by Mike Ratliff
I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge– even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you– so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (1 Corinthians 1:4-9 ESV)
Not long ago during some research for a piece I was working on, I found myself on a blog that was most definitely not a friendly place for anyone who holds that God’s Truth is absolute and we can know it by studying His Word. The search that landed me there had to do with Penal Substitution. I never did find out why Google linked to that site, however, as I read the comments in the discussion of the post in question, one seemed to sear itself into my memory. The person who wrote came across as young and angry. He had a huge problem with Paul Washer of Heart Cry Missionary Society. Why? He did not like the fact that when he heard him he felt like Paul was simply manipulating his emotions to make him believe that he was not really saved. He then began ranting about Reformation Theology, calling it “works theology.” Why? Because we teach that proof of the veracity of one’s salvation is proven when the believer perseveres to the end. I asked myself, how that could possibly be seen as works because we do not teach that the believer’s perseverance is accomplished by self-effort.
Why do authentic Christians persevere? Carefully read the passage I placed at the top of this post. Genuine Christians persevere to the end because God is faithful. The faithfulness of man is at best unreliable. Also, notice that Paul did not say that Christians persevere because of faithful ministers to lead and guide them. No, God would never trust His children’s perseverance to mere men. Instead, the whole burden of our salvation must rest on the faithfulness of our covenant God.
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. (James 1:17 ESV)
God is faithful in His love; He knows no variation or shadow due to change. Unlike men, God is faithful to His purpose. He is finishes what He starts. He is faithful to His relationships. All in Christ have a relationship with Him and, therefore, God. They are God’s children and He will never renounce them. He is faithful to His promises and will never allow one of them to fail for a single believer. He is faithful to His covenant, which He made with us in Christ Jesus and ratified with the blood of His sacrifice. He is faithful to His Son and will not allow His precious blood to be shed win vain. He is faithful to His people, to whom He has promised eternal life, and from whom He will not turn away.
It is the faithfulness of God that is the foundation and cornerstone of our hope of final perseverance, not our religiosity, nor any mystical higher life pursuits such as “let go and let God.” We are unable to cleanse ourselves and become holy through our own efforts. Without God working in us to preserve us as He sanctifies us as we work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12) we would never spiritually mature. Our sanctification is synergistic. We submit to and obey God as He works in us to make us holy as we learn to mortify our sins and walk in repentance.
The saints will persevere in holiness because God perseveres in grace. He perseveres to bless, and therefore believers persevere in being blessed. He continues to keep His people, and therefore they continue to keep His commandments. Instead of the sifting sands of mysticism, ultra-religiosity, and self-inflicted piety the genuine believer rests on the solid ground of persevering in God’s grace. It is free favor and infinite mercy through which God regenerates His people through faith, which is His gift (Ephesians 2:1-10).
There are 2 reasons true saints will be confirmed unto the end and neither is rooted in self-effort. The 1st reason Christians will persevere and be confirmed unto holiness is based entirely in what God has already done. This confirmation will result in them being found blameless and that would be impossible if it was according to what the Christian has done in and of themselves. He has gone so far in blessing His children that it is not possible for Him to turn back. As we saw in 1 Corinthians 1:4-9 (above), God has called all genuine Christians into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. God called each believer and that call cannot be reversed. Why?
For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. (Romans 11:29 ESV)
The calling through which the believer is saved is what we call the Effectual call. God never turns from the effectual call of His grace.
And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (Romans 8:30 ESV)
This is the result of God’s effectual call. It always results in a child of God becoming a new creation in Christ. It never fails. On the other hand, there is the general call of the Gospel which evangelists and witnesses make when preaching Jesus and the Cross, but as we see in Matthew 22:14, “many are called, but few are chosen.” This is not the effectual call of God. No, the effectual call consists of a special love and necessitates the possession of that to which we are called (Isaiah 41:9).
The 2nd reason true saints will be confirmed unto the end consists of their fellowship with Jesus Christ. Again, we see this in 1 Corinthians 1:4-9. Each genuine believer has been effectually called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. This is a calling into partnership with Jesus Christ. How can this be? All genuine believers have been called by divine grace; therefore, they have come into fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ. They have become joint-owner with Christ in all things.
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs–heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. (Romans 8:16-17 ESV)
Notice that all genuine believers are heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, but each of them will suffer with Him in order that they may also be glorified with Him. This is the bearing of the marks of Christ that all genuine believers receive as they partake in Christ’s shame and suffering at the Cross. This also means that they are one with Christ Jesus in the sight of the Most High. Through Penal Substitution, the Lord Jesus Christ bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (1 Peter 2:24 ESV). He was also made a curse for [you] (Galatians 3:13). He also became all genuine believers’ righteousness. Why? It was so that they are justified in Him. They are Christ’s and Christ is theirs.
Adam stood for his descendants. Our Lord Jesus stands for all who are in Him. All genuine believers are one with Jesus, united to Him by faith. This union can never be broken. Each genuine believer is also a member of the body of Christ. Therefore, they are one with Christ by a loving, living, lasting union. God has effectually called each one into this union, this fellowship, and this partnership. At that moment of the effectual call, each genuine believer was changed forever. They are new creations with a new nature, Christ’s nature, and they are endowed with His immortal life. Their eternal destiny is linked with His, and until He can be destroyed, it is not possible that they would perish.
In these last days of this age, prior to the age to come, things will become quite difficult for anyone who will refuse to compromise their faith by submitting to the pressure to worship anything or anyone other than their Lord. This could consist of all forms of persecution, but no matter how ugly things become, each one in Christ may appear helpless and poor to their enemies, but their hope lies in Christ, not any thing in the temporal. Therefore, they can never be poor while Jesus is rich, because they are as in one firm with Him. No matter how terrible things become here, the genuine believer’s Partner is inconceivably, inexhaustibly rich. No matter how bad things get, the genuine believer has his or her treasure in a place that cannot be touched by the enemy or his seed. Their life may even be taken, but all that does is send them to their Saviour and glory. All in Christ are in a place of infallible safeguard. Therefore, each and every one of them will persevere to the end. This is so because this is entirely rooted in God and what He has done and by His effectually calling them into fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, let each one in Christ go forward with the utmost confidence into the unknown future, linked eternally with Jesus. We can do this as we lean on Jesus. The more spiritually mature we become, the more we must lean on Him. God is faithful and never changes. We will persevere to the end because of Him and His good work in us, not because of our works. We are under His eternal protection my brethren. Who shall separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord?
Soli Deo Gloria!