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TEXT: I Peter 1:5
SUBJECT: Watson on Redemption Applied #10: Perseverance
Tonight, with the Lord's help, we'll complete our study of Thomas Watson's little book, The Application of Redemption. First published in 1692, it remains a classic Puritan work on the Holy Spirit and how He applies the love of God and the death of Christ to His people.
Thus far, we've looked at nine parts of the Spirit's work. They are: faith, effectual calling, justification, adoption, sanctification, assurance, peace, joy, and growth in grace. God gives all of His people all of these blessings. Though some of them differ in degree, every one of them is the birthright of all Christians-from new convert to the old saint ripe for glory.
One last thing has to be said of His work. The Holy Spirit gives us the grace of perseverance.
This is a common word to Christians. Calvinists, in particular, know what it means. Watson explains it this way,
"The heavenly inheritance is kept for the saints
and they are kept for the inheritance. The
Apostle asserts the saint's stability and
permanence in grace. The saints'
perseverance is much opposed by Papist
and Arminian; but it is not the less true
because it is opposed. A Christian's main
comfort depends upon this doctrine of
perseverance. Take this away and you
prejudice religion and cut the nerve.
.of all cheerful endeavors."
To persevere, then means to stay saved-both in the life to come-and in this life too. Many Christians believe in Eternal Security. I do too, but not in the way they mean it. They often mean that if you profess faith at some time in your life (and really mean it) then you'll go to heaven when you die-no matter how you live in the meantime.
The Bible does not teach this! Our verse does not say we are "Kept by the power of God.unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time". No, what it says is, we are "Kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.".
Do you see the difference? The unbiblical scheme says once saved, always saved-when you die. But the Biblical take on it says once saved always saved-and not just when you die. True believers are saved both in their deaths and also in their lives.
That's the meaning of perseverance.
After defining his term, Watson quickly adds three qualifiers. When he says the saints persevere, he does not mean:
Everyone who professes faith perseveres,
"I grant that those who only profess faith may
fall away. A building on sand will soon fall.
Seeming grace may be lost. It is no wonder
To see fruit fall off a tree when it is only
Tied on. Hypocrites are only tied onto Christ
By external profession, not engrafted into Him".
This is a very fine picture of the hypocrite's life. There is visible fruit in his life, but it's only tied on by pride or tradition or the way he was brought up by his parents. In time that has to fall off-because it's not vitally connected to the Tree who is Christ.
He also does not mean believers persevere on their own,
"I grant that if believers were to stand of their
own legs, they might fall finally. Some of the
angels lost their grace; and if those pure
angels fell from grace, much more would the
godly, who have so much sin in them, if
they were not upheld by a superior power".
This needs to be underlined. When we think of salvation by grace alone, we're apt to limit salvation to conversion. God converted us by His Almighty and Sovereign Grace, but since then, it is we-with His help, maybe-who have kept the faith. No! The Lord not only brings us to faith, but He keeps us in it. If I persevere and go to heaven, it won't be because of what I am or I what I do.
He also doesn't mean Christians can't backslide,
"I grant that, although true believers do not fall
away and lose all their grace, yet their grace
may fail in degree. Grace may decay and
not be dead."
Was David a saved man when he committed adultery? He was. Was he saved after he did the deed? Yes, He was. Yet the sin hurt him very badly. Christians should not grow cold toward God; we should not slip into worldly ways of living, but we often do. Yet that does not mean we're lost. In short, you can lose the joy of your salvation without losing your salvation.
Knowing that I will persevere through life is a comforting doctrine-if it's true. But if it isn't true, it's one of the most damnable lies ever told. Jimmy Swaggart once said,
"John Calvin has sent more people to
hell than any man in history".
That's the likely effect of believing in perseverance-if it's not true. But it is true. Watson has a lot to say here and here's some of it:
The Bible says so,
"God has both asserted it and promised it'.
Is that so? Sure it is! John 10:28-29 could not be clearer
"I give them eternal life, and they shall never
perish; neither shall anyone snatch them
out of My hand. My Father, Who has given
them to Me, is greater than all; and no one
is able to snatch them out of My Father's hand".
This is a remarkable statement. Our Lord says all believers are safe in His hands. But He doesn't leave it there. He goes on to add that we're also in His Father's hands. Who could steal the believer away from Christ? Nobody could do that. But even if he could, the believer would be still be in Good Hands. Both Father and Son have said we are safe and promised it.
God's power is enough to secure us.
"It is the power of God that keeps us. As the
heathens thought of Atlas, bearing the world
on his shoulders, even so the power of God
keeps the saints from falling. It is disputed
whether grace of itself could perish, as Adam's,
yet sure I am that grace-kept by the power of
Again, this is precisely what the Bible teaches us about God and how He relates to His children, Psalms 37 and 145 say,
"The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD
and He delights in his way. Though he fall, he
shall not be utterly cast down, for the LORD
upholds him with His hands".
"The LORD upholds all who fall, and raises
up all who are bowed down".
God's purpose of grace,
"Those whom God has elected, from all eternity
to glory, cannot fall away finally. What can
frustrate election or make God's decree void?"
The Bible teaches us that God chose His people for glory before the world was. It also teaches that God's plan never fails. Therefore, His people cannot possibly be lost forever. We're lost prior to conversion, of course. And sometimes, even after we're saved, we act as though we're not. But those are side issues. What's central is the sureness of God's plan.
"The counsel of the LORD stands forever".
Therefore, the saved cannot be lost in the end.
Union with Christ.
"They are knit to Christ as members to the Head.
Christ and His members make one body. Now,
Is it possible that any part of Christ should
Perish? How can Christ lose any member
Of His mystical body and be perfect?
If one believer can be broken off of Christ,
Then why not another? Why not all?
And so Christ would be a head without
Union with Christ gives life-Christ's life! The believer, therefore, could no more perish than our Lord could perish! That is unthinkable.
One more thing here: If one believer could fall away, then why not two? And if two, then why not a thousand? And if a thousand, why not all of them? If all fell away, Jesus Christ could not be what the Bible says He is,
The nature of a purchase,
"A man will not lay down his money for
a purchase which may be lost. Christ died
that He might purchase us forever. Do you
think Christ will lose His purchase?"
In other words, do you think the Lord Jesus Christ can be swindled? A man offers me a new Mercedes Benz for $2,000. I snap it up, of course, only to find out it's got no engine under the hood. I've been cheated. I didn't get what I paid for. Can the Lord of Glory be cheated? Is He that stupid or weak? No, whatever we get or don't get, He gets what He paid for. And that is the salvation of all His people.
Based then, on the Word of God, the power of God, the plan of God, from our union with Christ and the value of His atonement, we can be sure-very sure-that all saints will persevere to the end and be saved.
You have God's Word on it.
The believer's salvation is sure; he will be kept in grace and for heaven. But how is he kept?
Before we get to Watson on this one, I have to say something about the doctrine of eternal security that has nothing to do with means. In Watson's day, only the Hyper-Calvinists believed that. Now, it is mostly Arminians who do.
I've heard people say about men who lived wicked lives and died in their sins, "Well, at least he was saved". By that, they mean he professed faith when he was a kid and, although he never served the Lord, still the Promise of God is true and the sinner is now in heaven.
No such promise is found in the Bible! Although the Lord is not required to use means to save us, He chooses to employ them. He doesn't zap us into heaven. He brings us there through means.
What are they? Watson says three things guarantee our salvation. They are,
The means of Grace,
"By the help of the ordinances, such as prayer,
the Word, and the sacraments. We are not
passengers on a ship, carried to the end of
our voyage as we sit by, like a man in a race
If you want to persevere, you must read the Bible, pray, mortify your sins, and enliven your graces. You are not saved by the means of grace, but neither can you be saved without them.
The work of the Holy Spirit,
"By the sacred influence of the Holy Spirit.
The Spirit of God is continually at work
In the heart of the believer."
The intercession of Jesus Christ,
"Grace is carried on to perfection by the daily
intercession of Christ. As the Spirit is at work
in the heart, so Christ is at work in heaven".
Through the work of God's Son, Spirit, and Word, believers are brought to the end of their faith, which is their full and final salvation.
So far, so good. But Watson has to answer an objection-and it's a very fine one. If the believer must persevere and not one of us will be lost, how do we explain the warning passages in the Bible? It's very simple,
"These admonitions are necessary to caution
believers against carelessness. They are
goads and spurs to quicken them to greater
diligence in working out their salvation. They
do not imply that saints can fall away but are
preservatives to keep them from falling away".
He hit the nail right on the head! The passages are not there to infer that true believers can be damned at last, but to keep us from being damned at last! How? By taking the warnings seriously!
Watson closes the chapter with several uses or what we would call applications.
We ought to value grace,
"See the excellence of grace. It perseveres.
Other things are but for a season; health and
Riches are sweet, but they do not last. Grace
Is the blossom of eternity".
If grace lasts forever, we ought to value it more than the things that don't-like money.
It stirs gratitude,
"See here that which may excite in the saints
everlasting love and gratitude to God. What
can make us love God more than the fixedness
of His love to us. He is not only the Author,
but the Finisher of our faith".
Again, he is right. Some fear that the perseverance of the saints will put the believer to sleep. What it actually does, it makes Him love God.
It gives comfort.
"Nothing more troubles a child of God than the fears
he shall not hold out to the end. But once in Christ
always in Christ".
We will stumble and fall and go backward at times. But, over our lives in Christ, we will move toward heaven. And finally get there. Not because of anything in us, but because of something in God, His Almighty Power and Infinite Love.
Every believer will persevere. That means you'll persevere if you're a believer. God has promised it and His Word is sure.
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