Preservation/Perseverance of the Saints: Practical Application

Yesterday I mentioned the biblical foundation of the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints.  We learned that this doctrine is based on biblical texts and biblical arguments/logic.  Today I want to note the “practical use” of this amazing doctrine.  In the terms of Wilhelmus a Brakel, this doctrine effectively comforts Christians and leads them to growth in godliness.  Here are some points Brakel makes as he explains the practical use of the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints (as usual, I’ve summarized them – but I encourage you to read the orginal).

1) It is a remedy against spiritual desertion.  Christians do not always enjoy close and intimate communion with Christ.  Sometimes God covers himself with a dark cloud and seems to be far from his people.  But based on the truth of the preservation of the saints, even in times of spiritual coldness we know that God’s love is steadfast towards his people (Is. 49:14-16, 54:7-8, Mal. 3:6).  He will one day remove the cloud and sweetly visit his people in grace because he loves them with an eternal love.

2) It is a remedy against the assaults of Satan.  It is true that there is enmity between God’s people and the offspring of the serpent.  Satan will definitely use his fiery darts to frighten Christians.  He will try to rob Christians of their peace.  And his attacks sometimes cause their faith to flicker.  But “the devil will not succeed in causing the apostasy of a single one, not even of the most tender sheep.”  Instead, in Christ and because of Christ, believers will trample upon Satan one day (Rom. 16:20).

3) It is a remedy against the hatred of the world.  Since God’s people have forsaken the world, the world will hate them as it hated Christ.  The world will try to entice the saints, trip them up, and attempt to get them off the path of discipleship.  The world will persecute Christians, mock them, and even kill them.  But none of these things can separate God’s people from his love in Christ (Rom. 8:35-39).

4) It is a remedy against our own sin.  The old Adam resides in even the best Christian; all Christians are saints and sinners at the same time.  There is a war in the Christian life.  The war is putting sin to death.  But not even these indwelling sins can separate God’s children from his love.  After all, Christ’s blood washes away all the sins of all his people – every one of them.  “Your sins, which remain in you contrary to your wishes, will neither pluck you out of the hand of Christ, nor will he cast you away because of them” (Ps. 37:24, Jer. 31:37).

5) It is a remedy against weak faith, darkness, and spiritual sluggishness.  Sometimes the Christian, in the dark moments of life, doubt that he is a child of God.  The cross becomes heavy to bear, the world’s attractions seem so wonderful, and Satan’s darts are so painful.  Christians are tempted to throw in the towel, so to speak.  “Nevertheless, the Lord preserves faith in their heart and causes it to resurface again.”  God’s people are kept by his sovereign power, not their emotions and feelings (1 Pet. 1:5).

6) It is a remedy against the fear of death.  “Death is contrary to nature and is the king of terrors.”  Even Christians often fear the grave because it is indeed a terrible and unnatural thing.  But because God preserves his elect, Christians need not fear death.  Jesus doesn’t just preserve his people in life, but also in the hour of death (1 Cor. 15:54-57).

7) It gives Christians a powerful motive for sanctification.  “There is nothing that moves man so sweetly and purely unto sanctification as grace and the permanency of this grace, for the love of God kindles the love of those whom he loves” (1 Jn. 4:19).  Saints can fight against sin knowing God gives the victory.  Christians can rejoice and hold fast to hope in trials and suffering, because God will bring them through.

The Canons of Dort are right: the doctrine of the preservation/perseverance of the saints is an “inestimable treasure.”  As I’ve said before, solid, deep, and clear Christian doctrine is eminently practical in every moment of the Christian life.  Rightly preached, taught, and confessed, the truth of perseverance/preservation fuels worship, piety, praise, and joy in life – and in death.  Because God is mercifully sovereign, and sovereignly merciful, his people can rest assured of his eternal care.

The above quotes by Brakel are found in volume four, pages 296-300 of The Christian’s Reasonable Service.

shane lems