Category Archives: Perseverance of the Saints

The Doctrines of Sovereign Grace

pink-tulips-2009

Tulips are a major industry in the Netherlands, where a controversy over the doctrines of grace was settled by the Synod of Dort in 1619.

God is sovereign in his gracious salvation of sinners. These doctrines have been summarized by the popular acronym, TULIP.

T– The “Total Depravity” of the Sinner
Sinners are so completely sinful that they are unwilling and unable to do anything good to prepare themselves for salvation, let alone save themselves by good works. They do not always do the most sinful thing they possibly could, but no work of any kind that they perform can merit the righteousness they need to avoid eternal condemnation. This doctrine is also called “Radical Corruption.”

Romans 3:10-18

as it is written:

“None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.” (Psalm 14:1-3; 53:1-3)
“Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive (Psalm 5:9).”
“The venom of asps is under their lips (Psalm 140:3).”
“Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness (Psalm 10:7).”
“Their feet are swift to shed blood;
in their paths are ruin and misery,
and the way of peace they have not known (Proverbs 1:16; Isaiah 59:7-8)”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes (Psalm 36:1).”

Romans 8:7

For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.

U–The “Unconditional Election” of the Father
Before creation, God graciously chose a remnant of fallen humanity and gave them to his Son as his Bride. No righteous merit of any kind in them serves as the basis of God’s gracious choice of these sinners; only God’s own pleasure and will.

Acts 13:48

And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.

Romans 9:11-13

…though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

Ephesians1:3-6

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

L–The “Limited Atonement” of the Son
On the cross Jesus Christ paid the ransom to the Father and effectually redeemed the remnant of fallen sinners which God graciously chose to give to him as his Bride. Sinners whom the Father has not graciously chosen are not redeemed by Christ on the cross. Christ’s atonement is necessarily “limited” in one way or the other: either it is limited in extent (Christ dying for the elect alone), or it is limited in power (only able to redeem sinners who by their own free will decide to receive this redemption). Also called “Particular Redemption.”

John 10:11

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

Ephesians 5:25

…Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…

John 17:2

…since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him…

I—The “Irresistible Grace” of the Spirit
Those fallen sinners whom the Father has graciously chosen according to his sovereign will and whom the Son has redeemed on the cross will not fail to come to faith in Christ. The Holy Spirit effectually gives spiritual life to the spiritually dead and in this way enables the chosen sinner to see the Kingdom of God (John 3:3), and enter it (John 3:5) through faith alone in Christ alone. Also called, “Effectual Calling” (see also 2 Peter 1:10; Romans 11:29)

1 Corinthians 1:9

God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

John 6:44

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws (literally, “drags”) him. And I will raise him up on the last day.

Acts 16:14b

The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.

P—The “Perseverance” of the Saints
Those whom the Triune God has saved in this effectual way according to his sovereign grace and power he will keep, and they will persevere in faith and repentance until the end, be it his own death or the return of Christ.

James 1:4

And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Matthew 24:13

But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

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The Bergdahls: Muslims? Christians? Traitors? Patriots?

For five years, citizens of the United States have waited, wondered and prayed for US Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl who was taken into custody by the Taliban on June 30, 2009 after leaving his outpost (OP) in Afghanistan. While there were indications of possible desertion on Bergdahl’s part, and a 2012 Rolling Stone article reporting email correspondence between Bowe and Bob Bergdahl in which Bowe expressed rather distressing sentiments critical of the United States, many of us did not follow the story closely enough to be aware of these things. As far as people like me were concerned, Bowe Bergdahl was a straightforward victim of the war in Afghanistan, who was bravely suffering for his country in the hands of the enemy.

As you may or may not be aware, I am a member of a congregation in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC). One Sunday in 2012, a flyer was distributed to our churches, calling on us to pray for the health, safety and faith of Bowe Bergdahl, and peace of mind for his family. Responding to this call, our congregation, and many like ours, corporately prayed for the Bergdahls. This flyer was the most I would read about Bowe Bergdahl until this past weekend when he was released, and his father, Bob, raised eyebrows by reciting a Muslim prayer from the Koran in a personal statement to Bowe. This, added to the growing awareness of Bowe’s desertion and possibly traitorous intentions while among the Taliban, and Bob’s recently publicized tweet expressing his desire for the closure of Guantanamo Bay, has made the person of Bob Bergdahl the object of much controversy as well. People wonder if he converted to Islam, or if he is an Islamist sympathizer.

Even I began to wonder, given our denomination-wide efforts to pray for the Bergdahls, if they were at least still members in good standing of an OPC church, and inquired about this on Facebook, hoping for some input from OPC ministers with which I am in contact. I did learn much in private messages with my FB friends which was reassuring regarding the ongoing Christian faith of the Bergdahl family. It is safe to presume that Bob and Jani Bergdahl have become all too familiar with the Christian grace of perseverance over the last several years, and, despite the release of their son, no end of their need for perseverance seems to be in sight. Prayer on behalf of the Bergdahl family remains a tremendous obligation.

Details about Bowe and his leaving his outpost, statements by fellow soldiers who knew or were involved with recovery operations, and the political and national security implications of releasing the Taliban figures from indefinite detention, continue to dominate the daily news. Yesterday, the Washington Post published a profile of Bob Bergdahl and World Magazine has now also run a story featuring the perspective of the Bergdahl’s former pastor and friend, Phil Proctor, who remains in contact with the Bergdahl family.

Today in my Facebook newsfeed, I discovered another statement from Proctor who wishes to silence the rumors that the Bergdahls have converted to Islam or seek to aid Islamist efforts against the United States. This statement was posted by Andy Webb, Pastor of Providence Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Fayetteville, North Carolina, on his Facebook page, The Outer Monologue. Phil Proctor writes:

I appreciate your asking about the Bergdahls. I’ve really been saddened about how the Christian community is jumping all over this. Here’s the deal…

I pastored the Bergdahl family in 2003, prior to going to Uganda. We were very close, and remained so throughout my time in Uganda (I just found out this evening that apparently I’m referenced in some important Rolling Stone article from 2012).

Bowe was a young man with all the dangers of home-schooling—a brilliant and inquisitive mind, a crisp thinker, and someone who had never really been exposed to evil in the world. He was wanting to determine whether the Christian faith was his own, or his parents’ and was doing a lot of exploring of ideas—never drugs or alcohol, but trying to be an outdoors/Renaissance type figure. We’ve stayed in close contact with Bob and Jani, especially since Bowe’s capture. Since we moved here to Northern Virginia, Bod and Jani have stayed in our home on a couple of occasions and I’ve spoken on the phone with Bob once a month or so.

Bob felt (with some justification) that the US government was not going to engage with diplomatic efforts and so decided to try to free his son himself. He learned Pashtun and developed a lot of contacts in the Middle East. The Qatar connection is one that either originated with Bod or, at the very least, became very personally connected to Bob. Bob has, for quite some time, been saying that the closure of Guantanamo is integrally connected to the release of his son.

Whatever one thinks of Bob’s political views, I can attest to both he and Jani’s unwavering commitment to Christ and trust in him. I’ve prayed with both of them regularly. They both have been through a torture mill that I cannot begin to comprehend—5 years of a living death. It has affected their health, both physically and mentally, as Bob has been completely obsessed with tracking down any possible communication avenue to get his son home. There are a number of things I would disagree with Bob on in terms of political statements, but at the end of the day, I think this whole mess is a WHOLE lot more complicated than a 30 second sound bite (sic) can explore—the very existence of Gitmo attests to the complicated nature from the very beginning, and it’s only gotten worse over the years.

To the foundational issue: Bob and Jani both have regularly confessed their dependence upon Christ and rest in him—the most recent being Bob’s conversation with me about a month ago. They are broken peop;le who need prayer, love, and compassion. I personally intend to run as hard as I can in the opposite direction of judging his words in the moment of his crucible—I would HATE to have that standard applied to my moments of stress, which have never reached anything approaching his intensity and duration!

Feel free to forward this and use it as widely as you like.

Yours in Christ,

Phil Proctor

Pastor, Sterling Presbyterian Church (OPC)

Sterlingopc.org

 

FYI, My most recent conversation with Bob and Jani was 30 minutes ago. Still Christians.

Does Lack of Perseverance Imply Limited Atonement?

21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation [1] under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister. (Colossians 1:21-23)

This passage clearly implies the doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints, or as I renamed it, Persevering Grace for the Saints. It basically says that Jesus actually reconciled a professing believer if he continues, or perseveres, in the faith. Simple enough, those who persevere are the ones who were truly reconciled to the Father in Christ’s death on the cross.

But look what happens when you read its opposite:

if you shift from the hope of the gospel that you heard, are unstable, waver and do not continue in the faith, then Christ has not reconciled you in his body of flesh by his death in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him.

Do you read what I read? When I think of it in this way, my logic tells me that lack of perseverance may be evidence for limited atonement. In other words, if you don’t persevere in the faith, then Jesus didn’t die for you.

What say you? Am I reading limited atonement into this passage, or am I properly drawing limited atonement out of the text? Eisegesis or exegesis? You be the judge (That means post your opinion!).

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