Monday, February 19, 2007

Would They Perish or Not?

Acts 27:22-25, 30-31, "Yet now I urge you to keep up your courage, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For this very night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood before me, saying, 'Do not be afraid Paul; you must stand before Caesar; and behold, God has granted you all those who are sailing with you.' Therefore, keep up your courage, men, for I believe God that it will turn out exactly as I have been told...But as the sailors were trying to escape from the ship and had let down the ship's boat into the sea, on the pretense of intending to lay out anchors from the bow, Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, 'Unless these men remain in the ship, you yourselves cannot be saved.'"

We have a very interesting scenario presented to us in this text of Scripture. On the one hand, we have God's guarantee to Paul that every life on board the doomed ship will be saved. God, in his mercy, had granted them their lives on Paul's behalf. Yet, a mere six verses later, we see that some of these men are indeed in danger of perishing. How can this be? God has already guaranteed that everyone will survive, yet Paul warns that if they leave the ship, then they will certainly perish.

Some see this passage as a good analogy for the perseverance of the saints. That is, all the men on board will be saved if, and only if, they stay on board the ship. And we know that they will certainly stay on board because God has clearly stated to Paul that all these men will be saved. However, certain men genuinely and sincerely want to leave the ship, not knowing that the only condition by which they can be delivered is if they remain on board. Paul, sensing that they are heading for disaster, warns them of their impending doom if they proceed with their plan to abandon ship. They rightly fear his words, and they remain on board and are saved...just as God said they would be.

This seems to be a good analogy of how perseverance works in the life of the elect, and it helps make sense of certain warning passages against apostacy in the Scripture. That is, there are elect people who are dabbling with things that would disqualify them as saints. Perhaps their faith is waning, or they are tempted to deny Christ through some nefarious sin, through which they would "crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame" (Heb. 6:6). Such men, the Bible says, cannot be renewed to repentance.

So then, the impulse to abandon ship are sometimes real, and it takes the stern warnings of Scripture to keep us safe in Christ. In other words, the warnings themselves serve as the heavenly means by which we are kept by faith in Christ. For example, we know that certain people (the elect) will praise and worship the Lamb of God forever in the throne room of heaven. We know this because John has already seen them there and told us about them. Yet, we also know that none of them will come to be there unless they hear the gospel. Paul makes this clear in Romans 10:14-15. So the gospel is the means by which these saints are drawn to faith, and the warnings of Scripture are also an indispensable means of keeping them there, as are encouragements!

This is why it is so very, very important that we fellowship with one another in the gathering of the local church. If you abandon this practice, you may be utterly lost without hope. But...I thought if you were the elect then you would be saved no matter what! Yes, you will, and if you are elect then you will fear God's Word and obey it, and you will get your slack self back into the local church and stop dodging it through carnal excuses. Repent, therefore, and stop trying to jump ship through lame whinings about busyness and bad preaching and hypocrites in the church and etc.

I hope that this example helps for you to understand how I conceive of perseverance. I know that this may raise some questions, and hopefully a helpful discussion may ensue.

5 comments:

Daniel said...

No questions. Just an Amen.

Even So... said...

Dude...cool...

Hey Brad, have you been reading my series on "why you HAVE to go to church" lately? We are coming at it from all angles with many, many texts...

This post would make a fine addition...I think I'll link (I love rhyming)...

BTW, there is a permanent link to all the posts just under my profile box...seriously, I liked this a lot...

Hustino said...

Sojourner,
What do you think about an age of accountability and how do you relate that to your post?

Garry Weaver said...

Excellent post! Thank you for it.

Sojourner said...

JD,

I'll have to go over and check it out. I've been slack in both blog writing and reading lately.

Hustino,

Age of accountability? I'm not even certain if there is such a thing. But I can think of an example that may fit my weird idea of destiny. Today, there is an infant who is elect, and he will be saved at say, 21. However, he will only make it to 21 if his mother continues to feed him as an infant. So just because he's elect, and just because he's going to be saved, it doesn't mean that she no longer has to take care of him. I bet that makes it as clear as mud.