Bags of Bran


Calvin on Eternal Security/Perseverance
January 11, 2017, 1:07 pm
Filed under: Bible, Biography

Eternal Security vs. Perseverance of the Saints: which idea is more biblical?

Many teach and insist upon Eternal Security as an entirely passive state: “fire insurance” or “once saved always saved” or what have you. The sinner’s prayer was, and is, and ever will be, all you ever need. But this is not the way the New Testament reads:

“…holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith…”

Concerning these words, Calvin says:

Seeing it is so, let us take heed when God has given it to us, that we keep it in this way and not lose it. And how can we do this? Of ourselves (as I have often said) we are so frail that whatever we have today is gone tomorrow; nay, it does not even tarry that long; one minute of an hour is enough to deprive us of all the gifts that God has bountifully bestowed upon us.   This is our case. Yet God has not given us faith so that we would enjoy it only for a little while and afterwards be deprived of it. He wants us to possess it forever.

And how may that be? He shows us here the way: it is this, that we go on forward with all reverence once God has shown us the way of salvation, that there be no hypocrisy in us, but instead this uprightness and openness which he speaks of in this place, and that we be no light-headed enough to be carried away with our violent lusts; that we be not also double-hearted to mock God and his grace.

As we see that there are many at this day who would take the Gospel for a cloak to cover all their villainies and think that when they have the name of God in their mouths, their sins become sanctified, and they be completely forgiven them. We must take good heed that we do not in this way profane the word of God, but keep it in a good conscience. And when we do so, let us not doubt that God will give us a steadiness that will never be overcome, though all the winds in the world blow, and all surges and seas rise up against us, in so much that we may seem to be in danger of drowning a hundred times a day, yet God will keep us safe.

John Calvin, sermon on 1 Timothy 1:18-19 (Kindle location 2185 or so)

Paul uses active-tense language: “fight the good fight;” “keeping the faith in a good conscience;” while the others “have rejected” (NASB) and “have made shipwreck of their faith” (ESV). [NB: Grammatically, the rejection and the ship-wrecking of the faith are related, but whichever is the primary activity, it is an activity.]

Therefore, Calvin says. “We must take good heed that we do not in this way profane the word of God, but keep it in good conscience.”

Persevere, therefore, and do not be like those whom Calvin describes thus:

For those who play with God and make only a jesting matter of it, once they know the Gospel they are always talking about it, yet they are given still to all their vanities and are profane persons who will at last be sunk and drowned.

Unknown. John Calvin’s Sermons on 1 Timothy (Kindle Locations 2169-2171). . Kindle Edition.

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6 Comments so far
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But surely there is still hope for one who repents before an entire congregation, declaring to them how evil he has been and how he has cursed and cursed, and how low he has sunk in sinfulness? Or, if not the whole congregation, only the elders? Or, if not only the elders, the lead pastor and an associate pastor? And what about 1 John 1:9, if we confess, we can be forgiven, right? And what about Spurgeon’s statement as follows below.

And I repeat that solemn assertion – I am God’s hostage this morning; ye shall feed me on bread and water to my life’s end, ay, and I will bear the blame for ever, if any of you seek Christ and Christ rejects you. It must not, it can not be. “Whosoever cometh,” he says, “I will in no wise cast out.” “He is able to save to the uttermost them that come unto God by him.” May God Almighty bless you; and may we meet again in yonder Paradise; and there will we sing more sweetly of redeeming love and dying blood, and of Jesus’ power to save.

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Comment by Anonymous

Todd again,

Thanks for the Spurgeon quotation, and the key to understanding it is the phrase “if any of you seek Christ.” Apostates don’t seek Christ; they’re headed in the other direction. Calvin is talking about apostates, people who fail to persevere. Hope this helps.

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Comment by christopheram

Pastor Chris,

I ask, Surely there remains hope for a person who still has a conscience. at Pure Life Ministries, Steve Gallagher quotes Tozer, who says: [“the foundation of the human conscience is “the secret presence of Christ in the world.” To support his conclusions, he points to John 1:9, “There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man.” This inward moral awareness is simply the “secret inner voice” of the Lord “accusing or else excusing him.” Tozer very well may be right.]
Then, Gallagher goes on to put things this way: “How can a man know if he has gone too far? The very concern over such a possibility reveals the fact that there remains hope for him. Apostates, having lost all sense of morality, have no concern over such matters.”

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Comment by Todd

But surely there is still hope for one who repents before a
congregation, declaring to them the nature and specificity of his sins. Or, if not the whole congregation, only the elders? Or, if not only the elders, the lead pastor. And what about 1 John 1:9, if we confess. And also, Spurgeon wrote, in “Presumptuous Sins”, a prescription for forgiveness of presumptuous sins. Can you kindly address these things.

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Comment by Todd

Todd,

Yes. Nothing here precludes repentance, restoration, forgiveness, or anything else. Calvin is speaking of lack of perseverance, which is an entirely different matter. It is, from a human perspective, when someone walks away from the faith.

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Comment by christopheram

Todd,

Off the top of my head:

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

How is the word “if” functioning in that verse?

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Comment by christopheram




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