"and they shall never perish"

 

J.H. Gosden

 


 

"We believe, as expressed in Article 9, the doctrine of the final perseverance of the saints, and that however much the elect of God may be tried by sin and opposed by Satan, they shall all eventually attain to everlasting glory; not one of them shall perish, for none can pluck them out of the Father's hand."

*Therefore the redeemed of the LORD shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their head: they shall obtain gladness and joy; and sorrow and mourning shall flee away. Isa. 51:11

*And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. John 10:28-29

Repetition of fundamental truths may not be without spiritual benefit even if it offends a precise mind. Our godly predecessors stood more for the solid substance of saving truth than for logical symmetry. The doctrine of final perseverance, incidentally mentioned in Article 9, is sufficiently precious to warrant special emphasis. Rightly received, it is of very great encouragement to the tried and exercised people of God. The power and the faithfulness of Jehovah are involved in the truth of this doctrine. Its integrity is absolutely secured by a divine "shall," which in turn is the outcome of divine love and the determination of the divine will. Arminianism would overthrow all this.

It would, however, be small comfort to believe that none could pluck us out of the Almighty's hand unless we were equally assured Jehovah Himself would not cast us out of His own hand and heart. A sinning nation, Israel - type of God's elect - was thus reassured by Samuel: "Fear not: ye have done all this wickedness: yet turn ye not aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. For the Lord will not forsake His people for His great name's sake: because it hath pleased the Lord to make you His people" (1 Sam. 12.20-23). How strengthening to the sin distressed believer is such a testimony when borne in upon the troubled heart by the Holy Ghost! Guilt, adversity, chastisement and many evils may engender serious fears, but though He afflict, "the Lord will not cast off His people, neither will He forsake His inheritance" (Psa. 94.14).

And if God will not, then sin, world and devil shall not sever the elect, redeemed soul from Christ. Divine faithfulness will not waver, divine love can never change, and divine omnipotence can never be overcome. These attributes are on the side of the penitent sinner, who is brought to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. "If God be for us, who can be against us?" The "gates of hell" may do their utmost, Satan may employ his deepest strategy and deliver his heaviest onslaughts, indwelling sin may rise and rage, the world may threaten or allure, but

"What from Christ that soul can sever, Bound by everlasting bands?
Once in Him, in Him for ever,
Thus the eternal covenant stands:
None shall pluck thee
From the Strength of Israel's hands."

Christ's own victory, and His intercession, ensures the final perseverance of His people. "I pray for them.... Holy Father, keep through Thine own name those whom Thou hast given Me. . . . Those that Thou gavest Me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition" (John 17). This it was which preserved Peter - not from slipping, but from falling out of the covenant: "I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not" (Luke 22.32). So David: "When I said, My foot slippeth; Thy mercy, 0 Lord, held me up" (Psa. 94.18). He thought to have one day perished by the hand of King Saul, and to have been "swallowed up quick" of his enemies; but, experiencing deliverance, he could say, "Blessed be the Lord, who hath not given us as a prey to their teeth." He made a gracious deduction from thence: "By this I know that Thou favourest me, because mine enemy doth not triumph over me" (Psa. 124.3, 6; 41.11).

The Lord Jesus left a sacred testimony of His own gracious submission to His divine Father, and at the same time ministered a sweet encouragement to His poor helpless people, when as covenant Mediator He said, "My Father. which gave them Me, is greater than all; and no man [no one, be he man. devil, or angel] is able to pluck them Out of My Father's hand." Then He blessedly asserted His co-equality in the Trinity: "I and My Father are one" (John 10.29, 30) - one in nature, one in purpose, one in love.

Divine love ensures the final perseverance of the saints: "Yea, He loved the people; all His saints are in Thy hand" (Deut. 33.3). And as their persons are in His secure keeping, so all their times are in His all-powerful hand and ordered by His all-wise decree; no peradventure. This love will never let them go, will never be removed from them. "Jesus, having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end" (John 13.1). "As the Father hath loved Me, so have I loved you: continue ye in My love" (John 15.9). The covenant is knit at the four corners (Acts 10.11). It is "ordered in all things, and sure" (2 Sam. 23.5). It provides a two-way internal security: "I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from Me" (Jer. 32.40). It also provides an infallible external defense: "No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn." "As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about His people from henceforth even for ever" (Isa. 54. 17; Psa. 125. 2).

The promise the Father made to His divine Son, His covenant Servant, ensures the final perseverance and eternal salvation of the church. "When Thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand. He shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied" (Isa. 53.10, 11). The Redeemer shall never be robbed of His "purchased possession," nor His unworthy people of their crown (Eph. 1. 14; Rev. 2.10; 3.11).

Temptations may be fierce, opposition without and within may be strong and relentless, the fight may be strenuous, the race wearisome, the pathway uphill and often devious, the outlook dubious, the skies may frequently be dark, Satan may roar and danger affright - but the eternal Trinity must be overcome, the Word of God belied, Christ's death and intercession invalidated, the eternal Spirit's power destroyed, if the weakest child of God is overcome at the last.

It ill becomes us poor, sinful weaklings to boast; but, brethren, amidst all your severest challenges, you will find this hold-fast tenable, through imperishable grace: "In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. For . . . neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 8.37-39).

The Lord give us the mercy and the grace of endurance to the end, enable us to be unyielding in the "good fight of faith," so that though often overcome in our feelings, we may (like Gad) "overcome at the last." Graciously held, the doctrine of final perseverance will energize us in the struggle to overcome the world, the flesh and the devil; it will enable us to "run with patience the race which is set before us; looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith," to bring us through honourably to the end, and then to receive us to Himself, that where He is we may be also. Then the highest aspirations of the redeemed sinner will be more than realized, and the condescending will of Christ will be enjoyed: "Father, I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am; that they may behold My glory, which Thou hast given Me: for Thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world" (John 17.24). That blessed will of Christ can never remain ungratified; no contingency can invalidate it.

We have frequently cautioned against an abuse of the sacred doctrine under consideration. A right apprehension of it will produce a tenderness of conscience, will strengthen confidence in the promises of the gospel, will invigorate faith and excite prayer. Thus it will promote lively exercise in the soul, a labouring to enter into the rest of God, with diligent watchfulness against all sin. It is therefore a "doctrine according to godliness" and not to be mistaken for the bold confidence of a presumptuous, fruitless professor. The Word of God and the experience of saints in all ages prove salvation to be no easy matter. A prize may, however, be both absolutely certain and yet difficult of attainment. In view of his fall and merciful recovery, Peter's word is very significant: "If the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?" The righteous must and shall be saved fully, everlastingly, freely by the grace of God; preventing, protecting, restoring mercy ensures that, but not without much difficulty in their experience. Israel must reach the land of promise, though it be by a tortuous and dangerous journey of forty years. Paul must come to Rome, but not without much trouble, loss and shipwreck. The work of the Holy Ghost in David's soul was indefeasible, vet he found in his guiltiness a necessity of praying, "Take not Thy Holy Spirit from me." Security in God's grace is perfectly consistent with a sense of insecurity in experience. Thus the exercise of faith is maintained by prayer under a felt realization of difficulty, doubt and need. The event is sure, though there may seem to be a thousand contingencies in the pathway of a poor sinner "wrestling on toward heaven, midst storm and wind and tide."

Joseph Hart, well skilled in the things of God, thus writes:

"Mighty enemies without, much mightier within;
Thoughts we cannot quell or rout, blasphemously obscene:
Coldness. unbelief, and pride, hell and all its numerous train.
Threaten death on every side, and have their thousands slain.
"Thus pursued and thus distressed. ah! whither shall we fly?
To obtain the promised rest. on what sure hand rely?
Shall the Christian trust his heart? that alas. of foes the worst.
Always takes the tempter's part; nay, often tempts him first.
"If today we be sincere, and can both watch and pray.
Watchfulness. perhaps, and prayer, tomorrow may decay:
If we now believe aright, faithfulness is God's alone.
We are feeble, fickle, light, to changes ever prone.
"But we build upon a base that nothing can remove,
When we trust electing grace and everlasting love:
Victory over all our foes Christ has given us with His blood:
Perseverance He bestows on every child of God."

This perseverance to the end in no sense or degree results from or depends on intrinsic goodness, merit or latent power in the creature, but entirely proceeds from invincible grace. Utter dependence by faith upon the grace, mercy and faithfulness of God in Christ is the method God uses to bring off victorious His elect people. Even this dependence arises from an in-wrought secret power of the Holy Ghost. As Thomas Boston said: "The covenant holds the believer, not the believer the covenant." Divine faithfulness to covenant promises, which in Christ Jesus are all Yea and Amen, begets the confidence of the feeblest believer.

"What Thou hast promised I implore.
Supplies from Thy exhaustless store,
O righteous Father. just and true,
Give me both grace and glory too."

 


What Gospel Standard Baptists Believe. J.H. Gosden. Gospel Standard Societies, 8 Fairleigh Rise, Kington Langley, Chippenham, Wilts. SN15 5QF. 1993. Pages 121-124.