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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
 
Title:How do YOU react to the teaching of perseverance?
Text:CD 5 Article 15 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God's Amazing Grace
 
Preached:2018
Added:2018-12-05
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Psalm 107:1-3

Psalm 33:1-3

Psalm 33:4-6

Hymn 1

Hymn 10

Scripture reading: 2 Chronicles 32:1-19

Catechism lesson:  Canons of Dort 5.15

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of Christ,

We’ve been learning about the doctrines of grace.  These are the teachings that exalt God for his sovereign work in our salvation.  We find these doctrines of grace in the Canons of Dort.  To begin with this afternoon, I want to briefly review what we’ve learned about. 

You may remember the acronym TULIP.  TULIP is often used as a way to remember the doctrines of grace found in the Canons of Dort.  However, you may also remember that the Canons of Dort doesn’t follow the order of the acronym TULIP.  If you follow the order of the Canons, you get the much less memorable ULTIP. 

In chapter 1 of the Canons, we learned about the ‘U’ in TULIP.  ‘U’ stands for unconditional election.  Before the universe was created, God chose a certain number of people to salvation.  He did it unconditionally.  That means he did it without regard for anything we would do, or for who we are.  He simply chose us out of his grace, out of his sovereign good pleasure.  Knowing this makes us humble, thankful, and worshipful.    

In chapter 2 of the Canons, we learned about the ‘L’ in TULIP.  ‘L’ stands for limited atonement, although it is better to describe this teaching as particular redemption.  This teaching is all about what Christ was doing on the cross.  Was he suffering and dying just to make salvation possible for every human being?  Or was he actually suffering and dying to save those whom God had chosen?  We confess in the Canons of Dort that Christ loved the elect to death on the cross.  This is a huge comfort for us.  He didn’t merely make salvation possible for us – no, he actually accomplished it.

The next chapter of the Canons deals with both the ‘T’ and the ‘I’ in TULIP.  Chapter 3-4 first lays out the doctrine of total depravity, or pervasive depravity.  The Bible teaches us that human beings are dead in sin and thus unable of themselves to make any moves toward God.  We cannot begin to save ourselves.  We need God to save us.  And when he decides to save us and he sends the Holy Spirit to regenerate us, that grace is irresistible.  That’s the ‘I.’  Irresistible grace.  When he comes to turn a heart of stone into a heart of flesh, no one will stop the Holy Spirit.  He brings new life and he brings faith in Jesus Christ, so we can be saved from the wrath of God. 

Then in the last few weeks we’ve been learning about the ‘P’ in TULIP in chapter 5 of the Canons.  Here again, there’s enormous comfort for believers in God’s grace.  God promises to preserve elect believers so that they will persevere.  God promises to keep us secure so that we will certainly make it to the goal of glory.  We are in his loving hands and nothing and no one can snatch us away.  What amazing grace!  What an awesome God! 

Now as we get to the end of this series on the Canons of Dort, there’s an important question for you to consider.  How do you respond to these doctrines of grace?  You see, learning about these teachings is not meant to be merely an intellectual exercise.  We’re not just learning these doctrines to fill our heads with more information.  These teachings are meant to comfort and assure our hearts.  These teachings are meant to lead us to worship the God of grace with our lips and with our lives. 

This afternoon we’re going to see how that works out in particular with the perseverance of the saints.  We’ll consider what the Bible teaches about perseverance again and:

  1. The reasons for its revelation
  2. Resistance to it
  3. Our revelling in it

In Philippians 1:6, the apostle Paul says, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”  Right there you see God’s beautiful promise of preservation.  The Bible teaches that we can have certainty about our eternal security.  God will bring his good work in us to completion.  God also reveals the same promise in the well-known words of Jesus in John 10:28.  Christ is speaking about his sheep and he says, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”  Again, note the definite certainty in what Jesus says.  If you are a true believer in Jesus Christ, if by God’s grace you are one of his sheep, you will never be lost.  He will always hold on to you. 

And we’ve learned that you can and should be confident of this for yourself personally.  Every true Christian should have the assurance of God’s preservation.  This is also revealed to us in the Bible.  Take the apostle Paul again.  Even though he knew himself to be a sinful man, even though he called himself the worst of sinners, he had the assurance of eternal security in God’s hands.  You can see that in 2 Timothy 4:18 where he says, “The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom.”  There Paul was not writing about others, but about himself and his own confidence and assurance.  If Paul could have that assurance, so can every other true Christian.

Now why has God revealed these things to us?  Article 15 gives us two good reasons.  Then first has to do with God himself:  it’s for the glory of his name.  When we consider these teachings, we ought to praise God.  He has promised us eternal security.  Our safe passage to glory is guaranteed, not because of anything in us, but because he is our powerful and loving Father.  Since that’s true, we give credit where credit is due.  Praise, glory and worship are in order.  This is how God has designed it.  He reveals these things so we will exalt him.  Really, in the end, if you think about it, the revelation of our eternal security is there to bring us back to the reason we were created in the first place.  We were created and placed on this earth to live for God’s glory.  This teaching of eternal security leads us back to the original purpose for our existence. 

But isn’t it selfish for God to reveal something for his own glory?  Someone recently asked me about that.  If we were to go about revealing things that we had done so that we would be praised, it would be considered selfish and prideful.  So why is it okay for God to reveal things for his glory, things like what he does to preserve us?  Isn’t that selfish and prideful for God to do?  Have you ever thought about that?  To answer that, we have to consider what the Bible says about God in 1 John 4.  First John 4:8 contains the well-known words, “God is love.”  This is the key.  You need to listen carefully.  Scripture doesn’t say that God became love.  No, “God is love.”  That means God always and in every circumstance is love.  He has always been love, even before the universe was created and there were creatures to love.  But in order for God to be love, there had to be someone to love.  Now it’s true that Ephesians 1:4-5 tells us that God elected us in love before creation.  Even though we didn’t yet exist, God loved us in eternity.  But even apart from that, God is love.  This is where you need to remember your theology – remember, God is Triune.  He has eternally existed as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Who did God love?  There was eternally existing love between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Before the universe was created, there was eternal love between the Father and the Son, and vice-versa.  Before Genesis 1:1, there was eternal love between the Son and the Holy Spirit, and so on.  This intra-Trinitarian love continues to this day.  Love seeks the glory of another.  If a husband loves his wife, he loves to see his wife do well and receive praise from others.  If there is eternally existing love in the Triune God, then it is not selfish or prideful for God to reveal something for his glory.  The Holy Spirit who inspired the Scriptures where these things are revealed, he did that because he loves the Father and the Son and longs to see them glorified.  So, you see, because God is love, and because God is Triune, it is not selfish or prideful for God to reveal these kinds of teachings for his glory. 

So the first reason why we have the promise of eternal security revealed in Scripture is for the glory of God.  But it’s also revealed in Scripture for us.  It’s there in the Bible “for the consolation of the godly,” as it says in article 15.  God has told us these things for our comfort.  He loves us and, as we journey through this world, he doesn’t want us to be despairing and doubting.  Instead, God wants us to be confident and sure of his fatherly protection.  God wants us to rest secure in the knowledge that we are in his good hands and no one can touch us.  So with his Holy Spirit he put these teachings in the Bible, and he also works in our hearts so that we can and do believe these teachings.  Loved ones, this is one of the reasons why Jesus in John 14 calls the Holy Spirit the Paraclete.  In our ESV translation, that’s rendered as “Helper,” but the word ‘Paraclete’ also means “Comforter.”  The Holy Spirit comforts us with the promises of God written in the Bible and impresses them on our hearts. 

Sadly, there is and always has been resistance to these teachings.  This resistance has come from several different quarters.  For example, article 15 speaks of how the world ridicules this kind of biblical teaching.  We see an ancient example of that in our reading from 2 Chronicles 32. 

In that chapter you see this king of Assyria named Sennacherib.  Sennacherib has invaded Judah and he’s besieging the city of Jerusalem.  That means the city was surrounded and cut off.  It looked like Jerusalem was finished.  The Assyrians tried to get the Jews to surrender.  One of the ways they did that was to mock the God of the Jews.  They said their God had no power.  He had not protected them before this, and he wouldn’t protect them in the future either.  They had no security in Yahweh, in the LORD.  Here you see the world ridiculing God’s people for trusting in God’s protection.  In the end however, God’s people were vindicated.  God delivered them.  Second Kings 19 tells of how the LORD struck down 185,000 Assyrian soldiers in one night.  They all died – 185,000.  Scripture doesn’t say how, but it could have been some deadly disease that God used.  Regardless, the outcome proclaimed God’s victory and protection over his people.  And Sennacherib went back to Assyria and he was murdered by his own sons while worshipping his false gods.  That, of course, tells you something about the ability of those gods to protect and preserve him. 

Still today, the world ridicules Christians for their belief in a sovereign God who will preserve them until they make it to glory.  The world makes fun of us for believing in God, full stop.  And a God who is powerful enough to keep his people secure – they’ll mock that too. 

Others resist this teaching as well.  Satan, for example.  Satan hates this teaching.  Why would Satan hate the teaching of perseverance?  It’s because Satan wants us to doubt God.  He did that in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3, and he still does that today.  Satan wants us to distrust God’s promises and power.  He wants us to think that God is unreliable and unable to keep us in his care.  The devil wants to do everything he can to make sure we have a low view of God.  Believing the biblical doctrine of the perseverance of the saints makes us have a high view of God.  That’s why he hates it.

Then there’s what the Canons call “the flesh.”  “The flesh does not understand” this teaching of perseverance.  “The flesh” refers to the sinful nature.  If someone is not a Christian, they are of “the flesh.”  If someone has not been regenerated/born again, they only have a mindset ruled by “the flesh,” by a corrupt, sinful nature.  And if you’re in that condition, you can’t really understand spiritual truths such as the perseverance of the saints.  That’s what it says in 1 Corinthians 2:14, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”  And one of these “things of the Spirit of God” is the perseverance of the saints.  It just doesn’t make sense to the unbelieving mind. 

We also confess that the “ignorant and the hypocrites” abuse this teaching.  These are a special kind of unbeliever.  They’re in the church, they hear this teaching, but because they don’t believe and understand it properly, they abuse it.  These are the kind of people who live in their sins without repenting and believing in Jesus Christ, but they pretend to be Christians.  They’re actors.  They take the teaching of the perseverance of the saints and they rationalize where they are spiritually with it.  It sounds like this:  “Oh, I’m a church member, so I’m going to be kept safe in God’s hands no matter what.”  Or it sounds like this:  “Oh, I’ve been baptized, so I know that God will never let go of me.”  And this is coming from people who do not turn from sin and don’t trust in Jesus Christ.  This is coming from people who are not true Christians.  Listen carefully:  the teaching of the perseverance of the saints offers no comfort or security to unbelievers and hypocrites.  The comfort that’s here is meant for those who have repented and believed in the only Saviour Jesus.  It’s meant for those who love the Saviour and seek to follow him in every aspect of their lives.

Last of all, there’s also resistance from heretics.  Heretics are those who hold to false doctrines which endanger salvation.  Heretics attack the perseverance of the saints.  This is because most, if not all, heresies exalt man over God.  In the context of the Canons of Dort, we think of Arminianism.  Technically speaking, Arminianism is a collection of serious errors tending towards heresy.  Complicating matters is the fact that not all Arminians are the same – and also the fact that almost every Arminian prays like a Calvinist.  But if you take the most unbiblical form of Arminianism, the most extreme form, elements of it get really close to heresy, if not going over the line.  Certainly there have been many others besides the Arminians who’ve attacked the biblical teaching of eternal security.  For example, the Roman Catholics don’t hold to this.  They also think this teaching is dangerous and wrong. 

But then there’s us.  There’s you.  Let me ask you brother, sister:  how do you react to the teaching of perseverance?  Is it something that comforts you?  Is it something that cheers your heart and leads you to praise for God? 

Article 15 says, “The Bride of Christ, on the other hand, has always loved this doctrine most tenderly and defended it steadfastly as a treasure of inestimable value…”  “Love” – is that a word that comes to your mind when we’re talking about a doctrine like this?  “I love this doctrine, I love this teaching, it gives me so much comfort and encouragement to know that God has me in his hands.  I love this teaching, because I know that God is good and his promises are dependable.” 

We also confess that this doctrine is a “treasure of inestimable value” that’s worth defending.  Would you say that the Canons of Dort give you treasure?  And what about this doctrine of eternal security?  Is this precious to you?  “I value this teaching of God’s Word so much.  I would never want to let it go.  I would do what I can to defend and promote it because this is a matter of exalting God.  I would do what I can to defend and promote it because it’s also a matter of giving solid biblical encouragement to other believers.  Believers who don’t understand this or haven’t been taught this, they’re missing out.  I wouldn’t want them to miss out on the great comfort we get from God’s promises of preservation.”

But above all, this is about worship.  This is about revelling in our God.  It’s about delighting and rejoicing in the God of our salvation.  What a gracious God!  What a loving Father!  He is the one “against whom no counsel can avail and no strength can prevail.”  Our God is mighty and sovereign and that has practical implications for us.  It means that, if we are true believers in Christ, we simply cannot be lost.  Oh, how that biblical truth should make our hearts leap for joy.  That biblical truth should fill our mouths with praises for God.  We should be praising him with words like those of Psalm 118:1, “O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever.”  And words like those of Psalm 145:1-3, “I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever.  Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever.  Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable.”  Or Psalm 146:1-2, “Praise the LORD!  Praise the LORD, O my soul!  I will praise the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.”  And in the words of the Canons, “To this God alone, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, be honour and glory forever.”  Won’t you worship him for these wonderful gospel truths?    

Brothers and sisters, that brings us to the end of this sermon and this series on the Canons of Dort.  I can’t think of a better way to end than to read the last paragraph of the Conclusion of the Canons of Dort.  You can find this on page 581 in the 2010 Book of Praise [read].  AMEN.

PRAYER

Gracious God,

Thank you for revealing to us doctrines of grace like the perseverance of the saints.  These sorts of teachings do lead us to great wonder and awe at you our God.  Knowing your power and your promises also gives us great comfort.  Father, thank you for showing these things to us so we would have joy in you.  We pray that you would help us always to treasure your promise of preservation, help us to hold on to it and worship you for it today and every day.  LORD God, we do praise your Name for your sovereign grace in every step of our salvation.  You chose us.  We exalt you for that.  Our Saviour Jesus died with our names on his heart on the cross.  We praise your name for that.  You sent your Holy Spirit to regenerate us and give us the gift of faith.  We lift your Name on high for this precious gift.  And you promise to keep us secure until we reach glory – for that too, we gratefully say, “Hallelujah!”  Praise be to your name now and forever, O great God of our salvation.     

                      




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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