The Perseverance of the Saints

This is the love of God which was supremely displayed in the cross (5:8; 8:32, 37), which has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit (5:5), which has drawn out from us our responsive love (8:28), and which in its essential steadfastness will never let us go, since it is committed to bringing us safe home to glory in the end (8:35, 39). Our confidence is not in our love for him, which is frail, fickle and faltering, but in his love for us, which is steadfast, faithful and persevering. The doctrine of ‘the perseverance of the saints’ needs to be re-named. It is the doctrine of the perseverance of God with the saints.

Let me no more my comfort draw
     From my frail hold of thee;
In this alone rejoice with awe—
     Thy mighty grasp of me.

John R. W. Stott, The Message of Romans: God’s Good News for the World (pgs. 259–260).

Satan, the Fangless Accuser

When Satan launches what Edwards calls “vexatious accusations of conscience” against believers, he is playing upon the believer’s resensitized conscience (awakened by the Spirit) while muting the believer’s full and free forgiveness (won by the Son). The way to combat these accusations from hell is therefore not to deny the first, but to remember the second. We should not downplay the reasonableness of our condemnation. We do deserve to be condemned. But another reality transcends our condemnation: the atoning work of Christ. This work not only frees us from accusation (negatively) but also renders us righteous (positively).

The gospel has defanged Satan. His bite is all gums and no teeth. When Satan accuses believers covered by the blood of Christ, he is (to switch metaphors) firing empty cartridges – his gun makes a bang, but it can’t ultimately hurt us. “Satan cannot hurt” true believers, Edwards preached. “All the powers of darkness, with all their spite and malice, can do them no harm, and the flames of hell cannot reach them.”

Dane Ortlund, Edwards on the Christian Life (pg. 151).

Christ as Our Supreme Pleasure

The Christian life is not an ascetic life, but a life in which every received pleasure draws the mind up to supreme Pleasure, Christ himself, in his resplendent beauty. Joy is fundamentally a vision of God. Edwards therefore saw what many writers and preachers today do not: that the way to cultivate joy in God’s people was not to talk about joy but to talk about God. If a New York park guide wants to help his band of tourists feel awe at the Niagara Falls, he doesn’t give a lecture on awe. He shows them the falls. If a Christian leader wants believers to feel joy in Christ, he doesn’t mainly tell them about joy. He shows them Christ. Joy sneaks unbidden in the back door.

Edwards teaches us, then, of the God-centerdness of all joy in this fallen world. He reminds us that the formula to joy is not God and _______ so much as God in _________. Christ is not one more element to fit into an already packed schedule – one more item on a growing grocery list of priorities. Knowing Christ means seeing all of life in a new way, with new glasses. Jesus Christ gives meaning to all priorities, not only heading the list but coloring every one with new and exciting meaning. To become a Christian is to make all of life sacramental.

Dane Ortlund, Edwards on the Christian Life (pg. 77).

Jesus in Every Season of Life

Our lives our filled with both joy and sorrow, gain and loss. John wants us to realize, as one writer observed: “Jesus is more than equal to either occasion. He has a place in all circumstances. If we invite him to our time of innocent happiness, he will increase our joy. If we call on him in our times of sorrow, anxiety, or bereavement, he can bring consolation, comfort, and joy that is not of this world.”

Richard Phillips, John: Volume 1 (pg. 281).

Grace Begets Grace

A thankful heart is constantly extending grace because it has received grace. Love and grace are uneven. God poured out on his own Son the criticism I deserve. Now he invites me to pour out undeserving grace on someone who has hurt me. Grace begets grace. 

Paul Miller, The Praying Life (pg. 134).

Pastorally Applying Scripture

Keller suggests twelve categories of people that the text may be speaking to:

  1. Conscious unbeliever: Is aware he is not a Christian (e.g., immoral pagan, intellectual pagan, imitative pagan, genuine thinker, religious non-Christian).
  2. Nonchurched nominal Christian: Has belief in the basic Christian doctrines, but with no or remote church connection (e.g., churched nominal Christian, semi-active moralist, active self-righteous). 
  3. Awakened: Is stirred and convicted over his sin but without gospel peace yet (e.g., curious, convicted with false peace, comfortless).
  4. Apostate: Was once active in the church but has repudiated the faith without regrets.
  5. New Believer: Is recently converted.
  6. Doubtful: Has many fears and hesitancies about his new faith (e.g., eager, overzealous).
  7. Mature/growing: Passes through nearly all the basic conditions named below but progresses through them because he responds quickly to pastoral treatment or knows how to treat himself.
  8. Afflicted: Lives under a burden or trouble that saps spiritual strength (e.g., physically afflicted, dying, bereaved, lonely, persecuted/abused, poor/economic troubles, desertion).
  9. Tempted: Is struggling with a sin or sins that are remaining attractive and strong (e.g., overtaken, taken over). 
  10. Immature: Is a spiritual baby who should be growing but is not (e.g., undisciplined, self-satisfied, unbalanced, devotee of eccentric doctrine).
  11. Depressed: Is not only experiencing negative feelings but also shirking Christian duties and being disobedient (e.g., anxious, weary, angry, introspective, guilty).
  12. Backslid: Has gone beyond depression to withdrawal from fellowship with God and with the church (e.g., tender, hardening). 

Andy Naselli, quoting Tim Keller, in How to Understand and Apply the New Testament (pg. 316-17).

The Uninfluenced Love of God

It is highly important, if God is to be honored and the heart of His child established, that we should be quite clear upon this precious truth. God’s love for me and for each of “His own” was entirely unmoved by anything in us. What was there in me to attract the heart of God? Absolutely nothing. But, to the contrary, there was everything to repel Him, everything calculated to make Him loathe me—sinful, depraved, a mass of corruption, with “ no good thing” in me.

A. W. Pink, The Attributes of God (pgs. 100).

The Storyline of the Bible

The OT storyline that I posit as the basis for the NT storyline is this: The Old Testament is the story of God, who progressively reestablishes his new-creational kingdom out of chaos over a sinful people by his word and Spirit through promise, covenant, and redemption, resulting in worldwide commission to the faithful to advance this kingdom and judgment (defeat or exile) for the unfaithful, unto his glory.

The NT transformation of the storyline of the OT that I propose is this: Jesus’s life, trials, death for sinners, and especially resurrection by the Spirit have launched the fulfillment of the eschatological already-not yet new-creational reign, bestowed by grace through faith and resulting in worldwide commission to the faithful to advance this new-creational reign and resulting in judgment for the unbelieving, unto the triune God’s glory.

G.K Beale, A New Testament Biblical Theology (pg. 16).

The Way of the Cross

Following Jesus seemed easy enough at first, but that was because they had not followed him very far. It soon became apparent that being a disciple of Christ involved far more than a joyful acceptance of the Messianic promise: it meant the surrender of one’s whole life to the Master in absolute submission to his sovereignty….This was strong teaching. Not many people could take it. They liked to be numbered among his followers when he filled their stomachs with bread and fish, but when Jesus started talking about the true spiritual quality of the Kingdom and the sacrifice necessary in achieving it (John 6:25-29), many of his disciples “went back, and walked no more with him” (John 6:66). As they put it, “This is a hard saying: who can hear it?” (John 6:60). The surprising thing is that Jesus did not go running after them to try to get them to stay on his membership roll. He was training leaders for the Kingdom, and if they were going to be fit vessels of service, they were going to have to pay the price.

Robert Coleman, The Master Plan of Evangelism (pgs. 50-51).

The Supremacy of God

Of old, God complained to an apostate Israel, Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself” (Psa 50:21). Such must now be His indictment against an apostate Christendom. Men imagine that the Most High is moved by sentiment, rather than actuated by principle. They suppose that His omnipotence is such an idle fiction that Satan is thwarting His designs on every side. They think that if He has formed any plan or purpose at all, then it must be like theirs, constantly subject to change. They openly declare that whatever power He possesses must be restricted, lest He invade the citadel of man’s “free will” and reduce him to a “machine.”…The heathen outside of the pale of Christendom form “gods” out of wood and stone, while the millions of heathen inside Christendom manufacture a “god” out of their own carnal mind.

A. W. Pink, The Attributes of God (pg. 10-11).