Sunday, December 20, 2009
A Study in Perseverance
I am back at my old haunt for a Sunday afternoon. University of Waterloo Porter Library. This used to be a favourite pass time for Hilary and me. It was free and stimulating and launched many a venture into missions, Christian biography, history and topical Bible study.
The topic today is, of course, my recent about-turn from the Calvinist doctrine of eternal security.The scripture which "gave my head a shake" is James 5: 19, 20:
19Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him;
20Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.
My research today puts me on a surer rock of resolve to acknowledge the importance of personal responsibility and perseverance.
The "arguments against" in a nutshell are as follows:
-God could never dis-adopt.
-God's "gift" of a soul to His Son is never revocable.
-Salvation is all of grace.
-James' epistle is all about works and effort and never should have made the Canon cut.
-The one among the brethren erring from the truth was a pretender, without real assurance of salvation.
-The word "converteth" is to be likened to the quote of Jesus to Peter at Luke 22:32. Jesus had prayed for Peter, and it was inevitable that as one of the believers God had given to Jesus, Peter would turn about from his error.
-Saving a soul from death does not refer to spiritual death again, but rather to the chastening consequences of intentional sin leading to illness and premature physical death. Reference is made to 1 Corinthians 11: 29, 30 and the consequence of partaking of the Communion meal unworthily.
-The soul being saved from death is, in keeping with Jewish thinking on good works, the soul of the rescuing brother and not the erring one.
-The New Testament admonitions to persevere all have to do with quality of fellowship and ultimate "crowns" for the one who overcomes and perseveres. The wavering saint may find himself saved "yet so as by fire". (1 Corinthians 3:13-15)
Full in the face of these arguments I find the passage in James 5 and another at 1 Timothy 4:
16Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.
An old reference Bible with good marginal notes suggests other New Testament entries on perseverance as a continuing exercise and responsibility:
Mat. 24:13; Mk. 13:13; Lk. 9:62; Acts 13:43; 1 Cor. 15:58; 16:13; Eph. 6:18; Col. 1:23; 2 Thes. 3:13; 1 Tim. 6:14; Heb. 3:12,13; 6:6; 10: 23,38; 2 Pet. 3:17; Rev. 2:10,25
I fear that our friends of Reformed persuasion have played loosely with the concept of "fear of the Lord".
Hear me clearly on the following, however. Our greatest success in upright living will come from the love response and a thankful heart. Dutiful undertaking will only lead us to the poor showing of the elder brother in the parable of the Prodigal (Luke 15: 25-30)