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Abstract

Table of Contents

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

Part VI

Part II: The Crystallization of the Theology of Grace

Chapter 10

The Perseverance of the Saints

    Eternal security for the believer! The greatest of all assurances or an invitation to moral laxity? A biblical doctrine plainly rooted in Scripture and part and parcel of the revelation of God along with the promise of forgiveness and cleansing or simply a logical deduction from the fact of Election? If a promise of God, what of the many passages which seem to warn of the danger of falling away unto perdition and being lost in the end? And if it is up to the believer "to endure," do we not then shift the final responsibility for salvation to the individual himself? Are we then to be kept by our own good works after being saved by faith without them?
     
But if once saved means always saved, should we not then speak rather of the Preservation of the Saints than of the Perseverance, for must it not be that God preserves rather than that the believer perseveres? Where does our responsibility to maintain good works begin and where does it end? And does this maintenance of good works have a bearing upon our relationship in the family of God as sons of the Father, or only upon our continued fellowship with Him?
     
Such were the issues that revolved around the central fact of Predestination and Election, issues which divided the Reformers into two factions that found it increasingly difficult to resolve their differences because Scripture seemed to be equivocal, supplying proof texts for the advocates of both positions. In the end not merely two but three streams of theology emerged: the Reformed, the Arminian, and the Roman Catholic. And these three streams have tended only to harden their differences even while all three point to the same Scriptures as their authority. Meanwhile, of all the differences between these three theological systems, the fundamental point at issue might be said to be summed up in the basic question, Does the believer preserve himself or is he kept solely by the power of God?
     
The issue has been considered of great importance because it seems to be crucial for the maintenance of a godly life. If the believer is kept solely by the power of God and what other view of the matter could possibly guarantee real security then it would seem that there is no vital incentive to

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godly life. What need of learning even the rudiments of the doctrine of the Faith, and what need of penitence, and what need of exhortation to obedience? What need of separation from the world and its contamination of spiritual life? What need of good works? Might we not turn around a familiar saying to read, "Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we live?" Indeed what need of anything, for are we not free to do exactly as we please without fear of serious consequence in this world or of judgment in the world to come? Does not liberty become license? Is not this what Paul was inviting when four times he repeated the words, "All things are lawful unto me" (1 Corinthians 6:12 twice and 1 Corinthians 10:23 twice)? Should we not logically all join hands with the Antinomians who drew just such a conclusion as this and repudiated all controls entirely, claiming the right of each man to do precisely what he chose as he felt inclined, by what he called the inner leading of the Holy Spirit? If such lawlessness was not dangerous, could it possibly be wrong at all?
     
Thus while the issue might seem to be merely a theological one, its resolution had wide practical consequences for the Lord's people and formed the basis of divisions between believers as well as between branches of the institutional churches, divisions which have confounded all attempts at healing and have so far rendered futile every effort to reunite Christendom into a true organic unity. So unlikely is it that the issue can be resolved that it would almost appear to be a providential device whereby the existence of active controversy keeps the issue vital and the truth constantly under examination, and doctrine in a state of perpetual refinement.
     
As we have noted already, William Cunningham in his Historical Theology stressed the fact that the early Church Fathers often presented contrary views on the same issues. (1) As a result they have frequently been appealed to for support by opposing parties of later centuries. These contradictory opinions were not matters of grave concern to the Church at that time, but later, when it came time to resolve them, their very existence proved beneficial in some important ways. They had previously received little notice because the issues were not sharply enough defined. But sharper definition was achieved as a direct result of the later controversy to which earlier imprecision had not given rise. These controversies focused attention, clarifying the issues and refining the answers. Conflict of opinion has thus had the beneficial effect of deepening conviction and enlarging understanding. While the Council of Trent directed Roman Catholic theology along a false trail, Reformed theology honed and refined the truth.
     
Now the Calvinist position is grounded securely in Scripture, but it is also logically defensible. It may not seem important that it should be logical if it is

1. Cunningham, William, Historical Theology, London, Banner of Truth Trust, 1969 reprint [1862], vol.l, p179.

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truly biblical. But it is important, because a system of Faith that will not bear logical analysis is a Faith that becomes indefensible at certain critical points except by emotional reinforcement. When faith is challenged at these points and we find we cannot meet the challenge reasonably we become emotionally defensive, and if the challenge persists long enough we may come to suspect human reason altogether. But if it is then asked why we reject reason, we inevitably find ourselves searching for reasonable explanations for our rejection, and thus we fall back upon the very thing we are seeking to repudiate. The Lutherans tended to accuse Calvinists of basing the doctrine of Eternal Security upon reason rather than upon Scripture, making it a logical consequence of their faith in the fact of Election. The Lutherans had to do this because while they accepted Election they rejected Eternal Security in the Calvinistic sense of being a certainty. They could not allow, therefore, that the doctrine of Eternal Security was to be found in Scripture, and accordingly they insisted that Calvinists discovered it only by a process of logic.
     
If God has elected man to be saved and if God is truly sovereign, then man will be saved and cannot end up in any other way. The logic seems unchallengeable. But we have to ask, Upon what grounds does God elect? Calvinists say, "Solely upon the grounds of his own good pleasure." But the Lutherans say, "Not so. God elects men on the grounds of foreseen Perseverance." This puts a new complexion on the matter. Because God can foresee who will persevere to the end, He can safely elect those more promising individuals to be conformed to the image of his Son. Thus both parties agree to Election but upon different grounds, and allowing these two different grounds permits a logical extension to two different conclusions regarding the security of the believer. To the Lutherans Election hinges upon foreseen Perseverance; to the Calvinists Perseverance hinges upon Election.
     
Now the Lutherans were as convinced as the Calvinists that a man is saved by the grace of God, but they differed as to how he is kept. To say that he is also "kept by the power of God" (1 Peter 1:5) was, if taken literally, to invite total indifference on the part of the believer to what he did with his life thereafter. And Lutherans felt that many Scriptures demand that the child of God exercise himself continually towards godliness or he will not be kept. Only he that endures to the end will be saved (Matthew 10:22). God's keeping of the believer is contingent upon the believer's endurance. The believer is therefore called upon to mortify the flesh (Colossians 3:5), to keep the body under control lest by any means he should himself become a castaway (1 Corinthians 9:27). We are to strive to walk worthy of our calling (Ephesians 4:1), and to abide in the Lord lest we be cut off and thrown into the fire and burned (John 15:6). The incentive to godly life is the need to preserve the salvation which has been initiated solely by the grace of God. Though this initiation was not a co-operative effort but wholly a work

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of God, the preservation of it is man's work. Both Lutherans and Calvinists agree that the grace of God in bringing salvation is effectively sovereign. It might be resisted for a season by the elect but it cannot be resisted forever. Once saved, however, a man might indeed resist the grace of God. Calvinists believed that such resistance would be to the hurt of a man's fellowship with God but not his sonship: Lutherans believed that it might be to the hurt both of a man's fellowship and his sonship. Thus the grace of God is both irresistible and resistible, depending on whether we are talking about the experience of regeneration or our walk thereafter with the Lord. Issues which appear sometimes to be very simple and straightforward prove upon closer examination to have nuances which allow for great diversities of opinion.

     The compulsiveness of the logic of Calvinism which argues that if man must preserve himself he becomes his own saviour was not lost on the Lutheran Reformers. Consequently, they had to reject the use of logic and insist only upon an appeal to Scripture. And Calvinists replied by underscoring the many passages of Scripture which support the doctrine of Eternal Security. For example, in John 10:28 the Lord said to his disciples: "I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand." But the Lutherans countered by quoting many passages which seemed to state the reverse, and they sought to take the force out of their opponents' words by re-interpreting such proof texts as this. "True," they said, "no man can pluck us out of his hand. But we by our own disobedience can escape from his hand and be lost." They did not argue that Perseverance was impossible; they argued only that it was up to the believer. It was not guaranteed merely by the fact of Election, for Election itself was based on foreseen Perseverance.
     
But the Calvinists believed that they need not depend upon logic, though logic is certainly in their favour. They believed that Scripture itself places the security of the believer not in himself but in the Father's good pleasure; and then, having committed themselves to this, they sought a better understanding of those passages which their opponents pointed to as standing against their doctrine. In this they were behaving no differently from the Lutherans and Arminians who supported the contrary view, except in so far as they have concerned themselves more intensively with these apparently contradictory passages with the result that, by sharpening their understanding, a great refinement of doctrine has resulted. By and large Lutherans and Arminians have not been able to refine their position to the same extent, partly because every effort to do so has led to reasoning which is circular. A study of the written works of Arminius shows this very clearly. That it should be impossible, apparently, to break out of this circularity and to reach a final conclusion suggests that the system is basically at fault, not so much in its logical structure but in its premises. By contrast, Calvinism does

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not suffer in the same way; its logic is linear and it allows the extension of understanding almost indefinitely one might say, to the limits of human reason, provided that the premises accord with Revelation. What Arminius, and what evangelicals of Arminian persuasion, have consistently failed to produce is a logically defensible theology that is not circular in its reasoning; for what they seek to prove is introduced into the argument as part of the proof.
     
This kind of reasoning was particularly true of Arminius, whose position on this matter closely resembles the Lutheran. In his arguments with his contemporaries he never seems able to escape from circularity of reasoning. What he seeks to prove is first assumed to be true and then forms an essential part of his proof. It should be recognized that Arminius was a most worthy man and undoubtedly a very earnest believer. He often remarks upon the fact that the object of all his theological dissertation was only to lead men to Christ, not to defeat his opponents. He was a man of genuine humility and profound learning. His reputation was admitted equally by friends and foes alike. Beza, one of his most persistent opponents, highly respected his scholarship nevertheless. Arminius admired Calvin and recommended to his students the reading of Calvin's Institutes and Commentaries as essential to their proper training. He was a gentle man, constantly seeking to avoid raising controversial issues and anxious to find and explore points of agreement rather than disagreement. His early life was marked by tragedy when, in his absence from Amsterdam as a youth, his whole remaining family mother, brothers, and sisters was massacred by Spanish forces bent on stamping out the Protestant Reformation Movement in Holland. And the last decade of his comparatively short life was plagued by increasingly incapacitating illness (probably tuberculosis) and constant attacks by strong Calvinist proponents who doubted not only his orthodoxy but also his integrity.
     
It must be admitted that his persecutors had some grounds for their concern. Arminius occupied a sensitive position as a prominent member of the Dutch Reformed Church and even more as a Professor of Theology at Leiden University where many Reformed students received their basic training. The situation was acerbated by the fact that Arminius hedged regarding his own position in the crucial matters of the capabilities of the natural man, the extent of free will, and the question of the eternal security of the believer. When he was asked to state his opinion plainly regarding such questions as the part which man plays in his own conversion, whether natural man can co-operate with or resist the overture of God, whether man is capable of exercising saving faith on his own initiative, his answer tended always to be equivocal. Sometimes his equivocation may have been unintentional, resulting from circular reasoning from which he could not escape because his doctrine of the total spiritual ineptitude of man was unclear. He

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admitted freely that it was sometimes expedient [his word] to remain silent as to his position rather than to utter a falsehood about it. (2) But he seems not to have recognized that while silence may be proper in the absence of a request for a clear statement, it is not proper in the presence of such a request. In the latter situation, silence is tantamount to a declaration of error by default.
     
Arminius held that man had free will for the initiation of repentance and faith. Yet when asked why some men exercised this freedom by responding and others by refusing the overtures of God, he replied in effect,
    
"It is the grace of God working in them that makes them respond."
    
"Then why does not the grace of God act to make all men respond?"
    
"Because the grace of God is directed only towards those who God sees will respond."
   
And so we end up with the conclusion that the grace of God which brings a response is exercised to bring a response, and that it brings a response because this is why it is exercised. All men can respond, but only some do. Why only some?
     
"Because God enables them to by his grace."
     
"Why does He not then enable all men to respond?"
     "
Because He extends his grace only to those He knows will do so."
     
"Then what makes the difference between men?"
     
"The difference is in their responsiveness."
     
"How does this difference come about?"
     
"It comes about because God's grace enables those who do respond to respond."
     
"On what is God's selective enabling based?"
     
"On foreseen responsiveness in the objects of his grace."

     The discussion becomes never-ending and there is no way to break out of it. Calvin's answer to this same problem obviates this circularity by preventing it in the first place and thus allows forward linear progression with very fruitful consequence. Admittedly his answer is irrational in the sense that it is beyond human reason to understand what predetermines God's good pleasure. The rationale of this good pleasure is secret (Deuteronomy 29:29). Yet the fact of his good pleasure is revealed in the New Testament (Ephesians 1:5), and if we in faith start with this as the reason why some men are chosen, instead of seeking to base God's choice on some good quality resident in man himself, we break the circle which plagues Arminians and Lutherans and open the way for progress by extension of logical argument. Thereafter discussion becomes generative of entirely new understanding, and theological refinement is possible.

2. Carl Bangs, Arminius: A Study of the Dutch Reformation, New York, Abingdon Press, 1971, p.269.

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      For one thing we can now begin with the knowledge that all men are equally sinful and hopelessly lost. From this we move forward to a number of related doctrines, not the least important of which is that Saving Faith is not something that man contributes himself but must be an integral part of the atoning benefit of Christ's sacrifice. Like Salvation, Repentance and Faith are gifts of God. We do not need to argue this logically; we need only to read Scripture with our eyes open. The logic is apparent once we have accepted Revelation. Similarly it follows that if a man is not saved by exercising his own faith he cannot be lost by ceasing to exercise it. Again this is not merely a logical extension without Scripture to support it, for Scripture tells us plainly that Election means God's choice of the individual and not the individual's choice of God (John 15:16); and God is not a man that He should change his mind (Numbers 23:19).
     
As we have already noted, Arminians have evaded the question of Eternal Security by a process of deception in the use of words. They agree that believers never lose their salvation. But when asked, "Why not?" they reply, "Because a man loses his salvation only when his faith fails." He thus becomes de facto an unbeliever and satisfies the condition of the statement that a man who is actually a believer is one who by definition still enjoys his salvation.
     
Thus it came about that there developed two factions within the Reformed Movement, one of which tended to be rigidly correct and sound in doctrine but accusatory and lacking in charity, while the other became illogical and unorthodox, yielding to the ever-present humanistic tendencies of a non-Christian world, but broader-minded, more conciliatory, more humane and in many ways more successful in terms of evangelism and missionary effort. To wed the two theologies seems the most desirable thing in order to preserve the truth without destroying charitableness, brotherly love, and missionary zeal. But human nature being what it is, common sense and humanism inevitably overweigh strict faithfulness to Pauline theology. The tension between these two streams of developing doctrine may in the end prove to be essential for the preservation of both truth and charity.
     
What the history of the Arminian conflict demonstrates is that while the broader-minded, less precise, and more open-ended interpretation of the elective purposes and methods of God may soften the stark realities of man's need and his relationship to God as a sinner under judgment, the Calvinist position retains a certain clarity of formulation which in the long run is far more fruitful as a guide to thought and action not only in spiritual matters but in almost all areas of man's cultural and social life as well. The inner conflicts inherent in Arminianism which invite debilitating uncertainty are replaced by a redeeming measure of integration and assurance of both mind and heart which is liberating

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and energizing.
     Meanwhile, the Roman Catholics also struggled with the question of the security of the believer and came to a conclusion which is quite different from either the Arminian or the Calvinistic position. Their starting point was different in one very important respect. They believed that baptism is a divinely ordained yet magical rite, efficacious in its effect whether performed by a believer or an unbeliever. In some mystical way a change is wrought in the spiritual status of the baptized individual, a change which is essential for the operation of divine grace. This change is permanent and proof against all subsequent sin, even against those which are mortal in nature. Baptism does not in itself constitute salvation but it opens the way. Once performed it need not and indeed cannot ever be repeated. Venial sins do not undo this fundamental change, and penitence (for lesser sins) and penance (for grosser offenses) are sufficient to restore the baptized individual to God's favour even after a life of almost total indifference. (3) Venial sins leave the individual in the position of being able of his own free will to recover himself into a state of favour with God; mortal sin destroys this possibility, requiring that God Himself must then act sovereignly on the individual's behalf to effect restoration. Penance is required, measured by the extent of the offense. Then the sufferings of Christ act by way of compensation.
     
It is difficult to describe precisely what baptism accomplishes, but it comes near to establishing a kind of "security," since its effect is not destroyed by venial sins. The relationship which it guarantees between the soul and God is a kind of sealing such as Paul speaks of in Ephesians 1:13, 14 and 4:30. Or to use another simile, it is a divinely implanted seed which retains an unerasable character (1 John 3:9). As a rite administered at the very beginning, a divine imprint is set upon the soul so that it preserves throughout life the possibility of salvation at the last. Venial sins do not erase this imprint though they can make the individual very sick. Mortal sins render the individual dead, the imprint being no longer of any effect, so that he cannot recover himself by any means. He has lost all "principle of vitality." (4) But God can raise the dead, and therefore there is hope. This principle of vitality seems to be somewhat analogous to the capacity for believing which, Arminius held, has by the grace of God been preserved in every man despite the Fall. It does not represent the actual exercise of faith but only the capacity to exercise faith which the grace of God can act upon.
     
It is difficult to define in terms of conventional Protestant dogmatic theology what the nature of this permanent change in the soul of the baptized individual really is. It may in fact be dangerous to attempt a definition in such terms. Though we are fully aware of these dangers, it may still be

3. See G. C. Berkouwer, Studies in Dogmatics:Faith and Perseverance, translated by Robert Knudson, Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1975 reprint [1932], pp. 48 f.
4. Sin: in A Catholic Dictionary, William Addis and Thomas Arnold, London, Virtue & Co., revised with additions by T. B. Scannell, 11th edition, 1928 [1883], under "Concupiscence", p. 777.

 

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helpful to view this change as somewhat analogous to opening up the windows of the conscience towards God. Without this magical rite, the conscience is dead towards God and the individual is unable to respond to his grace. Once the window is opened, however, the individual thereafter is always aware of, or can of himself respond to, the grace of God in spite of the venial sins which he commits daily. Penitence is quite within his power and is normally all that is required to keep his soul open to the grace of God. Mortal sins, however, have the effect of closing the window so that while the conscience remains as a faculty, the soul has lost the power of exercising it towards God. Nevertheless God may still by his grace re-open the window so that the mortal sinner may yet recover himself by penitence and penance. If he should refuse to respond to God's overtures, the window remains closed permanently and he can look forward only to eternal punishment in the world to come.
     
The man whose sins are only venial will reach the end of his life secure in the hope of heaven but not yet entirely prepared to enter without embarrassment into the presence of God. For this man, purgatory is designed to perfect in the next world that which was begun in this. Purgatory is not reprobation or punishment, but joyful preparation. It will be joyful because the sinner who has experienced the grace of God will desire earnestly to be freed of all his unwanted failings and made fit to stand unashamed in the presence of God.
      
Thus baptism, which is in Roman Catholicism equated with regeneration, is not unlike a kind of potential security for the believer. Without this mystical change in the soul brought about by baptism, the destiny of the individual is dark and hopeless indeed; with it, the destiny of the believer holds promise of fulfillment so long as he continues throughout life to co-operate with the grace of God.
     
Lutherans never held to this kind of continuance, though when Luther spoke of man's passive aptitude for saving faith he seems to have been approaching the same idea. Roman Catholic doctrine taught that while baptized man has no assured security, he does have a stamp of God upon him that can never be eradicated entirely though it can be rendered ineffective. It cannot be re-imprinted. The stamp is in fact indelible.
     
The Roman Catholic doctrine therefore views baptism as a divinely appointed rite by which a permanent change is effected that can never be undone. Even the baptized individual who dies in mortal sin is still in a relationship to God which is different from that of the unbaptized. He does not simply revert to the position of the unbaptized individual, but he placed himself in far greater jeopardy by having once tasted but cast away the grace of God. However one defines the term security in this context, this much at least can be said: the baptismal imprint cannot be undone. It may therefore be a great gain but it may be an even greater penalty.

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     By contrast the Lutherans held that a believer could fall away totally to such an extent as to have need of being regenerated all over again, thus experiencing a second justification. (5) But the Lutherans did accept the distinction between venial and mortal sins and quoted 1 John 5:16: "[There is] a sin not unto death . . . [and] there is a sin unto death." Of the sin unto death John wrote: "I do not say that he shall pray for it." Such a passage is believed quite sufficient to support the distinction between what is venial and what is mortal sin.
     
Now Lutherans saw Saving Faith as a gracious gift from God, not something which springs out of the heart of natural man. They therefore distinguished between the capacity to exercise saving faith and actually doing so. A baby has a capacity for language but due to circumstances (deafness caused by disease, for example) the child may never actually employ it: similarly the individual though retaining a capacity for the exercise of faith may, due to the disease of sin, never actually do so.
     
By contrast, Arminius saw Saving Faith as something which man must always be able by nature to exercise, for otherwise God could not fairly demand it of him. He argued that God would not command man to do what he has not ability to perform. Thus, since it is the individual's own exercise of faith that secures his salvation, it is clear that subsequent loss of this faith must result in the forfeit of salvation. Yet Arminius seems to have felt that this must be a rare occurrence. While by a certain "sleight of hand" he was able to commit himself in writing to the statement that the believer is eternally secure, he really meant only that mortal sin and saving faith cannot co-exist.
     
Calvin dealt with venial and mortal sin in the life of the believer in his usual decisive way. He said of believers that all their sins must be counted as venial because there is now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). Thus the believer cannot commit mortal sin and lose his salvation. Nevertheless, he said, in the sight of God all sins are mortal for "the soul that sinneth, it shall die" (Ezekiel 18:4). For the believer mortal sins are now venial only, because the Lord Jesus Christ has already suffered the fatal consequences of them in the believer's place.
     
And thus emerged three distinct theologies out of the debate surrounding the question of Eternal Security. Today, the final Point of Calvinism might better be re-stated as the Preservation of the Saints rather than Perseverance, for this is really what is involved.

     Now we have noted that Calvin was accused of depending upon logic rather than upon Scripture to establish his position on Eternal Security. In a sense the accusation was just. He applied his logic directly to Scripture

5. Berkouwer, G. C., Studies in Dogmatics: Faith and Perseverance, Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, translated by Robert Knudson, 1975 reprint [1932], p. 64.

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itself. He presented the clear statements of the Word of God on the subject and drew the conclusion that if a particular individual was thus elected to salvation for no reason other than that it was God's good pleasure, the salvation of that individual could not possibly fail to be realized. The essential ingredient of the believer's security lay not in his own power to persevere but in the intention of the Father to present to the Son as gifts all those for whom the Son had paid the full purchase price. Calvin's argument was therefore logical but the premises were not arrived at philosophically. The premises were matters entirely of Revelation.
     
The statement of the Lord Himself, "My Father who gave them to Me," (John 10:29) is the starting point. The fact that we are the gift of the Father to the Son, a circumstance that implies we are in some special way God's possession even before we come to the Son, is constantly re-affirmed by the Lord Himself. It seems to be the starting point of his special concern in what is truly the "Lord's Prayer" in John 17 (especially verse 6). And that we are gifts of the Father to the Son is repeated again and again in John's Gospel (6:37, 44, 65; 10:28, 29; 17:2, 6, 9, 11, 12, 24); and in many other places. No giver can make a gift of that which is not already his to give. And is it conceivable that God can give to the Son such a present unless it is given in perpetuity? Jesus said: "This is the Father's will [the Greek here is the strong word thelema, meaning intention] who has sent Me, that of all whom He has given Me, I should lose nothing but should raise it up again at the last day" (John 6:39).
     
It is important to observe the care which Paul takes to underscore the fact that we are not saved by our faith but by Christ's faithfulness. It is well known to Greek scholars that the word pistis () has a dual meaning: faith or faithfulness.* The point is an important one. If we are saved by our faith it is obvious that we might lose that faith and with it our salvation. But Scripture does not say we are saved by our faith even though we constantly presume this to be so. The Word of God is remarkably explicit on the matter, though the fact has tended to be blurred by most of our translations.
     For example, note Galatians 2:20: "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless, I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me." It is necessary to look at this passage with care in order to 

* Bultmann has this to say about the word: In accordance with the Greek feeling for language, can denote not only the confidence one has but also the confidence one enjoys. i.e., trustworthiness. . . .  Concretely means the guarantee which creates the possibility of trust, that which may be relied on, or the assurance of reliability. . . .  This leads on the one side to the sense of certainty, trustworthiness; on the other to that of "means of proof". . . .  In particular denotes the reliability of persons, faithfulness. [Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, edited by Gerhard Kittel, 1936, translated & edited by Geoffrey W. Bromiley, Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1964, vol.VI, p.177.]

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establish the point we are making so that it may be recognized in many other parts of Scripture. The words that need close scrutiny are, "I live by the faith of the Son of God." The reason we need to pause in reading these words is that habit of thought prompts us to read them as though Scripture were really saying, "I live by faith in the Son of God." In point of fact Paul is saying that we do not live by faith in the Son of God but by the faith of the Son of God. And if we remember that the word rendered "faith" may just as properly be translated "faithfulness," then we see that our life is not dependent upon our faith in Christ but upon Christ's faithfulness. *
     This particular truth is underscored by Paul in many places. Thus in Galatians 2:16 he wrote: "Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but through [Greek dia, followed by the genitive] the faithfulness of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by means of [Greek ek, followed by the genitive] the faithfulness of Christ." And again in Galatians 3:22: "The Scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise through [Greek ek, followed by the genitive] the faithfulness of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe." In each case it is the faithfulness of Jesus Christ and not the perseverance of the believer which is the basis of his Eternal Security.

     
The New Testament is full of this principle. Note that in Romans 3:22 the righteousness of God which is imputed to us is not described as being the result of our faith in Jesus Christ. Rather, the correct rendering is: "The righteousness of God which is through [dia] the faithfulness of Him. . ." that is, through his faithfulness. And then again in Philippians 3:8, 9: "Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord . . . [that I may] be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through [dia] the faithfulness of Christ, the righteousness which is of God founded upon faith." We have customarily read these familiar passages as though they were speaking about our faith in Jesus Christ. Although many translations have not followed the lead provided by the King James Version and have interpreted the words as "in Jesus Christ," a number of modern versions have

* The Greek at this point is as follows: . By way of comment it may be said that followed by what is called an instrumental dative is to be rendered "by means of." The rest of the phrase is correctly rendered, "the faithfulness of the Son of God." On this matter see Dana and Mantey, A Manual of Grammar of the Greek New Testament (Toronto, Macmillan, 1955, section 122). Any Greek grammar will serve to elucidate the matter. An excellent New Testament example is to be found m Revelation 6:8: "And power was given unto them . . . to kill by means of the sword and hunger and death and the beasts of the earth."

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been faithful to the original, especially those which set out to be as literal as possible. *
     Any translation which is unfamiliar may seem contrived at first, but it is surely comforting to know that even when our faith does fail us, his faithfulness stands firm, As Paul wrote to Timothy (2 Timothy 2:13): "If we believe not, yet He abides faithful: He cannot deny Himself." Thus we are kept by the power of God through his faithfulness unto salvation (1 Peter 1:5), for He is able to save to the very end (eis to panteles) them that come unto God by Him (Hebrews 7:25).
     
Jesus Christ is in fact both the author and the finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). The anointing which we have received abides in us (1 John 2:27), for we are sanctified by the offering of the body of Christ once for all (Hebrews 10:10) and in the sight of God perfected forever (Hebrews 10:14). When Paul says that nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38, 39), he exhausts the English language to make this security comprehensive: nothing on earth or in heaven, nothing in life or in death, nothing past, or present, or future. Thus he could say with absolute assurance, "He whot has begun a good work in you will perform it [i.e., carry it through] until the day of Jesus Christ" (Philipppians 1:6). The same assurance inspired the Lord's people in the Old Testament also: "I know that, whatsoever God does, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor anything taken from it: and God does it, that men should fear before Him" (Ecclesiastes 3:14).
     
Not one of these assurances depends in any way upon the constancy of man, or upon his own inner resources of obedience or courage or loyalty or anything that is his. Our security lies outside of ourselves, solely in the faithfulness of the Lord our Saviour and in the unchangeableness of God's purposes in numbering us among his elect. We were his choice (John 15:16), not He ours. In this lies our security.
     
What then do we do with those passages which seem to imply that we may lose our salvation by falling from grace (Galatians 5:4), having our names taken out of the Book of Life as a consequence (Revelation 22:19)? Are we indeed called upon to work out our own salvation in this sense (Philippians 2:12) and to endure to the end if we can (Matthew 24:13) by not committing some unpardonable sin (Hebrews 6:4-6) and thus becoming a castaway (1 Corinthians 9:27)?

* Among those versions which have remained true to the original Greek may be listed: the Berkeley Version, Wesley's version under the title Explanatory Notes on the New Testament, Ferrar Fenton's The Holy Bible in Modern English, the Concordant Version, which has attempted a faithfulness to the original at the cost of some smoothness in its composition, Young's Literal Translation of the Bible, and an interlinear version published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (an agency of the Jehovah's Witnesses Movement).

     pg.13 of 35     

     What happens when a child of God does disobey and who doesn't? Is there punishment for the disobedient? If so, in what sense is there now therefore no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1), or does this apply only to those who "walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit"?
     
This qualifying statement has for centuries troubled those who believe that the Lord once for all made a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice for our sins. If He died for my sins, must I also pay the penalty of disobedience whenever my life is displeasing in his sight? Or am I truly forgiven already, wholly freed from the penalty of all that I have done not in accordance with his will, and of all that I do daily, and of all that I shall yet do? Am I indeed covered by a blanket of pardon that is so comprehensive that I am no longer regarded as a sinner before the Lord but as righteous, not because of what I am in practice but because of what He did on my behalf when He offered Himself in my place? I am convinced that there is now no condemnation any more to them that are in Christ Jesus, and that this declaration is unconditional.
      
As for the rest of this verse as it appears in the King James Version ("to them . . . that walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit"), it is almost universally agreed by scholars that it has been introduced into the text by mistake. The following modern versions bear this out: New English Bible, New Internationa1 Version, New American Standard Version, Revised Standard Version, New American Bible, Jerusalem Bible, Rotherham's Emphasized Bible, Williams' translation, Smith and Goodspeed, Barclay, and the translation by Wuest. This is a case where the eye of the copyist long ago was momentarily distracted to the same sentence in Romans 8:4b and copied it by mistake a process known as dittography. It almost certainly does not belong in the original text. The assurance of no condemnation is unqualified: "There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus."
     
In that case there cannot possibly be any penalty for disobedience. What often seems to be the consequence of disobedience and therefore is assumed to be penalty, coming as a painful or distressing occasion for rebuke, is not punishment but chastening. The Lord, in his graciousness, sometimes allows the expected consequences of our disobedience to trouble us for our good in order that we may be corrected thereby and more nearly conformed to his will. "Whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives" (Hebrews 12:6). But there is no penal aspect in such a sequence of events; it is only an exhibition of his concern for our well-being. Indeed very often there is not even this much of a consequence, our own repentance being quite sufficient for his purposes. In a true sense, the more immediately the correction comes, the more concerned may we judge our heavenly Father to be about us. He is anxious that we should not damage

     pg.14 of 35     

ourselves by our disobedience for we are his beloved children.
     
But because our awareness of this loving concern is so often dimmed, we need to keep reminding ourselves that judgment really is past. We have already been forgiven all our trespasses (Ephesians 4:32). Notice how forgiveness is spoken of here in the past tense: "As God for Christ's sake has forgiven you." Or in Colossians 2:13: "Having forgiven you al1 trespasses."
     
Now it is sometimes argued that we are forgiven our offenses only after we have committed them. But the truth of the matter is that the Lord Jesus Christ took these offenses upon Himself long before we were even born. "[He] bore our sins in his own body on the tree" (1 Peter 2:24). The penalty of these offenses, though they were not yet committed, was paid there and then. That judgment is past. When troubles come our way and we feel we can see their connection with our own disobedience, we should remind ourselves that we are not being punished but being chastened now in order that we not be condemned with the world later on. As Paul says, "When we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world" (1 Corinthians 11:32). It is in this sense that judgment begins at the House of God (1 Peter 4:17). The word translated "judged" in 1 Corinthians 11:32 is the Greek krino, a word which means simply "to assess" without any necessary connotation of whether such assessment is favourable or unfavourable. The same applies to the word translated "judgment" in 1 Peter 4:17. The word translated "condemned" in 1 Corinthians is formed from the same basic root but it is compounded with the prefix kata-, which means down, thus fixing the sense of condemnation upon the word. It is important to note these different meanings, for many passages in which the word krino occurs are used to support views which go far beyond the original text. Such, for instance, is the common remark, "Oh, we mustn't judge!" as though we ought never to evaluate the work of anyone even when such an evaluation is essential before considering him for some particular appointment. * Scripture does not require us to be deliberately naive. We are called upon to be charitable but not at the expense of surrendering good judgment. Assessment in this sense is proper if we are to act responsibly, but condemnation (kata-krino) is another matter.

* Human nature being what it is, it is all too easy for us to begin with honest assessment only to slip into uncharitable condemnation. I believe that this is what the Lord had in mind in Matthew 7:1 when He advised the Pharisees against making any kind of moral assessment, warning them that they would receive the same kind of unfavourable assessment if they made a practice of doing this to others. Everyone has to make judgments; life requires it. But our judgment must be righteous judgment (John 7:24), that is, fair judgment. The making of fair judgments is commanded here just as plainly as the command not to make unfair judgments is given in Matthew 7:1. The two passages have to be taken together. The Greek for the word judge (krino) is the same in both cases. It was probably impossible for the Pharisees, by their very training, to make any such fair assessment of the moral behaviour of their fellow men. 

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     In 1 Corinthians 11:31 we read: "If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged." Here the first word judge is dia-krino [not merely krino, nor yet kata-krino, but dia-krino], which means to examine critically, to keep a critical eye on our own behaviour. Then if we take action to correct what we find undesirable in ourselves we shall not need to be assessed by God and chastened. We are in a position, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to correct our own faults in a measure by mortifying the deeds of the body, for example; and when we undertake to do this faithfully there is no need for the Lord to impose his chastening upon us. But whether we do anticipate his chastening or not, the end effect is the same: what we experience is correction not condemnation.
    
In short, for the child of God such correctives are not penalties but remedies. We are no longer in a Court of Law before an outraged Judge, but in a family circle before a disappointed Father. The must of the law has become the should of the family. Righteous anger is replaced by genuine disappointment. What is being endangered is not relationship but fellowship. Chastening is a privilege, not a penalty; a proof of concern, not a demonstration of anger.
     
It is not always possible to find exact "opposites" which will show precisely the difference in the nature of the consequences of disobedience in the life of the unbeliever and the believer. But the following tabulation may help to make this clear, especially if the words set in capitals are placed one against the other in each instance.

TRANSFORMATIONS

 An offended JUDGE  becomes  a disappointed FATHER.
 A forbidding COURTROOM  becomes  a warm FAMILY CIRCLE.
 Strict PUNISHMENT  becomes  sympathetic CHASTENING.
 Moral ANGER  becomes  parental CONCERN.
 MUST, or else...  becomes  SHOULD, because...
 RELATIONSHIP to God is now made real by FELLOWSHIP with God. X

     To recognize this shift is of profound importance to the child of God, for what was once a cause of fear on legal grounds has now become a cause of concern on familial grounds. We seek the Father's forgiveness not because we fear his wrath and the consequent severing of relationship as though we had lost our membership in his family, but because we become aware of his disappointment and the consequent loss of fellowship. Confession ensures the restoration of this sense of fellowship. It is forgiveness in this context that we are seeking, forgiveness for having disappointed Him even as we seek forgiveness from our friends when we disappoint them. Forgiveness in the legal sense is not at issue here; that is already a fait accompli. Yet although we are legally forgiven we may still grieve the Lord and lose the sense of his presence and find ourselves out of fellowship with our brothers 

     pg.16 of 35     


and sisters in the Lord. For the child of God, unconfessed sin is not the same as unforgiven sin, but unconfessed sin is still offensive to God because it entails a breach of fellowship. So we seek his forgiveness on this account. And when we nourish an unforgiving spirit towards another brother we endanger our fellowship at that level, too.
     
It is for this reason that Paul says in Colossians 3:13, "Even as Christ forgave you, so also do you." He does not say that we are forgiven because we forgive others but rather that we forgive others because we have been forgiven. Then what are we to do with Matthew 6:12, 14, 15 ("And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. . . For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: but if you forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your heavenly Father forgive your trerspasses")?  Clearly we have here a different kind of forgiveness, for we are not in a position to exercise the right of judicial forgiveness; only God can forgive sins (Mark 2:7). What the Lord was calling the disciples to do, and calls us to do, is to maintain fellowship wherever possible by keeping the channels open. This is not a question of legal satisfaction but of exhibiting a forgiving spirit to maintain fellowship. When we pray, "Our Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 6:9), we are acknowledging for ourselves the unquestionable fact (if we are born again) that God is our Father. This relationship is the starting point. But what happens when we are disobedient and show no repentance towards God is that our fellowship with Him is sacrificed. And the same thing applies with respect to our brothers and sisters in the Lord. An unforgiving spirit towards them endangers the possibility of fellowship with them and is reflected inevitably in a loss of the sense of communion with our Father, for they are members of the same family and the whole family circle is strained.
     
When we nourish an unforgiving spirit towards another brother or sister in the Lord, we endanger our fellowship vertically and horizontally. We are called upon to forgive those that trespass against us in order to preserve or restore fellowship at both levels, with God and with his children. It is not legal forgiveness we need now but family forgiveness. "If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin. . . And truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ" (1 John 1:7 and 1:3). Legal forgiveness is essential for sonship, to establish relationship within the family of God; familial forgiveness is essential to maintain fellowship.

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Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved

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