The Rhetoric of Repentence

I recently posted another one of my papers on Academia.edu:

Why does the author of 1 & 2 Samuel break off the account of the taking of Rabbah in 2 Samuel 11:1 to recount David’s adultery and murder, only to resume it in 2 Samuel 12:26-31?  From this inclusio and other literary features of the narrative, it is argued that the narrator carefully crafts the narrative of Nathan’s rebuke and David’s repentance in 2 Samuel 11:27-12:25 to demonstrate God’s faithfulness to His promises and David’s true repentance, with the result that God would still provide David with a sure house and victory over his enemies.

You can download or read it here

“Problem” Passages and Perseverance Part 1

In a few conversations with some of my good friends, I have been continually shocked at their struggles with a doctrine very close to my heart, Perseverance of the Saints. This doctrine triggered a watershed moment in the transformation of my understanding of theology 4 years ago and seems to me to resound from the pages of Scripture. In our conversations, a few texts, without fail, come up as obstacles for accepting this doctrine (Eg. Heb. 6:4-6, Heb. 10:26-31).

These texts appear to rule out Perseverance because they could grammatically lead one to the belief that a true believer could, once and for all, fall away from the faith, but these texts are so controversial because, grammatically, they could be interpreted as teaching the opposite doctrine. This is not to say that Scripture is univocal or that both interpretations are equally valid, but that the conclusion cannot be made on grammatical grounds, it must be made on the grounds of context—immediate, authorial, and canonical. What is often missed is that grammatically ambiguous texts do not make good “chair” texts,[1] but there are at least three texts in Scripture that fit perfectly as “chair” texts for Perseverance of the Saints. Within both the immediate context of the problem passages and in light of these passages from the larger context, I think that Perseverance becomes obvious as the Scriptural teaching.[2]

 

The first is Rom. 8:28-39; vs. 28-30 read, “2And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified” (NASB). As I have blogged about elsewhere, there is a beautiful and comforting logic to these verses that can only lead to one conclusion.[3] Continuing his line of thought that has come from vv. 24-25 through 26-27 on their hope for glory, he writes that the Romans know God is working all things for their good. He then provides the reason why this is true in vv. 29-30. The reason we know that all things work together for good is because all whom God foreknows and predestined are infallibly drawn to Him and glorified, that is, their good is being made like Christ (v. 29) and this is an ensured result. That every single member of those foreknown are glorified is ensured by the string of demonstrative pronouns that Paul uses to connect each clause; the ones who were …. these he ….  If God works all things together for good to those who love God, then everyone who truly loves God—and are called according to His purpose—will endure to be glorified in the resurrection. If they could fall away, then God’s promise will have failed—unless one decides that Hell is a good.[4] Eph. 1:13-14 affirms this promise, Paul writes that God has given us His Holy Spirit as a seal of the promise ensuring that we will receive our inheritance stored up in glory, i.e. we will be glorified.

 

Then there is 1 Peter. 1:1-7. Here we read that it is by God’s strength that we endure, believers are “protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (v. 5 NASB). Peter blesses God who has caused believers to be born again to a living hope to inherit a heavenly inheritance reserved for them (vv. 3-4), whom God is preserving so that they will receive it. This promise of God wrought endurance is a reason for them to rejoice even in the face of trials (v. 6).

If a believer were to fall finally from the faith, this would mean that God failed in His work upholding their faith. This possibility would undermine the reason for rejoicing in trials, for that trial could be what leads him to fall away and lose his inheritance. That God is preserving His saints is affirmed in John 10:27-39, were Jesus says, “27My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. 29My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand(NASB). Speaking to Jews who did not believe Jesus’ testimony about Himself (vv. 24-25), Jesus tells them that only His Sheep believe (v. 26). In these verses, He says that these sheep receive eternal life and will never perish, they are in His and His Father’s Hand; no one can remove them from His hand. It is special pleading to say that the one thing that can lead to someone perishing and being taken out of His hand is oneself.

 

Lastly, there is John 6:35-51. Other than Rom. 8:28-39, this is the most powerful passage in support of Perseverance. In v. 37, Jesus says that all the Father gives Him will come to Him, that is believe, and these will “certainly not be cast out.” What is often missed is that this phrase does not mean that He won’t kick them out way from Him but that He will most surely keep them in.[5] This is confirmed by vv. 39-40, here Jesus says that He will not lose any those who come to Him in faith—those given to Him by the Father—and He repeats twice that He will raise these up on the final day. Then in v. 44, Jesus responds to those grumbling about His words, saying that only those drawn by the Father will come to Him and that all these drawn will be raise up on the last day. This passage is one of the strongest predestinarian texts in Scripture and the powerful force of these verses is that no one will fail to be raised to eternal life that has come to Jesus.

 

While all the supposed problem texts for perseverance of the saints are grammatically ambiguous to some extent, these three texts and those like them are grammatically and contextually unambiguous. All those who come to Jesus Christ in true saving faith can know that God works all things together for their good; because by God’s omnipotent power at work through their faith, they will most surely be kept in the faith and will assuredly receive their promised inheritance assured by the seal of the Spirit.
 


[1] A “chair” text is one that overwhelmingly leads one to a theological conclusion and can be safely used to help clear up ambiguous or uncertain texts.

[2] Far from being the least certain of the so called “5 Points of Calvinism,” perseverance was the one doctrine that the Remonstrants, objecting to these 5 points, could not agree on; they were split on whether Scripture taught perseverance or not.

[3] See https://allforthegloryofhiskingdom.wordpress.com/2013/05/13/romans-828-39-a-devotionalexegeticaltheological-rant/ with https://allforthegloryofhiskingdom.wordpress.com/2013/05/13/romans-828-leads-to-the-conclusion-of-perseverance-and-compatibilism/. It is telling that my least favorite Arminian commentator can only say against the conclusion of perseverance from these verses that he agrees with Wesley’s unsupported interpretation. F. Leroy Forlines, Romans, ed. Robert E.Editor Picirilli, First Edition., The Randall House Bible Commentary (Randall House Publications, 1987), 240.

[4] See my paper here https://allforthegloryofhiskingdom.wordpress.com/2013/05/04/the-comprehensive-and-eternal-retributive-view-of-hell-table-of-contents/. I am convinced by Scripture that Hell is not good for those in it: it is eternal retributive punishment poured out by God against their sins.

[5] D. A. Carson, The Gospel According to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), 290.

A Communion Service

It seems fitting for us this, at least for Canadians, thanksgiving weekend to partake of communion, the Lord’s Supper, and remember our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and His work on the Cross. This time of year is traditionally one where people gather together and give thanks for all they have in their lives. What is more fitting than for us as the body of Christ, a united family of sons and daughters of God our Father, to gather together in remembrance of that which we have most reason to give thanks?

 

We practice Communion today because we believe that it is something Jesus commanded us to do, and because it is something we read being done throughout the early Church. In our Bibles we find 4 accounts of the Lord’s Supper; 3 are in the Gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and the last is found in 1 Corinthians. Today I want to take a look at Luke’s account, turn with me in your Bibles to Luke 22:14-23. Here is what Luke recorded about the last supper of Christ with His apostles:

“14 And when the hour came, he reclined at [the] table, and the apostles with him.15 And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 17 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. 18 For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” (ESV)

When we partake of communion we drink the bread and the juice, replacing wine, in remembrance of what Christ did almost 2000 years ago; God Himself in the flesh coming into His creation to give His life so that we may be forgiven of our sins and have eternal life with God Himself.

 

As we partake of the bread we remember our Savior Jesus Christ as He, after being beaten and scourged by Roman soldiers, carried the Cross upon which He would be hung from Jerusalem to Golgotha where He would be crucified. We remember Him nailed to a cross, the most vicious and barbaric form of capital punishment known to man, bearing not just the painful weight of His body suspended above the ground by nails in His wrists and ankles, but taking upon Himself the full weight of God’s righteous wrath towards our sins, a punishment we could never bear ourselves; dying in our place bearing the punishment we deserved so that we may know God and follow Him. We remember Him crying out “Into your hands I commit my Spirit” as He breathed His last breath and finished the work He came to earth to do; surrendering His life for us. Let us eat of the bread together and remember our Saviour, no longer on the Cross, but having defeated sin and given Himself for us, now resurrected and alive forever more. You may eat the bread.

 

As we drink of the juice let us remember Jesus’ words; “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood”.  We have been going through the book of Hebrews since the beginning of summer and throughout the various sermons Tom, Joel, and I have drawn attention to a theme that undergirds the entire book; that of God’s covenant with us as those who have faith in Jesus Christ. In Hebrews 8 the writer of the book draws attention to Jeremiah 31 and promises that Jeremiah made about the coming of a New Covenant, one that would replace the one that God made with the Jews at Sinai. When I preached Hebrews 8 at the end of August I mentioned three promises that this New Covenant ushered in: all those who believe in Jesus Christ have been given new hearts with which we desire God and are able to, however imperfectly, follow Him; all those who believe in Jesus Christ know God personally in a way only a few under the Old Testament knew Him, we have the same relationship characterized by the prophets like Jeremiah; and all who believe have received the forgiveness of their sins by the blood of Christ shed on the cross taking away a punishment we deserved. Jesus, as recorded by Luke, told His disciples that the communion cup represents His blood shed instituting a new covenant; this is the New Covenant that Hebrews 8, Jeremiah 31, Isaiah 54, Ezekiel 36, and many other Scriptures speak of, this is the Covenant with God within which we find ourselves by our faith. As we drink the juice let us remember what Christ accomplished on the Cross; in bearing the full brunt of the wrath of God He ushered in a New Covenant whereby we—those who believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour—are freed from the guilt and punishment of our sin, we desire God and are being progressively transformed so that we act and think more and more like Jesus, and we experience daily relationship with God whereby we can freely approach Him in prayer and worship, bringing before Him our needs and desires and joyfully lifting up our praise to Him as we express in word and action the grandeur of who He is and all that He has done in and for us.

You may drink the juice.

 

Let us pray…

“Take time to r…

“Take time to read His Word as in His presence, that from it you may know what He asks of you and what He promises you. Let the Word create around you, create within you a holy atmosphere, a holy heavenly light, in which your soul will be refreshed and strengthened for the work of daily life.”
Andrew Murray (quoted in Desiring God – John Piper)