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TEXT: I Peter 1:5b
SUBJECT: Watson on Perseverance #6
The topic of tonight's study is Thomas Watson on the Perseverance of the Saints. Watson was a Puritan pastor and author. We're looking at a chapter in his fine book, A Body of Divinity, first published in 1692 and as useful today as it was way back then.
In the standard Puritan way, Watson begins by defining his doctrine, then he proves it from the Bible, replies to a few objections, and now-near the end-he starts applying it to our lives. To his way of thinking, theology is practical; doctrine affects your life. We don't learn doctrine just to know it, but to be better disciples of Jesus Christ.
In his first application, he mostly praised God for the perseverance of His people. In the second use, he aims to comfort us with the doctrine.
For consolation. The doctrine of perseverance is a sovereign cordial to keep up the spirits of the godly from fainting. There is nothing more that troubles a child of God than the fear he cannot hold out. But once in Christ forever in Christ! A believer can fall from some degree of grace, but he cannot fall from the state of grace. An Israelite could never wholly lose his inheritance, so our inheritance cannot be wholly lost to us. How despairing the Arminian doctrine of falling from grace! Today a saint, tomorrow a reprobate; today a Peter, tomorrow a Judas..
.This cuts the nerve of Christian effort and is like boring a hole in a ship's hull. But be assured for your comfort, that grace-if true-though never so weak, shall persevere. Grace can be shaken with fears and doubts, but it cannot be pulled up by the roots. Fear not falling away
Watson has a lot to say here, so let's get to it. First of all, he calls perseverance "a sovereign cordial". A cordial is a strong drink-like rum or brandy-to make a sick person feel better. Because the cordial is sovereign, it works! It not only intends to make him feel better, but it does the job: he feels better after taking it. And, if the sickness has got him sinking into despair, it revives his spirits and gives him the heart to fight the cold or flu or asthma and recover.
This is what the doctrine of perseverance does for the ailing believer. You've been giving into your temper too much lately and not reading the Bible or praying as often as you used to. This becomes discouraging; you wonder if you can get back to where you once were or are you doomed to fall farther and farther away from the Lord? Then you remember that a saint-even a weak and sinful one-cannot be lost. This give you hope that you will get better. And that hope inspires effort. And the effort brings you closer to Christ. And getting closer to Christ inspires more hope and effort and-before you know it-you're back on your feet spiritually-not losing your temper so much and your devotional life is better than ever!
The medicine has worked! Believing you cannot be lost will keep you from being lost! Once in Christ forever in Christ!
Watson is realistic about the Christian life: he knows it doesn't go from victory unto victory, taking giant steps toward heaven every day. He says the degree of grace may be lost: you may backslide; we've all done it! But losing some of the grace you used to have is not the same as falling from grace. A marriage may lose some of its happiness, but if the husband and wife are committed to each other, the marriage is not lost. As long as God is committed to us and we to Him, our state of grace is secure.
Does the Lord's commitment to us give us the freedom to ignore Him and wander to other gods? No more than your wife's promise give you the right to abuse her. It doesn't work that way: Knowing God is committed to me strengthens my commitment to Him. Once in Christ forever in Christ!
Thirdly, Watson compares the believer's inheritance to the allotment of the land of Israel. You remember that Israel was divided into twelve tribes, the tribes were divided into clans, the clans into families, and so on. Each family got its own land and the land was guaranteed to them by God. Now, of course, some people were careful with their property: they sold it on a whim, they lost it to creditors, maybe they gambled it away, and so on. The land was lost.but not forever. Every fifty years, there was a holiday: the Day of Jubilee. On that day, the silver horns sounded, slaves went free, debts were cancelled, and the land went back to its original owners (or their heirs).
This was a Law in Israel, but also a prophecy for us: our inheritance can be squandered by neglect and abuse, but it cannot be lost. We have an inheritance, incorruptible, undefiled, that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for us".
He goes on to contrast the Bible doctrine of perseverance with the Arminian doctrine of Eternal Insecurity. The latter may produce great fear and feverish work.for a short time. But we cannot live on terror. Despair wears you out. Hope keeps you alive. Nothing will hinder my perseverance more than the fear that I will not persevere.
Finally-on this first point-he compares the believer's grace with Bermuda grass! If you've got Bermuda grass in your lawn, you know that when it is cut, poisoned, pulled up, and dug out, it has a way of growing back. Tiny seeds are in the lawn bed and they're impossible to get rid of!
Grace can be poisoned by sin and cut low by neglect, but it cannot be killed: it's still in the believer's soul, and, in time, it will come back and grow up. John says His seed remains in Him.
It's good to know the saint cannot fail to persevere; the believer cannot be lost because His Savior cannot be lost. That's the comfort the doctrine intends to bring you. That's what it's there fore-not to give you the P in TULIP, but to relieve you when you're scared, to encourage you when you're weak, and to give you hope when all hope has run out.
EXAMPLES OF COMFORT
The comfort this doctrine provides may not mean much to you at the moment. But some day, it will. Watson names four days on which you need the doctrine more than your necessary food.
The day of guilt.
That which humbles them shall not damn them; but their sins humble them; therefore, their sins shall not damn them.
Without the hope of perseverance, great sins will drive you to madness-think of King Saul-or to suicide-think of Judas Iscariot. But with that hope, the believer can confess his sin, and know that he has been forgiven and that the Lord still loves him and has something for him to do in life.
Sin is bad, always bad, and never good. But the believer's sin will not ruin him, for God will turn the guilt into humility and humility is a very good thing.
The day of temptation.
Satan hides the bomb of temptation to blow up the fort of a saint's grace, but he cannot do it. Temptation results in greater security. The more Satan tempts, the more the saints pray.
When you think of the billions of dollars spent each year to lure you into sin, it seems impossible that you would be able to resist the temptation. It seems that way, until you recall what powerful temptations do to you: they scare you and make you pray for grace to resist them. The grace is given in answer to your prayers, which, otherwise wouldn't have been asked for. This means the devil-without meaning to-is bringing us closer to Christ. And that, too, is a very good thing.
The day of outward loss.
When our goods are taken away, our grace cannot be.
Everyone is a loser: we all lose things we want and need. Some lose their money; others lose their health; we lose loved one; we lose friends; we lose jobs; we lose our dreams; we lose our youth, our strength, and finally, we lose our lives.
We are made of dirt, but we were not made to become dirt. But sin has done that to us-to everyone of us! When dear things are lost, the circle is broken and we are never the same again. But when we lose these things-things so precious to us-we can remember we have not lost our grace-and cannot lose it.
Friendships and marriages; health and success are fragile things: they can be broken past repair. But grace cannot be broken! It is as solid as a rock-as solid and strong and unbreakable as the Promise of God!
If grace cannot be broken, then the believer cannot lose his salvation: whatever he loses, he will keep it forever. That's strong comfort in times of loss and bereavement.
The day of death.
Death will separate all things from us, all things but grace. A Christian may say on his death bed, as Olevianus, `Sight is gone, speech and hearing are departing, but the lovingkindness of God will never depart'.
The Hebrew word for death is "separation": and what an apt word that is: in death, we are separated: from our bodies, from our jobs and homes, from our family and friends, from our old hopes and worries-separated from everything-but the lovingkindness of the Lord Jesus Christ!
How can we have such hope and certainty on our death beds? Only because the saints persevere! Despite our mistakes and sins and blindspots, we are kept by the power of God through faith for the salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
SUMMARY, CHALLENGE, AND CLOSE
The perseverance of the saints is a doctrine taught in the Bible-often and plainly: believers cannot be lost in this life or in the life to come.
The doctrine, though, has not been revealed to make us careless-doing whatever we want to because we know we're saved! No, it's in the Bible to comfort us-to make us know that when we are weak He is strong and that His promise is of eternal life to all believers cannot be broken.
If you believe in perseverance, don't just talk about it, debate it, or preach it! Practice it; prove the perseverance of the saints is a true doctrine by persevering. And the love of God be with you. For Christ's sake. Amen.
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