Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
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March 2009 • Volume XII, Issue 11


The Earnest of the Spirit (2)

Last time, we saw that, as an "earnest," the Spirit who dwells in us is a guarantee, a part and a foretaste of our eternal inheritance (Eph. 1:14). Since the Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus Christ and Christ is the revelation of the Triune God, our inheritance is irradiated with the glory of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Then the one, true God will be all in all, and all idolaters will be banished forever to the lake of fire (Rev. 21:8; Isa. 66:24).

The Bible often links what we have now in the Spirit of Christ with final glory. We are new creatures by the power of the Spirit (II Cor. 5:17); the new creation of the new heavens and the new earth is coming. We are regenerated; in the future the world itself will also be regenerated (Matt. 19:28). We have the "firstfruits of the Spirit" (Rom. 8:23); the full harvest awaits.

This earnest (or down payment or deposit) of the Spirit is in us (as a guarantee and partial payment) "until the redemption of the purchased possession," our actual receiving the full "inheritance" (Eph. 1:14).

The "purchased possession" (14) is one Greek word referring to all believers in all ages and nations, as those acquired by the Lord, as His people, in body and soul, both Jews (12) and Gentiles (13).

"The redemption of the purchased possession" (14) can best be explained along these lines. First, Christ paid the price of our redemption by His atoning sufferings on the cross for us (7a). Second, this redemption is applied to us in time in "the forgiveness of sins," the chief and central blessing of salvation (7b). This is the first instalment, referring to us especially in our souls. Third, in the future, we shall be raised from the dead to the splendour of the new creation (14). This is the second instalment, referring to us especially in our bodies.

The Bible speaks elsewhere of "redemption" as not only (1) its payment on the cross and (2) its issuance in the forgiveness of sins, but also (3) the future, physical resurrection of the just. Later in Ephesians, Paul warns against grieving the Holy Spirit, "whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption" (Eph. 4:30). Elsewhere, he states that we who "have the firstfruits of the Spirit … groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body" (Rom. 8:23). The Lord Jesus exhorts us, as we see the signs of His coming, "look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh" (Luke 21:28).

All Jews (Eph. 1:12) and Gentiles (13) who believe in Christ are "sealed" with the Spirit (13) and have the Spirit as an "earnest" of our future inheritance (14), into which we all enter at the same time, through the resurrection of the body, here called "the redemption of the purchased possession" (14; Rom. 8:23). There is no suggestion here of, or room for, several resurrections, whether of Jew or Gentile or of godly or ungodly, separated by 7 or 1,000 or 1,007 years, as various brands of premillennialism teach. Scripture declares, "there shall be a resurrection [singular] of the dead, both of the just and unjust" (Acts 24:15). Then, in "the fullness of times," all things in heaven and on earth, including believing Jews and Gentiles of all ages, will be gathered together in one in Christ (Eph. 1:10).

It should also be noted that this sealing and earnest of the Spirit "until" the bodily resurrection (14) at the end of this age proves the perseverance of the saints and irresistible grace. For if the believer could fall away and if grace were resistible, the apostle could not say that all those who believe "were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise … until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory" (13-14).

How much does all this mean to you, child of God? Do you live in the consciousness that the Holy Spirit is in you as the earnest of future glory? As a guarantee, a part payment and a foretaste of eternal bliss? Do other people notice that you live this way? Remember too that this privilege of hoping for our glorious inheritance is a calling of all saints, young as well as old!

Do your priorities in life reflect that you have the assurance and joy of the Spirit? Does this show itself in what you do with your time? Such as making time to read God’s Word and pray, attending Bible studies and fellowshipping with other saints, as you are able?

How much does this heavenly hope mean to you? Enough to start reordering your life, where necessary? Enough to stop walking in enticing sins? Enough to begin looking forward more to our Lord’s return? Enough to worship God for His great mercy?

This is indeed the purpose of the Triune God in saving us. Three times this goal is stated in Ephesians 1: "to the praise of the glory of his grace" (6), "that we should be to the praise of his glory" (12) and "unto the praise of his glory" (14). Now we are called to declare His greatness; forever we will do this perfectly. This is what it is for us to live as members of the church, the body of Jesus Christ: to praise God’s glorious grace! This is the work of the Spirit in us, making us worshippers of our Father in heaven. Rev. Stewart

The Perseverance of the Saints

Question: "Once saved, always saved; or can one lose one’s salvation as implied by Rev. ________ in his The Road to Hell?"

The doctrine of the perseverance of the saints is one of the Five Points of Calvinism, developed and defended from God’s Word in the Canons of Dordt. At the Synod of Dordrecht (1618-1619), theologians from the Netherlands and from almost all the Reformed churches of Europe formulated the Canons as the scriptural and confessional answer to the heresies of the Arminians.

In my judgment, the fifth chapter of the Canons is the best confessional statement of the truth of the perseverance of the saints found anywhere. It is not only thoroughly biblical; it also clearly refutes the Arminians who taught the falling away of true saints. It not only demonstrates how important this doctrine is to the whole body of scriptural truth; it also approaches the subject from a profoundly pastoral perspective, that is, it shows how it is of the greatest comfort to the child of God. The Canons’ treatment of the perseverance of the saints places the doctrine within the context of Christian experience: our great sins, our "melancholy falls" into the gravest sins and our own personal battles with Satan and his temptations that fill our souls with doubt concerning our salvation. I have often used these marvellous articles in chapter five of the Canons in my pastoral work, and they have repeatedly proved to be a blessing to God’s struggling saints.

I knew a young lady many years ago who had come from Arminian, baptistic, premillennial churches. She was serious about her religion, and had come forward at revival meetings five different times to accept Jesus Christ as her personal Saviour and had been baptized no less than three times. When I asked her the reason for her frequent acceptance of Christ and repeated baptisms, she explained that every time she accepted Christ she had lost Him a short time later, and every time after she was baptized, she had soon lost the comfort of her baptism.

In God’s good providence, He led her one Lord’s Day into a Protestant Reformed Church. Also God led the minister to preach on John 10:27-30: "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one."

She told me that that wonderful truth burned into the depths of her soul and brought a comfort and peace she had never known, nor knew existed. She was, in fact, quite puzzled when, in the embarrassment of her tears, she surreptitiously looked around to see whether others noticed her weeping and found that no one within her range of vision was crying and that all seemed to be quite unmoved by what was for her a moment of heaven.

The perseverance of the saints simply means, as Paul expresses it in Philippians 1:6, "that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ." Our Father will complete the work He has begun in regeneration. He will do this in spite of our sins which would, apart from His attentive care, separate us from Him. God will continue to perform it when we fall deeply into sin, by rescuing us from our foolishness, bringing us to repentance and confession of sin, and restoring us to His gracious favour. He will preserve us, though He may, for a time, seem to abandon us so that we roll pleasurably in the slime of our ill-chosen pleasures. The work of regeneration cannot be destroyed, for it is His work and God never abandons His own work.

The Pelagians and Semi-Pelagians—who wanted to make God’s work of salvation dependent in some measure on man’s cooperation—attacked Augustine, back in the fifth century, for his firm commitment to the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints—on which subject he even wrote a book. The Roman Church can never give a person the peace of mind that comes from the glorious truth of the preservation of the saints, for it insists on the merit of good works. The Arminians filled the souls of the faithful with painful distress, for they spoke of the absolute need of man to make his own contribution to his salvation without which he would not attain heaven. Little has changed. Rampant Arminianism, the heresy of justification by faith and works, the horror of man-centred religion are all carefully calculated to place salvation, in whole or in part, in man’s hands. The Belgic Confession is right: "... we would always be in doubt, tossed to and fro without any certainty, and our poor consciences continually vexed, if they relied not on the merits of the suffering and death of our Saviour" (24).

The preservation of the saints goes along with the whole structure of sovereign grace. Denying the preservation of the saints, Arminians necessarily deny every truth of sovereign and particular grace: eternal election and reprobation, total depravity, particular redemption and irresistible grace. Or, to put it the other way around, denying eternal election and reprobation, the other doctrines of grace topple like a row of dominoes when one is pushed over. At this, the broken and distressed hearts of the godly are filled with apprehension, for they know beyond all doubt that if their salvation were, in any respect, dependent on them, they would go to hell at the moment of death.

It is sovereign grace, rooted in God’s eternal purpose in Christ, that throws all our works on the trash pile as worthless and gives assurance to the child of God that he will forever remain safe, come what may, because he is in the hands of his heavenly Father from whose hands no one can pluck him (John 10:28-30).

Rome wrote for all to see above the monastery gates: "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here." The Reformation tore that miserable message down and wrote instead: "What is thy only comfort in life and death? That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ ..." (Heidelberg Catechism, Q. & A. 1). Prof. Hanko

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