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"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)

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    We are a community of confessing believers who love the gospel of Jesus Christ, affirm the Biblical and Christ-exalting truths of the Reformation such as the five solas, the doctrines of grace, monergistic regeneration, and the redemptive historical approach to interpreting the Scriptures.

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  • « Does Jesus save or merely make savable? | Main | "Reformed Righteousness"- by Rev. C. R. Biggs »

    Question on Perseverance & Revelation 22:19

    Dear Mr. Hendryx,

    I have read over some of the articles on your site would like to pose a question to you from the scriptures concerning the monergism/synergism debate. I have studied the cases of Calvinism, Arminianism, etc. for some time now, and soteriologically lean heavily towards Synergism. The question I ask is how do you reconcile your belief of perseverance of the saints with the warning given in Revelation 22:19? I have posed this question to quite a few Calvinist friends and authors, and the most intellectually sound answer I have gotten thus far is that God simply gives such warnings to keep His elect from falling away.The irony of that argument is that if God's purpose in issuing such a warning is that we 'take heed lest we fall,' then why am I in theological error for taking heed and believing that such a possibility could occur? In Christ,___________

    ----------

    Response:
    The main issue is the fact that God gives many commands in Scripture, all of which we have the inability to carry out apart from Christ. But, thanks be to God, Christ does for us what we are unable to do for ourselves. The purpose of the Law and warnings is not to show our natural ability but rather our inability (Rom 3:19, 20). "through the law we become conscious of sin", Which makes us flee to Christ. So when God commands us to persevere to the end, He is not telling us to look to our own resources to get there, but rather that we look to Christ, who alone is sufficient to fully save.

    The error in question in Revelation 22:19 is to disbelieve the Scriptures by either adding to them or subtracting from them. That is, to disbelieve the very Christ who saves you. When we add or take away from the Scripture we are in effect saying that we do not like this particular God as He has revealed himself to me, so anyone who does this does not believe the Christ of Scripture to begin with. He believes in a false Christ. We should take heed for doing such a thing would reveal the true nature of our heart: unregenerate.

    Rev 22:18-19 "I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, 19and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book."

    The passage warning is directed to "ANYONE". Jesus, in the previous text (v 17) says

    "The Spirit and the Bride say, "Come." And let the one who hears say, "Come." And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price."

    ..so the idea is that this command is open to anyone. But again, no one naturally submits to the humbling terms of the gospel. God's command to "come" does not mean we all have the ability to do so. John Owen once said: "To suppose that whatever God requireth of us that we have power of ourselves to do, is to make the cross and grace of Jesus Christ of none effect." And as we all know, the "book of life" idea is an anthropomorphism. God is not ignorant of who will be in that book whether you are a Calvinist or an Arminian. He knows who will be redeemed even before He creates us. The emphasis is not, therefore, on something God changes His mind about, but a sober warning to anyone who would change or distort His revelation, which is idolatry, since it makes God into something He is not.

    Remember, God gave the tree of life in the garden of Eden when man was unfallen. The fact that man has fallen and is unable to take of the tree does not change God's command. God commands us to be perfect and take of the tree of life, even though an angel is blocking the way to it. The problem, however, is not with the law, but with us. God's standard remains the same and He does not lower his standard of holiness simply because we are unable to fulfil it. But in mercy He does for us what we are unable to do for ourselves, that is, obey the law completely and perfectly. Jesus, in this way, fulfilled the law and grants eternal life to all who are trusting in Him. But the law and God's moral standard remains. So you will often see God command things that we are unable to do (such as the Ten commandments). Thus the need for Christ.

    The Scripture indeed teaches that we MUST persevere to the end ... In this you and I fully agree (John 15:1-15). But that is only half the equation. It also clearly teaches that God will preserve us to the end (John 15:16). Look at John 15:16 carefully " You have not chosen me but I have chosen you AND APPOINTED YOU TO BEAR FRUIT, FRUIT THAT WILL LAST." I would also encourage you to take the time to read the following short piece by Greg Johnson on this very issue: Can a Christian Lose His or Her Salvation?. An interesting story related to this is that I was recently debating with a guy who believed Christians were sinless and could lose salvation if they sinned. In my email I copied and pasted some of the tables in the above essay but failed to mention that it was Greg Johnsons' table. I just quickly wanted to get my point across rather than rewriting it. But the guy found the table online and said I was taking credit for someone elses' work. I thought it ironic he would say this since those who believe they can lose their salvation if we do not maintain sinlessness, are, in effect, taking credit for someone elses work, Christ's.

    Next, I think it is VERY important to consider something in light of perseverance of the saints. Consider that if a person can actually lose their salvation, as you seem to be claiming, then it is tantamount to asserting that what Jesus did for us in His life and death is NOT SUFFICIENT to save us. That his once for all sacrifice is not enough to save us completely. So, if we begin by the Spirit but you claim we must complete our journey to heaven by the flesh, then do we not commit the Galatian heresy? Consider, your position is that CHRISTIANS MUST MAINTAIN THEIR OWN JUSTIFICATION BEFORE GOD. If you think Jesus saves us but afterward it is entirely up to us ... That Christ kick starts us but we must be good enough to deserve heaven thereafter, the logical conclusion to this would be that Jesus, when he prayed that God would preserve his own, actually failed. That His prayer in John 17 was ineffectual for his people. Can the prayer of Jesus fail? Furthermore we would be basing our justification on our sanctification, rather than Christ?

    Is not the idea that our good works contribute to the price of our redemption a Roman catholic error? Isn't that why we left the RCC at the Reformation because they believed that what Jesus did for us was not enough and that we must church out good works to maintain our just standing before God? How is your position any different than this?

    Don't get me wrong, we also affirm that God's people must persevere in obedience and faith to the end. The question is, does this spring from God's grace as a child of the covenant or is it a matter of the natural will. If you say "both" then I must ask you, why does one man persevere to the end and not the other? What makes the two persons to differ? grace? No, not to you because both had grace. So it must have been something in the flesh that made one to differ. One either had more virtue, tenacity, moral fortitude etc. Your answer, in other words, is found outside of Jesus Christ. Christ either saves us completely or He does not save us at all. For if you were to trust in your own ability to persevere or continually love God with all your heart, soul, mind and your neighbor as yourself, then none would have hope. We would all perish. What kind of a Gospel is that? It is not the gospel but the same heresy that Paul warned against in Galatians. "Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?" Some warned Paul that if He preached salvation by grace alone in Christ alone it would be a licence for immorality. In Romans 6 it says shall we continue sin that grace might increase???

    The essence of it is, either we are saved by grace alone in Christ alone, or the alternative is that we must pay PART OF the price of our redemption. Does Christ save us UNTO good works, or are we saved because we trust partly in Christ and partly in our good works?

    It is very dangerous to believe that Christians can lose their salvation because this belief does not put Christ at the center of your faith. Is Christ sufficient to save you or not?

    True believers are not condemned when they sin, but if they do not admit sin, God will discipline them so they will not be condemned with unbelievers:

    31But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. 32But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.
    - 1 Corinthians 11:31-33 (English Standard Version)

    Posted by John on October 26, 2006 07:58 PM

    Comments

    Here's my Dear John letter,

    Dear John

    I would add simply that this is the most difficult of realities in need of another's help to grasp and understand.

    I would say we DO NEED TO DO SOMETHING, "NOTHING".

    It goes deeply against the natural man.

    I find it rather ironic that under the Levitical Priesthood, Priests were called upon to receive sacrificial things from the sinner to restore them to a "RIGHT" relationship with God.

    And now, under the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus we that have this Gospel are called upon not to receive any sacrificial things to restore one to a "RIGHT" relationship with God, rather we are now to pray and intercede with thanksgivings and supplications and petitions for all mankind to come to this most difficult revelation of doing nothing.

    "But I have to do something, don't I?"

    or

    "Well, now then, once saved always saved". "I don't have to do anything then but what feels right and good for me."

    Which is it?

    Ah, nothing for God so that I might do something for God out of a grateful, thankful heart full of the faith once delivered to the Saints knowing He is risen and is my Hope, the anchor, gone before to the Holiest of Holies! A knowledge I don't naturally know this knowledge I know!

    I offer verses from Hebrews:

    Heb 6:18 That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us:
    Heb 6:19 Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil;
    Heb 6:20 Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.

    michael

    I was puzzeled by any confusion about Revelation 22:19. That really has nothing to do with one losing their salvation, but tells what will happen to those who try to bend the truths found in Revelation. In God's economy, His people are preserved by His grace and thereby kept from apostasy.

    John, I liked your response. The confusion about Synergism vs. Monergism seems to always come back to confusing Justification and Sanctification don't you think? We are Justified by Faith and that is a gift from God. That is His Monergistic work. On the other hand, our continual Sanctification in this life is Synergistic in nature because we must cooperate with Him by repenting, doing good works, etc.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

    Dear John,

    Excellent answer! Thanks be to God for your labor for Christ in his Word.

    "Scripture interprets scripture!"

    In Christ's service,
    Charles

    John,

    This is such an important issue. Thank you for your excellent defense of the Biblical Gospel. If you please, I would add two more huge issues to the question of the Perseverance of the Saints.

    First, to say that one might loose their salvation, or become "unjustified" after being "justified"...or to put it another way: one might escape the almighty wrath of God and then be catipulted back under the wrath of God, denys the very center of our hope for heaven. Our justification hinges upon propitiation...this is the only thing that makes justification sweet and even tenable. The fact that Christ quenched the wrath of God toward our sin makes justification possible and makes it beneficial for us.

    To say that Christ suffered the full penalty of our sin, the full cup of God's fury for us and then placed us back under it does two things: 1. It means that Christ did not really propitiate the wrath of God, contradicting Romans 3:25-26, Hebrews 2:17, 1 John 2:2, 4:10, 2. It would also mean that God is unjust. Romans 3:26 makes clear that propitiation is a just act making the unjust just. To take a just person who is perfectly justified by the invaluable and immeasurable righteousness of Christ...to take that person and put them back under the wrath of God would be tantamount to a judge inflicting the death sentence on innocent people knowing their innocence. To deny the Perseverance of the Saints is to deny the hope of propiritation and to call God unjust.

    Secondly, I have taken most hope that God will persevere my sick soul based upon the prayer of Jesus in John 17. When Jesus prays in John 17:22-23 he says, "The glory you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one... (ESV)"

    Justification unites us with Christ. We are not merely reconciled with God, we are unified with God (not equal to, but relationally unified). We are "in Christ." This is why Paul so frequently invokes "body" language...we are apart of Christ, we are in Him, unified proximally to Him. Jesus prays for this unity and through His Cross and resurection accomplishes the work to make this unity a reality.

    The implications to this are massive. We are perfectly united in Christ, we are relationally one as a husband and wife are one flesh. We, according to v.22, are given His glory.

    In the final analysis, to say that one could be loved and saved of God, united to Christ, and then unloved, unsaved, and divided from Christ is to essentially deny the pefection of the union between us and Christ...to deny the receiving of His glory, it is to deny the entire point and design of Christ as revealed in this prayer.

    Most importantly, to say that one might loose their salvation is as provocative and blasphemous as saying that the Father could stop loving the Son. Yet, once justified this is exactly what must happen in order for one to be unloved by God. We are so relationally unified with Christ that if we are put back under judgment, Christ himself is put under judgment.

    The fact is this, "the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me... (John 16:27)ESV." We are in Christ, unified with Him in death and resurection and glory. We have entered upon the glories of trinitarin love and relationship. We entertain and enjoy and delight in a relationship with Father, Son, and Spirit as we gain access through the Son, in the Son, and for the Son. For God to deny us who are unified in Christ is to deny His own Son. Thanks be to God that our salvation is as secure as the Trinity!

    It is good to see these comments. I can understand the confusion over this matter.

    Jesus paid a terrible price for us. Not that we loved Him, but that God so loved the world He gave His Son for us. I think God is very jealous for His own. That is why Paul admonishes us not to ask "Who will ascend to heaven" That is to bring Christ down to earth, or "Who will descend into the abyss", that is to raise Christ from the dead, but we are to speak to one another and encourage each other daily as we see the day approach. God is determined to redeem us. But some are determined to put a stumbling block in front of the brothers so as to gather a flock of followers. Paul did warn us about this in scripture.

    I cannot think of anything more horrific and heartbreaking than to go around preaching that God will abandon you somehow. Yet His grace abounds. Indeed if you fail to enter His rest and refuse to cease from pursuing self justification you will miss what Jesus wants from you... a bowed knee. Jesus commends the man in the back of the synagogue who beat his breast silently to himself crying over his sins. True believers have entered into His rest and in joy serve Him with abandonment and in wonderment that God would love them to cover their sins and give them a righteous attitude.

    A strange thing... The more I try to become sinless, the more I find myself entangled... one way or the other... running aground. And indeed in such a state I have run aground as a young christian when I focused on perfecting myself. However, (not that I have already obtained), When I do cease from depending on my own works... amazingly the Lord is there and then good things start to happen! That is why Paul teaches us to strive to enter His rest. In fact in scripture it quite plainly says that those that are His, are those whose works demonstrate that the works are from God and not themselves. Bottomline, we do not need more power for ourselves to somehow cover our sinful nature or perfect us. What we do need is the Lord Himself doing His works to proclaim His power and soverignity over us and the world around us.

    It breaks my heart to watch my Armenian brothers repeatedly going to the Altar over and again,as if a catholic going to confessional to try to clear up their dark spots before the Judge of the Earth. And their characterization of losing your salvation is identical to the Catholic teaching of venial and mortal sins.

    This is a terrible mis-understanding of scripture. But God knows who are His, and He is faithful.

    I am currently involved in an church with Armenian doctrine. I have come to terms with this and will remain God's witness and will speak only when God opens the door. It matters not if I am rejected. I know the truth. Jesus knows what to do.

    Mr. Hendryx wrote (and I quote): "We should take heed for doing such a thing would reveal the true nature of our heart: unregenerate." The irony of this statement! If doing such a thing (adding to or subtracting from God's word) reveals someone's heart as unregenerate, then it means the person is already unregenerate. What heed is there to take again? If there was no possibility of a believer doing so, then the phrase "we should take heed" is unnecessary. Mr. Hendryx has, by saying this, suggested that there is a need for us ("we" in his statement) to take heed. He then says we will reveal ourselves to be unregenerate if we do not take heed, and thereby add to or subtract from God's word. I fear our persistent arguing about Calvinism and Arminianism is causing many to add to or subtract from God's word. We need to believe God and take Him at His word. Has He warned us? Let us heed the warnings, rather than attempt to explain them away.

    Mr. Hendryx wrote (and I quote): "We should take heed for doing such a thing would reveal the true nature of our heart: unregenerate." The irony of this statement! If doing such a thing (adding to or subtracting from God's word) reveals someone's heart as unregenerate, then it means the person is already unregenerate. What heed is there to take again? If there was no possibility of a believer doing so, then the phrase "we should take heed" is unnecessary. Mr. Hendryx has, by saying this, suggested that there is a need for us ("we" in his statement) to take heed. He then says we will reveal ourselves to be unregenerate if we do not take heed, and thereby add to or subtract from God's word. I fear our persistent arguing about Calvinism and Arminianism is causing many to add to or subtract from God's word. We need to believe God and take Him at His word. Has He warned us? Let us heed the warnings, rather than attempt to explain them away.

    Mr. Hendryx wrote (and I quote): "We should take heed for doing such a thing would reveal the true nature of our heart: unregenerate." The irony of this statement! If doing such a thing (adding to or subtracting from God's word) reveals someone's heart as unregenerate, then it means the person is already unregenerate. What heed is there to take again? If there was no possibility of a believer doing so, then the phrase "we should take heed" is unnecessary. Mr. Hendryx has, by saying this, suggested that there is a need for us ("we" in his statement) to take heed. He then says we will reveal ourselves to be unregenerate if we do not take heed, and thereby add to or subtract from God's word. I fear our persistent arguing about Calvinism and Arminianism is causing many to add to or subtract from God's word. We need to believe God and take Him at His word. Has He warned us? Let us heed the warnings, rather than attempt to explain them away.

    My previous post was entered thrice! I apologize, but the first two times, the website gave an error message, so I made more attempts.

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