Drippings from the Honeycomb
More to be desired are [the rules of the Lord] than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. (Psalm 19:10)
‘Salvation is of the Lord’ is a common phrase found throughout the Bible to express that God is the author and primary agent in rescuing lost sinners (e.g. Jon 2:9; Ps 3:8, 62:1). Phil 1:6 says, “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion…” Because salvation is of the Lord we can have confidence in faith and assurance in life. He planned it, provided His Son and applies this work by His Spirit who then keeps us and sanctifies us until the end. While God is the primary agent in salvation that does not negate that our faith (itself a gift, 2 Pet 1:1; Phil 1:29; Acts 3:16) is a real and meaningful choice or active trust in the finished work of God (otherwise faith is a work and adds to salvation).
In light of that consider how Paul saw his conversion:
“But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, 16 was pleased to reveal his Son to me” (Gal 1:15–16)
“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.” (Phil 3:2)
Compare this “the Lord saved me” lingo with how conversion is often described today:
I got/was saved; I accepted Christ; I made a personal decision for Jesus; I gave my life to the Lord; I welcomed Jesus into my heart…
Again, this is not entirely untrue but do you see where the emphasis is=ME.
If salvation is ‘of the Lord’ let us honour Him in our gratitude by giving credit where credit is due.
The Order of Salvation
Acts is known for its conversion narratives, the most famous of which is Saul’s. These teach us what to look for in a genuine conversion: belief in Jesus, repentance, faith in the Gospel, forgiveness and new life (change) by the Holy Spirit and baptism. This essence of conversion is part of the Gospel we proclaim. It helps us know what to expect in conversion, to know what to do and it continues to give understanding to our spiritual journey.
Once we’ve believed Scripture makes this more specific. It offers us an order of salvation (ordo salutis in Latin). What appears instantaneous (and even man-centred) to the naked eye is actually noted as a dividable God centred process. For examples in Ro 8:30 says, And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. Likewise, Titus 3:5–7 says, And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. Many other passages speak of various steps along this order.
It is important to study this as a believer: a) because it is in the Bible, b) because it gives us a greater appreciation of God’s work in salvation, c) it creates humility, and d) it fosters praise.
Many have parsed the order of salvation to a great degree (e.g. William Perkin’s Golden Chain). Below is a simple version for quick reference.
 We don’t preach the order of salvation but the Gospel, however, we teach the order of salvation to believers for their benefit.
In this we can see the Father willing salvation; the Son accomplishing salvation; the Holy Spirit applying salvation.
May we stand in awe of the God who works such a marvellous salvation.
The Perseverance of the Saints
What a glorious doctrine of the Scriptures is the teaching of the Perseverance of the Saints!
There are two extremes when it comes to the perseverance of a professing Christian, usually cast in one of the following two ways: a) that through my own wilful rebellion I can lose my salvation, and b) “once saved always saved” or "eternal security."
Yet if Christ isn’t capable of saving me to the uttermost (including holding me) then He isn’t the perfect Saviour and is not to be trusted. Likewise, a mere profession of one’s lips, without the fruit of repentance and faith is surely not evidence of a genuine salvation. The former produces a works that can never rest in Christ; the latter rests too easily in false assurance.
The Perseverance of the Saints (POTS), which is an historic belief that Baptists have held, and which we hold as a congregation (FEB, “Salvation” ; MBC “Salvation” - “divinely preserved”), balances these two extremes. POTS teaches that those who are truly saints, that is those who’ve savingly believed in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, been converted, and made holy (saints) are also those who will finally persevere, or continue steadfast, to the end. It doesn’t mean they will be perfect but it does mean that even if for a time they grieve the Spirit, their general life trajectory will be persistent righteousness vs. persistent sin (a false professor). Thus, they and we gain final assurance of their salvation by the evidence of the fruit that they bear to the end (Mt 3:8, Mt 7:20, Mt 13:23; Eph 2:10). Not only is this useful pastorally but ecclesiology as we seek to determine who are our brothers and sisters in the Lord.
Some key (and unmistakeable) passages are:
London Baptist Confession, 1644- Section 34 and 27
2nd London Baptist Confession, 1689- Chapter 17
New Hampshire Baptist Confession, 1833- Chapter 11
We believe that such only are real believers as endure unto the end: that their persevering attachment to Christ is the grand mark which distinguishes them from superficial professors; that a special providence watches over their welfare, and that they are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.
A Confession of the Baptist Convention of Ontario and Quebec, 1925
The preservation unto eternal life of the saints;
The necessity and efficacy of the influence of the Spirit in regeneration and sanctification.
Southern Baptist Faith and Message (1925, c.f. 2000)
All real believers endure to the end. Their continuance in well-doing is the mark which distinguishes them from mere professors. A special Providence cares for them, and they are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.
It shouldn't be this way...
Last week I was blessed to have some time to work on house renos. Purchasing a fixer-upper of an old farm house has meant some very interesting renovation finds. This trend continued as I began renovating the old summer kitchen off of the back of the main house. While the main house was structurally sound and true (meaning level or straight), the old summer kitchen was another matter. A combination of a poor foundation, improper work on load bearing walls (all now fixed btw), etc, the centre of the summer kitchen bowed considerably meaning new level windows looked as if they were out (an optical allusion). To give you an idea of just how crooked the old summer kitchen was, its walls were 1” out of level on the vertical over 4 feet and the centre of the wall sagged 3–4” from the ends.
Every time I went to fix something I kept saying, “It shouldn’t be this way!”
The Bible says much about crookedness. It speaks of crooked speech, poverty as better than being crooked yet with great riches and of a crooked generation (Dt 32:5; Acts 2:40, 13:10; Phil 2:15). However, talk of “crookedness” usually refers to something or someone being out of plumb with God’s Law or intended design. It is twisted, perverted, crooked. This imagery is frequently employed in Wisdom literature. Three examples will suffice:
And like my summer kitchen, we look around at the world and see it too is crooked. It is not as it should be. Unlike my renovations which seek to mend or fix up an old structure, that is not the promise of the Gospel. In the Gospel, Jesus promises by His Spirit to make us new, to transform us—language far more powerful than a mere makeover or renovation. We need forgiveness for our crookedness and His Spirit’s renewing power, otherwise when the chief building inspector comes on that Great Day, with the measuring tape of His Law, who will be able to stand when His just judgement falls? Certainly not the crooked, they will collapse under the weight of His wrath. However, the righteous, the straight, the believer in Jesus, he will stand on that great day, Christ bearing Him up and being the righteousness he could never be.
May we look to Christ with the promise of being made straight and true in accordance with His truth.
The New, New House
When our toddler son articulated the reality that we had purchased a new home but were still temporarily living in our old one as we undertook renovations he described it as the “new, new house.” Affectionately, this is the way we’ve come to describe our new home.
As many who have helped us will testify, it has been a fixer-upper. The saving grace is that the roof and foundation were in good repair, much in between that high and low has required substantial initial repairs and improvements. The walls and basement needed insulation. The floors took two men 5 days to sand back to their original state, thanks to a build-up of stain, floor wax and linoleum glue. The walls needed patching, puttying and in some cases dry walling (and not to mention the sanding). There was some framing to do, some plumbing, and new light fixtures. Then there were the coats and coats of paint and the many other little jobs (and the gardens to come!). The “new, new house” didn’t involve a simple lick of paint, rather it was a true transformation (see pictures below).
There is a spiritual analogy here. Christianity is not just about covering up the old walls with a fresh coat of paint, we’re in a far needier place than this. To assume we simply need some touch ups is to fail to appreciate how absolutely corrupt and depraved we are as humans and the dire spiritual state we are in before a holy God. Such a faulty presumption would be works righteousness: legalism, that we can achieve a right standing before God; liberalism, that we are good enough to please Him through our charitable deeds; or even Christianity-lite, that we simply need His grace a little bit.
Paul says in Ro 7:24, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”
We are all, naturally, like a wretch, abandoned, derelict, fixer-upper. We are fit for no good spiritual purpose and we deserve to be torn down or have the match set to us.
What hope is there? None in works, but only in the grace and transforming power of God available through faith in the Gospel and by His Spirit.
Later in Romans Paul speaks of the total transformation the Gospel can bring to our lives, one which is rooted in God’s work to transformationally save and not our ability to provide a meagre face-lift. Ro 12:2 speaks of being “transformed by the renewal of our minds.” The word transformed is the same as what happens to a caterpillar when it turns into something entirely new, metamorphosis.
In salvation, God completely renovations our worm-like life and transforms it into something beautiful and to His glory. It’s as if He puts His “work done by” sign in front of our house so all will stand amazed at His craftsmanship. He buys our property. He fixes everything from top to bottom. The finished result blows the top out of the wow factor, a stunning new home.
Would you recognize the desperate straits the home of your life is in? Would you repent of that and ask Jesus to renovate your life and make you new by His Spirit? In faith, be prepared to be amazed!
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