Monday, January 7, 2013

Perseverence of the Saints and the Cause of Faith

John 17:11-12, 15, "And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled...I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one." Romans 8:35-39, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, 'For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.' No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." Ephesians 1:13-14 "In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory."

The question is made clear when we approach Colossians 1:21-23, "And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister." Does the phrase "if indeed you continue in the faith" refer to our being reconciled, or to our being presented holy and blameless? It seems straightforward that, since our being presented holy and blameless is the purpose for which we have been reconciled, then to remove one is to remove the other. Thus, if we continue in the faith, then we have been reconciled in Christ's body of flesh by his death. Yet Paul also says in Romans 5:10-11, "For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation." Thus our present state is one which exists: we either are reconciled or not. Now, I take it that "if you continue in the faith" does not stand alone, but that, since, speaking of Jesus, "And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.'" Acts 4:12, and thus it is only if we continue in faith, and thus, if, and only if, we continue in faith, then we have been reconciled in Christ's body of flesh by his death. But then, if one is true, that is, if we are reconciled, then the other is also true, that is, we continue in faith.

Or are some reconciled who do not continue in the faith? Then must they not be saved? For Christ died for their sins, and thus to damn them would be to say that Christ's reconciling them had no effect. It is to say that, though they were reconciled to God, God shall cast them out. What kind of reconciliation is this? It is not a reconciliation, but, at best, the making possible a reconciliation, yet Paul says that "while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son" Romans 5:10. Does an enemy participate in his own reconciliation? One does, the one who did not seek the war. Yet we were the ones who sought to overthrow our God, and he is the one who accomplishes this reconciliation. We sought war, yet in Christ we are made at peace with God. Or Romans 5:8 "but God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." And, again, Romans 5:11 speaks of us as ones who "have now received reconciliation." It has been given us, and we had no part in accomplishing it. We received it, though we despised the gift as, in our unrighteousness, we sought the crucifixion of Christ.

It is true that it is received by faith, for, Romans 3:23-25, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins." But, then, how does this faith come to be? Galatians 3:22-23 "But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith." and, Romans 4:16 "That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all," Now, how can it be guaranteed to anyone, if it depends on the freedom their will choosing in some way? Indeed, Hebrew 12:2 tells us that it is Jesus who made our faith, for it says, "looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God." Thus neither our righteousness, nor our faith, by which we receive the propitiation by the blood of Christ such that we are justified by God's grace as a gift through that redemption, are made with human hands, but are imperishable, being wrought by God.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.  --1 Peter 1:3-9
Thus, the Father has caused us to be born again, that is, we "who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time." verse 5, although our faith is tested so that it might "be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ." verse 7.

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