upon the very foundations of the believer’s comfort and assurance. How can I go on my way rejoicing if there be doubts in my mind whether God will continue to deal graciously with me and complete that work which He has begun in my soul? How can I sincerely thank God for having delivered me from the wrath to come if it is quite possible I may yet be cast into Hell?
Above we have said that the honor and glory of Jehovah is bound up in the final perseverance of the saints: let us now proceed to amplify that assertion. God the Father predestinated His people "to be conformed to the image of His Son" (Rom. 8:29), which conformity is not fully wrought in any of them in this life, but awaits the day of Christ’s appearing (1 John 3:2). Now is the Father’s eternal purpose placed in jeopardy by the human will? is its fulfillment contingent upon human conduct? or, having ordained the end will He not also make infallibly effectual all means to that end? That predestination is founded upon His love: "I have loved thee (says the Father to each of His elect) with an everlasting love, therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee" (Jer. 31:3). Nor is there any variation in His love, for God is not fickle like us: "I am the Lord, I change not: therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed" (Mal. 3:6). Were it possible for one of God’s elect to totally apostatize and finally perish it would mean the Father had purposed something which He failed to effect and that His love was thwarted.
Consider God the Son in His mediatorial character. The elect were committed unto Him as a trust by the Father: said He Thine they were and Thou gayest them Me" (John 17:6). In the covenant of redemption Christ offered to act as their Surety and to serve as their Shepherd. This involved the most stupendous task which the history of the universe records: the Son’s becoming incarnate, magnifying the Divine Law by rendering to it perfect obedience, pouring out His soul unto death as a sacrifice to Divine justice, overcoming death and the grave, and ultimately presenting ‘faultless" before God (Jude 24) the whole of His redeemed. As the good Shepherd He died for His sheep, and as the great Shepherd it is His office to preserve them from this present evil world. If He failed in this task, if any of His sheep were lost, where would be His faithfulness to His engagement? where would be the efficacy of His atonement? how could He triumphantly exclaim at the end "Behold land the children which God hath given Me" (Heb. 2:13)?
The person of the Holy Spirit is equally concerned in this vital matter. It is not sufficiently realized by the saints that they are as definitely indebted to the third Person of the Godhead as truly as they are to the first and second Persons. The Father ordained their salvation, the Son in His mediatorial character purchased it, and the Spirit "applies" and effectuates it. It is the blessed Spirit’s work to make good the Father’s purpose and the Son’s atonement: "He saved us by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit" (Titus 3:5). Said Christ to His disciples "I will not leave you orphans (though I leave this world): I will come to you" (John 14:18). That promise given on the eve of His death was made good in the gift of the Spirit "But the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, the same shall teach you all things" (John 14:26). Christ’s redeemed were thus entrusted to the love and care of the Spirit, and should any of them be lost where would be the Spirit’s sufficiency? where His power? where His faithfulness?
This, then, is no trivial doctrine we are now concerned with, for the most momentous considerations are inseparably connected with it. We are satisfied it is because of their failure to realize this that so many professing Christians perceive not the seriousness of their assenting to the opposing dogma of the total apostasy of saints. If they understood more clearly what was involved in affirming that some who were truly born again fell from grace, continued in a course of sin, died impenitent and were eternally lost, they would be slower to set their seal unto that which carried such horrible implications. Nor may we regard it as a matter of indifference where such grave consequences are concerned. For any of the elect to perish would necessarily entail a defeated Father, who was balked of the realization of His purpose: a disappointed Son, who would never see the full travail of His soul and be satisfied; and a disgraced Spirit, who had failed to preserve those entrusted to His care. From such awful errors may we be delivered.
The importance of this truth further appears from the prominent place which is accorded it in the Holy Scriptures. Whether we turn to the O. T. or the New it makes no difference; whether we consult the Psalms or the Prophets, the Gospels or the Epistles, we find it occupies a conspicuous position. If we cited every reference we should have to transcribe literally hundreds of verses. Instead, we will quote only a few of the lesser known ones. Here is one from the Pentateuch:
"He loved the people, all His saints are in Thy hand" (Deut. 33:3). One from the Historical books: "He will keep the feet of His saints" (1 Sam. 2:8). One from Job: "When he hath tried me I shall come forth as gold" (23:10). One from the Psalms: "The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me" (138:8). One from the Proverbs: "The root of the righteous shall not be moved" (12:3 contrast Matt. 13:2 1). One from the Prophets: "I will put My fear in their hearts that they shall not depart from Me" (Jer. 32:40). These are fair samples of the Divine promises throughout the O. T.
Observe the place given to this truth in the teaching of Christ. "Upon this Rock I will build My Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it" (Matt. 16:18). "False Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall show signs and wonders, to seduce, if possible, even the elect" (Mark 14:22)—it is not possible for Satan to fatally deceive any of the elect. "Whosoever cometh to Me and heareth My sayings, and doeth them, I will show you to whom he is like: he is like a man which built a house and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock; and when the flood arose, the storm beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it; for it was founded upon a rock" (Luke 6:47-48). "This is the Father’s will which hath sent Me, that of all which He hath given Me I should lose nothing" (John 6:39). The writings of the apostles are full of it. "For if when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son; much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life" (Rom. 5:10). "Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which He hath promised to them that love Him" (James 2:5). "Kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation" (1 Pet. 1:5). "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for ~f they had been of us, they would have continued with us" (1 John 2:19). "Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling" (Jude 24).
The tremendous importance of this doctrine is further evidenced by the fact that it involves the very integrity of the Scriptures. There is no mistaking their teaching on this subject: the passages quoted above make it unmistakably plain that every section of them affirms the security of the saints. He then who declares the saints are insecure so long as they remain in this evil world, who insists that they may be eternally lost, yea that some of them—like king Saul and Judas—have perished, repudiates the reliability of Holy Writ and signifies that the Divine promises are worthless. 0 my reader, weigh this well: the very veracity of the Lord God is concerned therein. He has promised to keep the feet of His saints, to deliver them from evil, to preserve them unto His heavenly kingdom, and "God is not a man that He should lie, neither the son of man that He should repent: hath He said, and shall He not do it? Or hath He spoken, and shall He not make it good? (Num. 23:19).
Elisha Coles the Puritan used a forcible argument from the less to the greater, the substance of which shall here be given. Since the Lord made good His word in things of a lower consideration, how much more will He in the eternal salvation of His people. If certain persons were destined by Him to eminent service in this world, notwithstanding the greatest of difficulties and natural impossibilities which stood in the way to obstruct it, how much more certain is the accomplishment of His purpose concerning those vessels of mercy which He has ordained for heavenly glory! God promised Abraham that his seed should have the land of Canaan (Gen. 12:7). Years passed and when little short of a century his wife was still barren, but a miracle was wrought and Isaac was born. Isaac married and for twenty years his wife remained childless, when in answer to prayer the Lord gave her conception (25:21). They had two children but the Lord rejected the elder, and the younger to whom the promise belonged was in daily danger of being killed by Esau (27:41), and to save his life he fled to Padanaram.
While in Padanaram Laban dealt harshly with him, and when he decided to return home his father-in-law followed him with evil intentions, but the Lord interposed and warned him in a dream (Gen. 31:23, 24). But no sooner had Jacob escaped from Laban than Esau comes against him with four hundred men, determined to revenge his old grudge (32:6), but the Lord melted his heart in a moment and caused him to receive Jacob with affection. When Simeon and Levi so highly provoked the Canaanites there appeared to be every prospect that Jacob and his family would be exterminated (34:25), but the Lord caused such a terror to fall on them that they touched not a single one (35:5). When a seven years famine came on the land, threatening to consume them, by a strange providence the Lord provided for them in Egypt. There, later, Pharaoh sought their destruction; but in vain. By His mighty power Jehovah brought them forth from the house of bondage, opened a way through the Red Sea, conducted them across the wilderness and brought them into Canaan. Shall He do less for the spiritual seed of Abraham to whom He has promised the heavenly Canaan for an everlasting heritage?
Joseph was one whom the Lord would honor, and in several dreams intimated he should be exalted to a position of dignity and preeminence (Gen. 37). Because of that his brethren hated him, determined to frustrate those predictions and slay him (v. 18). And how shall Joseph escape? for they are ten to one and he the least. In due course they cast him into a pit, where it seemed likely he must perish; but in the good providence of God some Midianites passed that way ere any wild beast had found him. He is delivered into their hands and they bring him to Egypt and sell him to the captain of Pharaoh’s guard — a man not at all likely to show kindness to him. But the Lord is pleased to give him favor in his master’s eyes (39:3, 4), yet if Joseph’s hopes now rose how quickly were they disappointed. Through the lies of his mistress he was cast into prison, where he spent not a few days but many years. What prospect now of preferment? Nevertheless the counsel of the Lord was made good and he became lord over Egypt!
God promised the kingdom of Israel unto David and while yet a youth he was anointed to it (1 Sam. 16:13). What! notwithstanding all interveniences? Yes, for the Lord had said it and shall He not do it! Therefore if Saul cast a javelin at him, unsuspected, to nail him to the wall, a sharpness of eye and agility of body shall be given him to discern and avoid it (18:11). If he determined evil against him, Jonathan is moved to inform him (19:7). If he send messengers to Naioth to arrest him, they shall forget their errand and fall a prophesying (2 0-24). If he be in a city that will betray him, and no friend there to acquaint him of his peril, the Lord Himself is his intelligencer and sends him out (23:12). If Saul’s army encompasses him about and no way to escape is left, the Philistines invade his land and the king turns away to meet them (vv. 26, 27). Though there were not on earth to deliver "He (said David) shall send from heaven and save me" (Ps. 57:3). Shortly after Saul was slain and David came to the throne!
"And, behold, there came a man of God out of Judah by the word of the Lord unto Bethel; and Jeroboam stood by the altar to burn incense. And he cried against the altar in the word of the Lord, and said 0 altar, altar, thus saith the Lord: Behold, a child shall be born unto the house of David, Josiah by name; and upon thee shall he offer the priests of the high places that burn incense, and men’s bones shall be burnt upon thee" (1 Kings 13:1, 2). Most remarkable was this prophecy. The kingdom of Judah had been despised and deserted by the ten tribes, yet a day will come when the house of David should so recover its power that a member of it would demolish that altar. Nothing seems more contingent and arbitrary than the giving of names to persons, yet here the name of this man is foretold centuries before his birth, and in due time he was called Josiah. During the interval of three hundred and fifty years between this prediction and its fulfillment (2 Kings 23:15, 16) things transpired which made dead against its accomplishment. Athaliah determined to destroy all the royal seed of David, but Joash is stolen from the rest and preserved (2 Kings 11:2). Hezekiah falls sick unto death, but fifteen years is added to his life rather than Manasseh, who must be Josiah’s grandfather, should be unborn (20:6, 21).
"Paul was a chosen vessel, appointed to preach Christ to the Gentiles (Acts 9: 15) and at last to bear witness of Him at Rome (23:11). This must be done although bonds, imprisonment and death itself do attend him in every place. If, therefore they lie in wait for him at Damascus and watch the gates night and day to kill him, he shall be let down by the wall in a basket and so escape them (Acts 9:24, 25). If all Jerusalem be in an uproar to kill him the chief captain shall come in with an army and rescue him (21:31, 32) though no friend to Paul nor to his cause. If more than forty men had bound themselves with an oath that they will neither eat nor drink until they have killed him, his kinsmen shall hear of it, and by his means the chief captain shall be his friend again and grant him a sufficient convoy (23:14-23). . .not his being once stoned, nor his thrice suffering shipwreck, nor anything else, shall make void the purpose of God for bearing witness of Christ at Rome" (Elisha Coles).
Now my reader, why, think you, are such instances as the above recorded in the sacred Scriptures? Is it not for our instruction and consolation? Is it not to assure us that the promises of God are unimpeachable, that His counsel shall stand, that once the word has gone forth from His mouth all earth and hell combined is powerless to negative it? If the Lord was so exact in carrying out His word in these lesser things, which related only to time and earth, executing His purpose despite all outward oppositions, working miracles in order to accomplish His pleasure, how much more will He be punctilious in securing the eternal welfare of those whom He has appointed to Heavenly glory! If He bore His people of old "upon eagles wings" (Ex. 19:17), above the reach of danger, if He kept them as "the apple of His eye" (Deut. 32:10)—with all possible care and tenderness—till He brought them to Himself, think you that He will now do less for any for whom Christ died!
One of the outstanding glories of the Gospel is its promise of eternal security to all who truly believe it. The Gospel presents no third-rate Physician who is competent to treat only the milder cases, but One who heals "all manner of sickness" who is capable of curing the most desperate cases. It proclaims no feeble Redeemer, but One who is "mighty to save": though the world, the flesh and the Devil, combine against Him, He cannot be frustrated. He who triumphed over the grave cannot be thwarted by any feebleness or fickleness in His people. "He is able (which would not be true if their unwillingness could balk Him) to save unto the uttermost them that come unto God by Him" (Heb. 7:25). Those whom He pardons He preserves. Therefore each one who trusts in Him, though conscious of his own weakness and wickedness, may confidently exclaim "I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day."
The importance of this truth appears clearly if we suppose the opposite. Assume that those who flee to Christ for refuge should finally end in the regions of woe: then what? Why, to what purpose would be the proclamation of a Gospel which announced "so-great salvation" only for its participants to be eventually disappointed?— it would be no better than a beautiful mirage seen by parched travelers in the desert: presenting to their view a life-giving stream, only to mock those who sought it. Why, to what purpose did Christ offer Himself as a sacrifice to God if His blood avails not for those who trust in it? Why, to what purpose is the Holy Spirit given to God’s children if He is unable to subdue the flesh in them and overcome their proclivities to wander? To what purpose is the Divine gift of faith if it fails its possessor in the ultimate outcome? If the final perseverance of the saints be a delusion, then one must close his Bible and sit down in despair.