Awakening to the Lost Masterpiece of Perseverance of the Saints

by Dr. James Willingham

“If I believed that, I would be the happiest person in the world.”  This was the saying of a Methodist lady in the 1800s to her Baptist friend, when the latter presented to her the teachings on the perseverance of the saints or eternal security as it is sometimes called.  Actually, the doctrine involves two ideas, namely, perseverance and preservation, and it is not meant to be an indulgence for a person to live any old way the pleases or, rather, it is intended for a person to live any old way he or she pleases so long as that way is pleasing to the Lord.  The precepts that promote perseverance in the Bible are intended to move the believer to become responsible, to take responsibility for his or her conduct.

There are times, when one must stress perseverance.  At other times the idea of preservation must be emphasized.  Sadly, some have put so much weight on the preservation of the saints, eternal security, it would seem, that many have in the 20th century taken it for a license to self indulgence.  Others have used perseverance in such a way as to cast doubt on the possibility of anyone every succeeding in finishing the course as a true believer in the Lord Jesus Christ.

All of the teachings of Sovereign Grace involve two poles which are intended to create or produce a tension in the believer, a desirable tension which enables one to be balanced, flexible, creative, constant, and magnetic.  In short, one becomes a responsible follower of the Lord, when he or she gets the truths of God right.  Dr. George W. Truett summed it up well in his Address at the Centenary Celebration for the birth of C.H. Spurgeon in 1934, when he said: “Calvinism presses down upon the brow of man the crown of responsibility.”

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