It is a wonderful thing to be alive. And we may be sure that when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, four days after he was buried, his sisters and friends considered it to be wonderful, and were very thankful. However, some time later he died again, and has now been in his grave for hundreds of years.
That will never happen to the child of God, as far as his spiritual life is concerned. He came into this life spiritually dead. And we noticed, the Scriptural truth is that we come into this physical life totally depraved, which means that we are spiritually dead. God said to Adam that the day he sinned, he would die spiritually. Physical death began in his body that day; and he labored in the sweat of his brow from that day onward. As the years went by, he became physically weaker and weaker. Then after nine hundred and thirty years he died physically. But he died spiritually the moment that he rebelled against God and chose Satan’s words rather than God’s. All his actions after committing this sin reveal that although there was fear in his heart, there was no sorrow for that sin; and there was no seeking of deliverance from it. He did not want that punishment; but one can have that without wanting salvation from sin and the devil’s spiritual hold upon the soul. And boldly as well as sinfully Adam blamed God for giving him a wife who induced him to disobey.
God, however, that very day caused Adam and Eve to receive a spiritual life. He caused them to be born again, because unconditionally He had chosen them in Christ. That gift of spiritual life is limited to only some of the human race, because the atonement which Christ realized is only for those whom the Father eternally gave to Christ. Did Jesus Himself not say, “As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep”? That is a very limited salvation. For there are besides sheep not only wolves, but numerous wild beasts that want to kill the sheep. And it is in irresistible grace that God brings this life into the sheep of Christ’s fold, on the basis of the work which Christ accomplished through His cross. The spiritually dead man has no desire for that new life. In that life they have no interest. And Satan tries with all his power to keep Christ’s sheep from being born again. He cannot. But he wants to do so and uses all his strength and ingenuity to try to take it away, when he finds it in them. He strives constantly to get those spiritually dead to mock and ridicule us, to make us feel ashamed—rather than thankful—for our new spiritual life. Yet the glorious, comforting truth is there that God’s will is always done, and therefore that those whom He chose in Christ will get a new life, a spiritual life they never had before, and a life they will NEVER lose.
That is the awesome and comforting truth which we need to hold on to; and we must never let Satan even try to take it from us. This is the truth of the perseverance and preservation of the saints. We have no assurance as to how long our physical life will continue. We have undeniable evidence that it will come to an end. That happens all around us, and its coming we quickly begin to feel in our own bodies, after the days of our youth with its strength and enthusiasm. But once we are aware of being born again, and now, with a new spiritual life given us by Christ and His Spirit, we have undeniable evidence that this life will never be taken from us, and that with it we will enter into the kingdom of heaven, where all that sinful, physical and spiritual life will be completely gone.
Jesus Himself tells us in John 10:28, 29, “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.” Now that word man is in italics, because it does not appear in the original Greek version. We may translate it then as “no one,” so that Satan and his host of fallen angels likewise are unable to pluck us out of God’s hand.
In John 17:11, 12 Jesus states: “And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to Thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom Thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Thy name: those that Thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the Scripture might be fulfilled.” And in John 18:9 we read: “That the saying might be fulfilled, which He spake, Of them which Thou gavest me have I lost none.” And somewhat later Paul wrote in Philippians 1:6: “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Christ.” There are many other texts which clearly teach that once being born again with a new spiritual life, we will never die spiritually.
Now it is true that sometimes it looks that way. After Peter denied Jesus three times, and even in Matthew 26:74 is presented as one who cursed and swore that he did not know Christ, and after the cock crew wept bitterly, it is plain that he did not lose his spiritual life which had been given him. Look up Luke 22:31, 32. Jesus says, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not; and when thou are converted, strengthen thy brethren.” When Christ prays for us, His prayers are heard. For notice Jesus speaks with conviction that he will be converted, that is, turned from this sin; and then he is to go and strengthen his brethren in the faith.
This incident in the life of Peter reveals that in this life the reborn child of God still has his old nature, and therefore commits many, many sins. This is also so very evident in the life of Noah, who became drunk after his glorious salvation by the waters of the flood; in the life of Abraham, who lied to try to avoid the hand of the Egyptian king, who wanted his wife: and in David’s life when he committed adultery and murder. But all this does not deny the comforting truth of the perseverance of the saints by the preserving power of God’s grace.
Take note of that fact, young people. Preservation makes perseverance possible. What God does for and to us in His grace gives us assurance of persevering and of not losing our faith. To persevere is to persist. It is to continue in that which you have begun. And theologically it means that we continue to have faith, do not lose our love to God, even though it may be hidden from the eyes of others, and even from our own eyes at times, because of our gross sins. But preservation means that God keeps us in the faith. His elect children will never lose their faith and new spiritual life. For it depends not on their strength. It depends on God’s faithfulness to His promises; and you cannot find a more faithful and more powerful Person than our covenant God.
It is true that some look as though they have faith and really do not. Perseverance does not mean that all who look like believers are believers, and will by God’s grace enjoy all the blessings of salvation in the day that Christ returns. In Jesus’ day the Pharisees looked that way to many, so that they were even jealous of them. And we must examine our own lives to see whether God has truly given us saving faith. We must find in our lives works of true love to God; the sincere desire to be delivered from Satan’s power; unshaken, strong faith that Christ died for our sins; and that we are saved by grace and not by our works. Perseverance means that we have begun. It means that in the deepest recesses of our hearts we do hate sin and that our sins bother us. If your sins do not bother you, if, young people, you can laugh at them and you persevere in that kind of life, the perseverance of the saints is not a comforting truth to you. But—even before you make confession of your faith, and surely afterward—when you do want to have the victory over sin, and walk in love to God, the perseverance of the saints is a tremendously comforting truth. For it teaches us that it does not depend upon us. It holds forth the truth that God’s preserving grace will keep us in Christ, from the moment that He engrafted us into Christ by our rebirth, and by that spiritual bond of faith.
Jesus speaks of that in John 15 when He presents Himself as the true vine and His people as the branches. Once engrafted into Him we will never, no never, be cut off or plucked out of Him. No one can do that. The devil, if he would come himself and with ALL his fallen angels against one child of God, he could not get the victory. Remember that, young people, as you presently enter into the days of the antichrist, who is not far away, as the signs of the times given us in Holy Writ make very plain; and remember that God said, the day man fell into sin, that the seed of the woman would have the victory, not Satan and the seed of the serpent. Those who belong to the church here below in name only, and who put on a front that makes them look like believers, will be plucked out of that vine, cut off and cast into the fire of hell. But those unconditionally elected, irresistibly called and fully atoned by the blood of Christ, will, even though they came into this world totally depraved, be preserved in their spiritual life.
And it is so important, young people, that we hold to these five truths of total depravity, unconditional election, limited or particular atonement, irresistible grace and perseverance of the saints. Believe these truths, and it is plain that you are a child of God, who will be preserved all through this life, and be brought into the new Jerusalem by Christ; because God chose you in Him, and eternally decreed that you would be delivered from your total depravity.
Our churches throughout their sixty-four years as a distinct, separate Reformed denomination have held to these truths. Your calling is to continue to maintain them in our churches, and to hand them down to your children, when it pleases God to give you them. You, young people, have an awesome responsibility. You do not need to please us, although, indeed, we rejoice to see you hold fast to these truths, but to please God. You are going to have to maintain these truths in a far more difficult time than we, your parents and friends, have gone through and were called to hold fast to these five points of Calvinism.
God’s church is going to be preserved. The elect believers, even in that awful period of time when the antichrist rules the whole world, will persevere in their faith, and show this by a walk of faith and obedience. No matter how severe the times become as far as the flesh is concerned, let it be seen that you persevere. Severe times cannot keep the true child of God from persevering. God’s preserving grace will keep them serving Him.
Put then your trust in Him: and do not for one minute think that you can stand by your own strength. Sing it with the psalmist:
“For this is His word:
His saints shall not fail,
But over the earth
Their pow’r shall prevail;
All kingdoms and nations
Shall yield to their sway,
To God give the glory
And praise Him for aye.”
Truly we are kept safe by God’s grace. He will preserve us in the spiritual life which He gave us. On Him, not on us, depends our salvation. What He begins He always finishes. Preserved by Him, we shall persevere.