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John 3:16 Conference: Message on Perseverance of the Saints by Dr. Ken Keathley
November 07, 2008
Guest blog by Andrew Lindsey
Prayer by Phil Roberts.
2 Timothy 1:12.
2 components of assurance:
1. Certainty that one is saved.
2. Certainty that one in a state of grace will remain in this state.
What is the basis of assurance?
1. Present certainty
a. Denied by Council of Trent, Canon 15, which says present certainty only comes through special revelation. (John Calvin pointed to the Bible as special revelation granting assurance.)
b. The Reformers taught that assurance is of the essence of saving faith. All who come to faith have assurance in the moment of their salvation, even if there are subsequent doubts.
c. However, certain doctrines of the Reformers undermine this assurance
i. The distinction between the revealed and hidden will in God.
ii. The doctrine of Limited atonement.
iii. The doctrine of temporary faith given to the non-elect.
d. The Puritans believed that assurance was logically deduced:
i. Whether the Puritans followed or deviated from Calvin is debatable
ii. The Puritans based assurance on sanctification
iii. The Puritans had great anxiety concerning their assurance
iv. The Puritans had a strong doctrine of temporary faith
- Conference-goers were shown on PowerPoint William Perkins’ detailed chart from The Golden Chain, in which the reprobate are given false faith, only discernible from genuine faith after life.
-Perkins almost drove his congregants “nuts”- to the point of near-suicide- with questioning their own salvation; Bunyan’s Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners is a miserable book, with Bunyan struggling for years on the question of his salvation.
The use of logical syllogisms:
1. The practical syllogism: If effectual grace is manifested in me, then I am one of the elect.
2. The mystical syllogism: If I experience inward confirmation in the spirit, then I am saved.
The Puritans based assurance on sanctification, rather than on justification.
Augustine and the Arminians taught that apostasy is possible; one may be saved and later lost.
Karl Barth taught that apostasy is impossible through an implicit universalism.
Calvinist and Dispensationalist view is once saved, always saved:
1. Grace Evangelical Society
a. Ignores or explains away warning passages
b. Encourages laxity in Christian commitment
c. Gives false comfort to false believers
2. Demarest teaches that good works are a test of genuineness
a. Example of Peter and Judas
b. Warning passages given to discern between true and false believers
Mediating views: Apostacy is genuinely threatened but not possible.
Dr. Tom Schreiner and A.B. Canneday teach that perseverance is the means by which we are saved. These warnings do not merely threaten believers with loss of rewards, but threaten Hell. The warning passages, however, only speak of conceivable, but not actual consequences. The threats of damnation produce assurance and confidence: they are signposts along the way as the believer runs the marathon of faith. Schreiner and Canneday say that perseverance is the basis of justification.
Critique of this view:
1. In 1 Corinthians 9:27, was Paul concerned he may go to Hell? (If so, this does undermine our assurance.)
2. Just how conceivable is the believer’s apostasy?
3. In their model, what happens to those who don’t persevere?
4. Are they not setting up the same problem that the Puritans dealt with?
5. How is this view not works-based salvation?
Quote from Schreiner:
“Yes, works are necessary to be saved. No this is not works righteousness, for the works are hardly meritorious.”
This is not close to Trent, this is Trent.
A modest proposal:
1. The only basis for assurance is the objective work of Christ.
a. Any model that begins with Christ but ends with man is doomed to failure.
b. Christ and Him alone is the basis for assurance.
2. Assurance is the essence of saving faith.
a. Works provide warrant, but not a basis for assurance. Works are the buttress, but Christ and His work are the foundation.
c. Assurance is analogous to how a Christian knows that God loves him even in times of suffering; the Christian may not feel loved, but the Bible reveals that God does love.
3. Saving faith perseveres or remains until the day when it gives way to sight.
a. Perseverance should be viewed more as a promise than a requirement
b. Faith necessarily leads to good works
c. Indifference concerning godliness is more of a “red flag” than weakness in godliness
d. The indwelling Holy Spirit assures that there is no such thing as a happy backslider
4. There are rewards to gain or lose subsequent to faith
5. Assurance comes from Christ alone.