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)
True saving, or justifying, faith is the main grounds of Christianity.
Galatians 2:16 says that “we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Christ.” It is through faith that we are saved from damnation. It is by faith that we are declared just or right before God. It is in faith that all the blessings of Christ are given to the unworthy. Yet what is this faith?
There are 4+1 necessary elements of saving faith: hear, agree, turn and trust.
3. TURN: The Gospel calls us to respond. This response involves turning (repenting) from our sin, changing our mind, changing direction. We turn from sin and toward Christ. (poenitentiam- to show penance, or sorrow; to change direction; to change one’s mind. From the Greek μετάνοια).
a. “Repent and believe in the Gospel.” (Mk 1:15)
All of this can of course appear as if it happens in a moment. For example someone could hear the Gospel, assent to it, recognize without convincing their life is on the wrong path turn and trust in an instant. Or one could hear the Gospel many times, wrestle with believing it to be true, wrestle with their sin and finally come to a place where they actually trust in Jesus. Conversion is like an accordion, either all bunched up or discernible over time. Regardless these are the steps the Bible lays out for us to discern saving faith.
So we must hear, agree, turn and trust in order to be saved and we know someone is saved because they persevere in trusting Christ’s promises and commands. See Paul and James.
This is the test of faith we ought to look for in ourselves and in those who profess to be Christians.
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.
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