We have been studying the doctrine of the perseverance of saints. Before we finish, something needs to be said about the reference to "saints" in this doctrine. The word means, you understand, "holy ones" and refers to the sanctification of God's people.
A proper understanding of the word is very important. If saints, as some suggest, are spiritually self-made people, i.e., those who are holy by their own works and will, then there is no certainty of perseverance. As quickly as they made themselves holy, so quickly can they decide that they no longer wish to be holy.
This is the teaching of free-willism. It says that a person is saved by his own choice and that his sanctification and growth in grace also depend on him. He must choose to make use of the grace that is available to all if he is to be holy. Then, of course, no one would ever be holy!
We believe that saints are made saints by grace - that it is only by grace that they have any holiness at all. To put it another way, they are saints and faithful "in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 1:1, Phil. 1:1, Col. 1:1-2).
Their holiness is not the result of their own freewill choice but of God's sovereign election and choice of them. Thus we read in Ephesians 1:4; "According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him." God's gracious election is the source of their holiness.
What is more, their holiness is not obtained by their own works but is purchased for them by the blood of Christ. Of this we read in Colossians 1:21-22; "And you, that were sometimes alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight." The shed blood of Christ is the ground of their holiness.
Nor is the holiness of saints then dependent on them, as though God says, "I have provided all things for you, it is up to you to make use of them and be holy as I command." Saints become holy in their conduct and speech by the work of the Holy Spirit. Sanctification is the "sanctification of the Spirit" (I Pet. 1:2). For this reason Scripture speaks of their being "called to be saints" (Rom. 1:7, I Cor. 1:2). It is the powerful word of God's calling that brings them to holiness.
Nor does the Spirit begin the work of making saints and then leave it up to them to persevere in holiness to the end. Their continuing in holiness depends completely on the continued presence and power of the Holy Spirit. We do not learn to be saints by our own efforts. It is the grace of God that brings salvation that is "teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world" (Tit. 2:11-12). The grace of the Holy Spirit is the power of holiness.
Nor may we forget that it is only saints who shall see the Lord (Heb. 12:14). How wonderful, then, to know that God gives us what is necessary that we may see Him in glory.
- Volume: 5
- Issue: 20
Rev. Ronald Hanko (Wife: Nancy)
Ordained: November 1979
Pastorates: Wyckoff, NJ - 1979; Trinity, Houston, TX - 1986; Missionary to N.Ireland - 1993; Lynden, WA - 2002Website: www.lyndenprc.org/sermons/
Address317 North Park St.
State or ProvinceWA