Stumbling Block to Becoming Reformed - Perseverance

Discussion in 'Theological Forum' started by Alexander, Aug 13, 2018.

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  1. Alexander

    Alexander Puritan Board Freshman

    I've spent the last two months searching for all available books on the Perseverance of the Saints. I've found that every single historical work on the matter, that I could find, teaches that the regenerate can never lose faith. I will explain why this is a stumbling block for me if I wished to accept Reformed theology.

    Four years ago, I trusted in the imputed righteousness of Christ alone for my justification before God. However, one year ago I started to fall into heresy. I become a Unitarian for a month, started believing in a form of works based salvation, and even flirted with the idea that the virgin birth was unbiblical. I have since then repented, but have often struggled with heresy and my friends would consider me someone who is constantly tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine. I do have OCD and Scrupulosity which, I think, makes the situation worse.

    I have read the historical Calvinist writers on the Perseverance of the Saints, and one of them outright said that it is impossible for a regenerate Christian to be decieved by the heresy of Unitarianism. So, according to the Perseverance of the Saints, I was never truly regenerate while I believed in Unitarianism, and I was never truly regenerate four years ago when I professed to have trusted in Christ alone for salvation. Some of you might say, "How is this a problem? Just accept it and move on."

    How can I accept something that so blatantly contradicts all experience? I know for a fact that I believed in the Gospel four years ago, but I also know that I was decieved by Unitarianism. In order to accept the Perseverance of the Saints (PoS), I would have to deny all of the time I spent in fellowship with God, and trusting in him. I would have to do all of this because PoS teaches that a regenerate Christian cannot be decieved by such heresies.

    Some modern Calvinists say that this is not what the PoS teaches, and they argue that they only believe in the Final Perseverance of the Saints, and that the elect can temporarily fall away. However, the Reformed taught both the Total and Final Perseverance of the saints.

    The Reformers found it necessary to teach that the elect could never fall into serious heresies, or lose faith, because of their view of justification. They believed that perseverance in faith was the means by which God kept them justified. So, if the elect were to lose faith temporarily, for the Reformers, this would amount to a loss of salvation, which they viewed as an absurdity.

    In their commentary on 1 Peter 1:5, Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown teach that the "effective means" of our being preserved in Christ, is our continual act of faith. They write that, "it is through faith that salvation is both received and kept."

    Not only does the Reformed doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints seem to contradict my expierience, it seems to contradict several places in scripture... However, my primary concern is reconciling the Perseverance of the Saints with my experience, since I know that the passages could always just be interpreted differently.

    Clarification: I come from a background of Primitive Baptist theology which teaches that a regenerate person can apostasize, yet have not lost their salvation.
     
  2. Ed Walsh

    Ed Walsh Puritan Board Junior

    This sound like a serious matter for you. I am working and therefore will leave an answer in more capable hands than mine. But I have two items.

    1. I would be very interested in which "historical Calvinist writers" have said as you claim. All who I know believe that a true Christian can fall into heinous sim, and not just for a day. Think of King David who committed adultery and murder and remained under the guilt of his sin for a time. Maybe six month or more. Peter denied Christ. I don't think your several months are as unique of a case as you think. But if you are His, you will return. How could it be that Jesus shed his blood for one of his own and grant him eternal life and yet somehow the poor worm man can overturn God's electing love. Never. Eternal life is, well, eternal life.

    2. I have attached a 33 page PDF most of it is a chapter on the PoS from many of the Puritan's perspective. A good friend of mine recently assigned me a book that was "required reading" I don't know you yet but can I assign this short chapter as required for you? I hope so.

    It's is chapert38 of A PURITAN THEOLOGY - Doctrine for Life - Titled simply, The Puritans on Perseverance of the Saint

    Beeke, J. R., & Jones, M. (2012). A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life (p. 601). Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books.
     

    Attached Files:

  3. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritanboard Commissioner

    I don't agree with all writers I have read.......

    Many people 'believe' in their flesh and not, spiritually. There are a number of biblical examples in scripture where a person believed, confessed, received the sign and left their walks. I am not saying this is you, mind you.

    I was saved in a Calvary Chapel. Not much to defend there in regards to their theology. But, I was truly saved. You could have been saved in a aberrant setting and held to many of their doctrines. An infant has the capacity to be saved-he grows in knowledge and the HS weeds out the error, over time. The same can be said about any aged believer. None of our theologies are perfect from jump street.
     
  4. Edward

    Edward Puritanboard Commissioner

    The Confession teaches us:

    " Nevertheless, they may, through the temptations of Satan and of the world, the prevalency of corruption remaining in them, and the neglect of the means of their preservation, fall into grievous sins; and, for a time, continue therein: whereby they incur God's displeasure, and grieve His Holy Spirit,come to be deprived of some measure of their graces and comforts, have their hearts hardened, and their consciences wounded; hurt and scandalize others, and bring temporal judgments upon themselves. "
     
  5. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable

    Alexander,

    I am not sure where you have read these "impossibilities" or the actual context therein, but I am certain that our Confessions paint a different picture about the actions of the regenerate saints.

    From the WCF, Chapter 17 (see also LBCF)
    3. Nevertheless, they {nb: the saints} may, through the temptations of Satan and of the world, the prevalency of corruption remaining in them, and the neglect of the means of their preservation, fall into grievous sins (Matt. 26:70, 72, 74); and, for a time, continue therein (Ps. 51 title, Ps. 51:1): whereby they incur God’s displeasure (Isa. 64:5, 7, 9, 2 Sam. 11:27), and grieve His Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:30), come to be deprived of some measure of their graces and comforts (Ps. 51:8, 10, 12, Rev. 2:4, Ps. 5:2-4, 6), have their hearts hardened (Isa. 63:17, Mark 6:52, Mark 16:14), and their consciences wounded (Ps. 32:3-4, Ps. 51:8); hurt and scandalize others (2 Sam. 12:14); and bring temporal judgments upon themselves (Ps. 89:31-32, 1 Cor. 11:32).​

    Given your scrupulosity, perhaps you have turned a dark corner from self-examination to morbid introspection. Take care to avoid that behavior, brother. I will lift up prayers for you, that God will help you to gain more assurance in your walk of faith.

    I am also going to second Ed Walsh's recommended required reading of Joel Beeke's treatment of perseverance of the saints above.

    EDIT: I see I cross-posted with Edward's post immediately above.
     
  6. Southern Presbyterian

    Southern Presbyterian Puritan Board Doctor

    I strongly urge you to take this matter up with your elders. They know you and your daily walk. They are the ones to which God has given charge of your spiritual well being. :2cents:

    1 Peter 5:1-3
     
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  7. Alexander

    Alexander Puritan Board Freshman

    Thank you for your responses. However, I do have a few points I would like to ask you both about WCF 17.3. Do you believe that passage is intended to include falling to the sins of heresy and unbelief (in the sense of rejecting formerly professed truths) for a short period of time? If so, how can I reconcile that idea with the Reformed teaching that "it is through faith that salvation is both received and kept" (Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary on 1 Peter 1:5).

    If one could temporarily lose faith, wouldn't it follow that their salvation is lost, since faith is the means of "keeping" our salvation. And, since the Reformed reject that one can lose salvation, wouldn't it follow that the regenerate can never lose faith, so that they may always "keep" their salvation? When I read the Canons of Dort, they seem to talk about a "justifying faith," that were we to stop posessing, we would hypothetically lose our salvation. The Reformed seem to view, like the commentary I attatched, faith as the instrument of keeping salvation, and since salvation can't be lost, then heresies like Unitarianism and works based salvation which cause one to lose faith in the true Gospel, seem to be a Reformed impossibility.

    What do you think?
     
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2018
  8. Ed Walsh

    Ed Walsh Puritan Board Junior

    You took my thunder:) I just didn't have the time. Thanks!
     
  9. Alexander

    Alexander Puritan Board Freshman

    Thanks for the document. I'll read it over.
     
  10. TylerRay

    TylerRay Puritan Board Senior

    Alexander,

    What do you believe the Bible teaches? Do you believe that the Reformed doctrine is consistent with what the Bible teaches? If so, you should submit to that, and not to your subjective understanding of your own experience. It may well be that you don't know when you were truly converted--you had a definite date at which you professed, and perhaps you had some sort of experience that day, but your interpretation of your experience is still subjective.

    The important thing is to get two things firm in your mind:
    1. Understand what the Bible teaches. God's word is perspicuous, and God will lead you to a right understanding if you ask him to and depend on him.

    2. Know the current estate of your soul. Test yourself by examining your current life according the the Scriptures. Do you see the fruit of the Spirit and of regeneration?

    I strongly encourage you to leave the mysteries of your past experience in the hands of God. Know what the Bible teaches, and know your current estate.
     
  11. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable

    Alexander,

    Nothing in the Confessions speak to literally losing one's faith temporarily. This would be a contradiction to what we understand about the teachings of Scripture summarized in our Confessions:

    I. They whom God hath accepted in his Beloved, effectually called and sanctified by his Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace; but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved.

    II. This perseverance of the saints depends, not upon their own free-will, but upon the immutability of the decree of election, flowing from the free and unchangeable love of God the Father; upon the efficacy of the merit and intercession of Jesus Christ; the abiding of the Spirit and of the seed of God within them; and the nature of the covenant of grace; from all which ariseth also the certainty and infallibility thereof.​

    Your faith is a grant from God. To say you can literally lose this faith, even temporarily, implies God has withdrawn the grant and is therefore double-minded. May it never be!

    Rather, your flirtations with Unitarianism are sins, grievous sins, and your heart is hardened by God, yet He will, using His ordained means—including the visitation of Fatherly displeasure upon you—see to it that you will repent of your behaviors, such that you will persevere to the end.

    Feed your faith and starve your temptations or doubts by not neglecting daily Scripture study, rejoicing in hope, being patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer (Romans 12:12), fellowship with other believers, keeping good stewardship of the secular and spiritual gifts God has given you—including how and where your time is being spent—and with regular assembly with others to worship God, receive instruction, access the ordinary means of grace through word and sacrament, and be subject to discipline.
     
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  12. Alexander

    Alexander Puritan Board Freshman

    Isn't believing in Unitarianism and Works Based salvation the same thing as losing faith, since I am now believing in something false, rather than something true? Thanks for your response.
     
  13. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritanboard Commissioner

    Is the quantifying of an infant's faith, who God saves, logical? The point of faith is that it is all of Him and none of us.

    Rom 1:17
    17 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.

    The Holy Bible: King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), Ro 1:17.

    In other words, the just, LIVE by faith...the maturity of that faith is a seed that grows into a tree.
     
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  14. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable

    By "losing faith", you appear to mean losing something you once truly possessed, as in I lost my wallet.

    True faith cannot be lost like losing one's purchased wallet. For that very faith was granted unto me by God, it was not purchased by me at all. If I actually lose my faith, either God took it (no!), or I never possessed it in the first place (yes!).

    And before you may counter, I can lose my wallet temporarily, and then find it under the sofa later, I will short-circuit with the answer, you never really lost your wallet in that case. Your rightful possession was simply misplaced due to your own casual or bad behaviors. ;)

    Instead the true believer's "losing faith" is actually meaning a stumbling, albeit often grievous, in one's walk of faith. Unfortunately, the Finneyism that has crept into the church and casual conversations, "losing one's salvation", leads to imprecise uses of the phrase.
     
  15. Joshua

    Joshua Administrator Staff Member

    Let God (His Word) be true, and every man (his own thoughts, experiences, feelings, sense) a liar (Romans 3.4). Consider, for example, that your focus on your experience is yet another temptation unto walking by sight, instead of by faith (2 Cor. 5.7).

    Echo the Psalmist when these doubts arise and say, "Why art thou cast down, O my soul [with these doubts contrary to God's promises]? and why art thou disquieted within me [with such things that are so clearly in direct opposition to God's unequivocal promises]? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance," (Ps. 42.5, 11; 43.5).

    I would be more concerned with the "seeming contradictions" between Scriptures (seeing that the Scriptures cannot be broken, John 10.35), than doubts due to one's own experience (seeing that man's experience, sense, perception is almost always broken in one way or another).

    I don't mean to come across as unsympathetic, but rather to spur you to think through these things logically through the rubric of God's inerrant, infallible, and inspired Word. He is the Lord God of truth, and brooks no competitors, especially the vain perceptions of our own experience. Be encouraged against all sense, feelings etc. which militate against the unequivocal promises of God in the gospel, and take your solace in those over your own frail perception. Hope thou in God.
     
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  16. Ben Zartman

    Ben Zartman Puritan Board Sophomore

    Alexander,
    Please read again chapter 18 of the LBCF, which I see you subscribe to, and especially the 3rd and 4th paragraphs. It says there that those who have been saved (which is something done by God), though due to their weakness can lose the assurance of salvation, "are never destitute of the seed of God and life of faith..."
    Point is, if we all look at our faith as an indication of salvation, we'll all have cause to doubt, since nothing we do is perfect. But it's not about the quality of our faith: it's about the quality of the Savior in whom we believe. Whenever I'm tempted to wonder whether I have the right sort of faith, or the right amount (how much would be enough, if it came to that?), I have to remind myself to look not at myself, or at my disposition of heart, or at my orthodoxy, but to look to Christ: to hope in Him alone.
    And if I fall away somewhat, even to the point of asserting for a time heresies due to my weakness of mind, I have His promise that once there, no one shall pluck me out of His Father's hand; I have his promise that nothing--height, depth, affliction, etc--no sin I might carelessly fall into as David did, no mental illness that might make me do, think, and say outrageous things--nothing whatsoever will separate me from the love of God, and by His Word and the other means of grace He will bring me back and show me the path of life. It seems, from your questions, that He is doing just that.
     
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  17. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    Alexander, in addition to what people have already said, I think there are a few points that are worth mentioning.

    1. Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown are not the standard of Reformed theology. The Reformed view on the matter is expressed by the confessions, not by individual commentators.

    2. When WCF 17.1 says that you can neither totally nor finally fall, it acknowledges the possibility that you may partially and penultimately fall. Similarly we would say that the elect are not totally or finally deceived as to fundamental points of truth necessary for salvation; but that means they can be partially and penultimately deceived and deal with great confusion.

    3. Any Reformed theologian worth his salt can distinguish between the act and the habit of faith. The act of faith may recede beyond your ability to discern it; but the habit is there. So it is true that the elect never lose their faith; it is NOT true that the faith of the elect is always sensible to them or visible to others. In having doubts or temptations about unitarianism, etc., there's certainly some weakness in the acting of faith; but that doesn't imply its entire destruction.

    4. Given where you are now, your experience actually seems to line up well with Reformed teaching. You experienced considerable crisis, darkness, etc.; and yet God brought you back to the truth, and its believing acceptance. Repent of your sins, by all means, both intellectual and otherwise; but be encouraged that God did not give you up to falsehood.

    5. Perseverance is not a straight line. Sometimes perseverance looks like joyful triumphing over problems. Sometimes perseverance looks like Job: struggling, flailing, uttering words without wisdom, but retaining his integrity and resolving to trust God even though it kills him. Perseverance in faith is not necessarily freedom from confusion, doubts, and wrong ideas, but continuing to trust the Lord (or continually returning to that trust after forgetting!) and seeking to hear his word.
     
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  18. Ed Walsh

    Ed Walsh Puritan Board Junior

    I love John Owen's simple three-point syllogism.[*] It may seem simplistic, but it is true–logically and Biblically.

    1. The elect cannot fall away (John 10:27–29, etc.).
    2. Some who profess to believe fall away from the faith.
    3. Hence, professors who fall away are not elect believers.

    [*] Owen, The Saints Perseverance, in Works, 11:113ff.
     
  19. bookslover

    bookslover Puritan Board Doctor

    Objectively, as a matter of fact, a regenerated person can never lose his faith - that is, from God's side, neither the Father nor the Son will turn loose of you ("no one can snatch them out of My hand"). Because of God's election, you are truly saved and secure forever.

    Subjectively, though, it is possible, in this life, to not have a full assurance of salvation. Different Christians experience different "levels," if you will, of the assurance of their salvation. In other words, while being really and truly saved, it is possible to not have that objective point expressed in your subjective experience as a Christian. Both of these things can be true at the same time.

    Is this what you are experiencing?

    "Feelings come and feelings go, but feelings are deceiving. . ."
     
  20. Alexander

    Alexander Puritan Board Freshman

    Thank you for your response.

    Your response causes me to look to Christ, and not my past acts of faith. I've heard this distinction between the act and habit of faith. Gill makes the distinction, yet he still says the elect can't be decieved by Unitarianism either "finally" or "in part." And, the Canons of Dort seem to talk about a justifying faith, which, were the elect able to fall from, they would become unjustified. And, that the elect will "infallibly continue" in faith. And, not utterly lose faith, I have trouble interpreting that to the habit of faith.

    John Gill on Matthew 24:24

    Canons of Dort

    Geneva Commentary on Luke 22:32

    Do you think these reformed authors would accept that a regenerate person can be decieved by Unitarianism, yet still be justified according to some sort of divine principle of faith infused within them, the habit of faith? I certainly hope so, as this would cause me to look to Christ and not my faith, but what do the Reformed teach?

    I wish there was some historical work which dealt with my issue, but I cant find any :(
     
  21. Ed Walsh

    Ed Walsh Puritan Board Junior

    My goodness man. I hope you are not looking to your faith. What a dead end that would be. Faith by definition is looking away from yourself to Christ. Christ, you are my only hope. Help me cease to trust even in my hope but only in you. Have mercy on this blind, darkened fool. You, oh my Lord and my God, you and you alone are my only hope. Take away my idols, even the idol of my faith and cause me to look and live.

    Numbers 21:9
    And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.

    John 3:14
    And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:​
     
  22. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable

    If I have read Gill aright (please provide specific citations), all his polemics about Unitarianism and Arianism were essentially associated with denial of the Trinity. So, why not read him as saying, "the elect can't be deceived to deny the Triune Godhead either "finally" or "in part".

    From this, the real issue is should we have any confidence in a professing believer that denies the Trinity? I am not talking about some new believer, that may be confused, rather a person that is confident in their denial of the Trinity. I answer my own question "No!" for such a person, for they have denied the Godhead and are worshipping an idol.

    Thus, on this point, Gill would be correct. For no true believer (the elect) would deny this essential of the faith. In your case, while you have flirted with denial of the Trinity in your Unitarian explorations, is it not the case for you right now that you affirm that there is one only and true God, but in the unity of the Godhead there are three coeternal and coequal Persons, the same in substance but distinct in subsistence?

    If you are struggling to answer that in the affirmative, the issue is not your state of salvation, but your state of understanding of this vital teaching from Scripture.
     
  23. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    Alexander, which do you think is more Biblical: the impulse to look to Christ, or the impulse to analyze your own acts of faith to see what they say about you? "Look unto me and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God and there is none else." (Isaiah 45:22)

    The need for distinguishing between the act and the habit of faith arose precisely because of situations where someone has appeared to be a believer, and goes through a season where faith is in abeyance. One of those situations is the Biblical case of Simon Peter. As to the acting of faith, it absolutely was a failure when he denied Christ three times. But we know that Christ's prayer that his faith would not fail was heard and answered. Peter was "converted" or "turned again" becauuse the habit of faith was not destroyed. It's philosophical language used to explain the teaching of Scripture.

    Gill specifically mentions that believers can be deceived in part. You can't understand "falling into damnable heresies" appropriately without understanding that heresy is more than serious error striking at the fundamentals of faith: it is serious error striking at the fundamentals of faith, obstinately persisted in. Of course a temptation to unitarianism is likely to come along with a wounded conscience: it's a very serious matter. But so is denying Christ, which remember that Peter did even with violent language (Matthew 26:74). But are those serious matters obstinately persisted in?

    I think you may be reading these sources through the filter of your experience and fears. Reformed authors would say, and have said, that you cannot be totally, finally, utterly deceived by anti-Trinitarian heresy. But totally means completely given up to it; finally means never turning away from it; utterly means absolutely blinded by it. None of that says that being confused, misled, or deceived, or even strongly asserting something from which you later recede is proof of a lack of the habit of faith. If, by Christ's intercession, Peter's habit of faith survived a triple denial of Christ, there is no reason for someone to assert that your habit of faith could not survive a season of error. To some extent, we are all assailed by the fiery darts of the wicked one, and must learn by practice to quench them with the shield of faith.

    You might be interested in the experience of Petrus Dathenus, as that is recounted in the introduction to his book, The Pearl of Christian Comfort. But I hope you won't take offense at me saying that I think your need is not so much for some historical work that investigates degrees of lapses in the faith; a much more urgent need is to cast the weight of your soul's salvation upon Christ, and strengthen that faith by use: hear his word, believe his promises, trust his heart, rest on his grace. In other words, the book to read would really be Thomas Goodwin, Christ Set Forth.

    Finally, your persevering in faith is not how God keeps you justified. God's justification is final and irrevocable. You have a responsibility to persevere, undoubtedly, but you do so (very imperfectly) because God preserves you. By one sacrifice, Christ has forever perfected those who are sanctified (Heb. 10:14). No nagging doubt or crisis of faith changes that.
     
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  24. Joshua

    Joshua Administrator Staff Member

    Somewhat related, and, I pray, helpful to all, the Rev. Andrew Grey gives some good pastoral counsel on looking away from ourselves, and looking to Christ (Great and Precious Promises, pp. 151, 152):

    O! if Christians knew to judge of themselves, by what they are in Christ, and not by what they are in themselves, that with one eye they might look to themselves, and cry out, “I am undone,” and with another look to Christ, and cry out, “There is hope in Israel concerning me.” That is, with one eye they might look to themselves, and blush, and with another eye they might look to Christ, and hope. That with one eye they might look to themselves, and weep, and with another eye they might look to Christ, and rejoice. O Christian! wilt thou judge always of thy self, by what thou art in Christ, and not by what thou art in thy self: Yea, I would say this to thee by the way, when thou meetest with tentations that put thee to dispute thy interest, do but send them to Christ to get an answer and say, “O precious Christ, answer this tentation.” For this is Christ’s way with the soul. The Law must bring us back to Christ, and Christ must send us back to the Law, and deliver us over to it, not to the condemning power of it as before, but the directing and guiding power of it as a rule of holiness: So that a Christians’ whole life must be a sweet and constant travelling between Christ and the Law. When thou hast broken the Law, flee unto Christ to take away guilt, and when thou hast closed with Christ, come running out again in his strength, to perform the Law.​
     
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  25. De Jager

    De Jager Puritan Board Freshman

    Hi,

    The first thing I want to talk about with you is just what saves us. Let me be clear: our faith does not save us, but rather God saves us by uniting us to Christ through faith in him. Faith is like a conduit through which saving grace flows. This faith is not generated by us. It is worked in regenerate people by the power of the Holy Spirit. We learn from Scripture that every good gift comes from above. This includes faith. You and I have absolutely zero capability to well up in ourselves the faith required to lay hold of Christ. Zero. The Bible teaches us that we are dead in trespasses and sins. We do not have the ability or will to reach up in faith toward God. First, he must make us alive, and give us then the faith we need to be united to Christ. Do you believe this? Ask yourself: am I trusting in my own faith, or am I trusting in the object of my faith? Am I trusting in how well I spread the blood on the doorpost, or am I trusting in the blood? Am I trusting in the fact that "I believed the gospel", or am I believing the gospel? The blood of Jesus covers even our unbelief and doubt. I am not talking about full apostasy but various wavering we experience. Jesus chided his disciples for being of "little faith", and for "doubting". Their faith was not perfect, it had various deficiencies, but it was sufficient because it's author was God himself. Remember, Jesus told them that their knowledge of the things of the Kingdom of Heaven was given to them. Naturally they could not comprehend it.

    Secondly, we must understand that it is God who preserves our faith, not us. 1 Peter 1:5 teaches us that God's elect are being kept by the power of God through faith. That is, GOD keeps us using the MEANS of faith in Christ. It is his work, not ours which causes a believer to persevere to the end.

    Thirdly, we must understand the salvation is permanent and unchanging. From God's perspective, the salvation of the elect has been a reality since before time began. For us, we experience this salvation in time. From God's eyes however, it has always been sure. It makes no sense though, for us to think that anyone can lose their salvation. On what possible basis can we lose it? 2,000 years ago, God laid the sins of all his people on Christ. What's more, we were united with him in his death and resurrection. In Him we were circumcised and baptized, and raised with him (Col 2). There is no basis for anyone to bring a charge against God's elect, for there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.

    I can tell that this ultimately boils down to this question for you: Am I "in Christ"? Do I have "real, Spirit-worked faith"? You look at your wavering and you wonder if it is possible that you have never been saved at all. I have thought about this in my own life. The first thing I would do is truly examine yourself and see if there is any hint of self-righteousness in you. Pray to God and be frank with him. Ask him for the help of the Holy Spirit to expose this in you. Realize that nothing about us is "good enough" to merit salvation. Our level of belief is not high enough; our sincerity is not sincere enough; our motivations are not pure enough; our prayers are not long enough; our sorrow for sin is not sorrowful enough; our contrition is not contrite enough; we cannot promise God to be better and stop sinning because we do not have the capacity; our repentance is never "good enough" to satisfy God. ALL of our merit must come from Christ. We are wretched in every sense of the word, and contribute nothing, not even a proper disposition toward God a proper "coming to him".

    I would urge you to thrust yourself on God's mercy. Do it several times a day if necessary. Trust that "he who comes to me I will by no means cast out". God is happy to receive sinners. There is a celebration in heaven when a sinner comes to repentance. Were you born into a Christian family? If so, then that is already evidence of God's grace in your life. Have you been exposed to the gospel message? That is evidence of God's grace in your life. Do you think that God gets a rise from dangling the gospel in front of people's eyes and then pulling it back? Satan would love for you to think that but it is not true. Jesus tells us to come to Him if we labour and are heavy laden, and he WILL give us rest. He sent his Son so that those who believe in him might have eternal life.

    Confess to God "Lord, I have nothing to offer you. This prayer cannot be offered to you even in a right frame of mind without the work of thy Spirit. I need help. I have no hope outside of you covering all of my faults with Christ, including my sins of unbelief. Sin has permeated every aspect of my being. I come to you only because I know that you have revealed yourself as a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. On this basis, and on the basis of thy promise that "he who comes to me I will by no means cast out", I come to you in faith. Father, I know I am not worthy to be called your child, but I know that you delight when a sinner comes to you and asks for mercy in Christ's name". I recognize, Holy Father, that the placement of myself into a Christian household or the fact that I have heard the gospel is evidence of your good will toward me. Thank you for that. I continue to rest my soul on Christ alone. I confess that I cannot contribute even one iota to my justification. I am reliant on thy mercy alone. Please help me."

    Every time you are afflicted with doubts, bring it before God in prayer. Every time. Do NOT let yourself wallow in these thoughts. IMMEDIATELY cast yourself on Christ in prayer.

    Best Regards,

    Izaak
     
  26. Ryan&Amber2013

    Ryan&Amber2013 Puritan Board Junior

    Brother, the reality is that every denomination and system of theology is going to have its strengths and weaknesses. Overall, reformed theology seems to be the most consistent and grounded understanding of the Bible, though none of us know the truth perfectly. What other options do you have outside of reformed theology? Think about all of the theological problems you would run into which other systems and denominations teach.

    That makes me think of Jesus being abandoned by people, but Peter saying "but where else can I go?"
     
  27. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritanboard Commissioner

    Luke 7:50

    And He said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."
     
  28. brendanchatt

    brendanchatt Puritan Board Freshman

    I'm not very well read, but is it possible that Owen on what he calls 'partial apostasy' would be helpful?

    I also encourage you, Alexander, to make use of your self-claimed scrupulousness to doubt your doubts at this time. Hold on to the most faithful teaching in scripture you know, and stay strong knowing that God brings us all along.

    I also push back on your saying that the passages could always be interpreted differently. I'm neither a minister or a great scholar, but I've been working on PoS just recently and find it to be pretty air-tight. Perhaps I can spend some time trying to address your specific doubts against an uninterrupted perseverance.

    Blessings, brother
     
  29. TylerRay

    TylerRay Puritan Board Senior

    Ryan,

    This thread is obviously not the place to hold a debate on this point, but the classical Reformed understanding is that the Reformed system of theology is the system of theology taught in the bible, and doesn't contain any "weaknesses." Consider the vow of subscription for office-bearers in the Free Church (Continuing): "I, ________, do hereby declare, that I do sincerely own and believe the whole doctrine contained in the Confession of Faith, approven by former General Assemblies of this Church to be the truths of God, and I do own the same as the confession of my faith ..."
     
  30. De Jager

    De Jager Puritan Board Freshman

    Hi Scott. Let me know what you think, but I think we need to be careful to not isolate this verse from the rest of the teaching of Scripture. A scrupulous/OCD person (like the OP) would always tend towards a works-oriented interpretation of such a verse. Such a person would tend towards believing that Christ is saying that the grounds of the woman's salvation is the woman's faith; and in a sense that would be true, but at the same time we must remember that this faith is not something that we conjure up in ourselves. It is a gift of God, lest any man should boast. I know that you know that, but for the benefit of the OP I thought I would point it out.

    Feel free to correct me on any point.
     
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