The Great Battle – by J. C. Ryle

All men ought to love peace. War is an immense evil, though it is a necessary evil sometimes. Battles are bloody and distressing events, though sometimes nations cannot maintain their rights without them. But all men ought to love peace. All ought to pray for a quiet life.

All this is very true, and yet there is one war which it is a positive duty to carry on; there is one battle which we ought to be always fighting. The battle I speak of is the battle against the world, the flesh, and the devil. With these enemies we never ought to be at peace; from this warfare no man ought ever to seek to be discharged, while he is alive.

Reader, give me your attention for a few minutes, and I will tell you something about the great battle.

Every professing Christian is the soldier of Christ. He is bound by his baptism to fight Christ’s battle against sin, the world, and the devil. The man that does not do this, breaks his vow–he is a spiritual defaulter; he does not fulfill the engagement made for him. The man that does not do this, is practically renouncing his Christianity. The very fact that he belongs to a Church, attends a Christian place of worship, and calls himself a Christian, is a public declaration that he desires to be reckoned a soldier of Jesus Christ.

Armor is provided for the professing Christian, if he will only use it. “Take unto you,” says Paul to the Ephesians, “the whole armor of God.” “Stand, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breast-plate of righteousness.” “Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.” “Above all, take the shield of faith” (Ephes. vi. 13-17). And not least, the professing Christian has the best of leaders, —Jesus the Captain of salvation, through whom he may be more than conqueror; the best of provisions—the bread and water of life; and the best of pay promised to him—an eternal weight of glory.

All these are ancient things. I will not be drawn off to dwell on them now.

The one point I want to impress on your soul just now is this—that if you want to be saved, you must not only be a soldier, but a victorious soldier. You must not only profess to fight on Christ’s side against sin, the world, and the devil, but you must actually fight and overcome.

Now this is one grand distinguishing mark of true Christians. Other men perhaps like to be numbered in the ranks of Christ’s army; other men may have lazy wishes, and languid desires after the crown of glory–but it is the true Christian alone, who does the work of a soldier. He alone fairly meets the enemies of his soul, really fights with them, and in that fight overcomes them.

Reader, one great lesson I wish you to learn this day is this—that if you would prove you are born again and going to heaven, you must be a victorious soldier of Christ. If you would make it clear that you have any title to Christ’s precious promises, you must fight the good fight in Christ’s cause, and in that fight you must conquer.

Victory is the only satisfactory evidence that you have a saving religion. You like good sermons, perhaps; you respect the Bible, and read it occasionally; you say your prayers night and morning; you have family prayers, and give to religious societies. I thank God for this–it is all very good. But how goes the battle? How does the great conflict go on all this time? Are you overcoming the love of the world and the fear of man? Are you overcoming the passions, tempers, and lusts of your own heart? Are you resisting the devil, and making him flee from you? How is it in this matter? My dear brother or sister, you must either rule or serve sin, and the devil, and the world. There is no middle course. You must either conquer or be lost.

I know well it is a hard battle that you have to fight, and I want you to know it too. You must fight the good fight of faith, and endure hardships, if you would lay hold of eternal life; you must make up your mind to a daily struggle, if you would reach heaven. There may be shortcuts to heaven invented by man; but ancient Christianity—the good old way—is the way of the cross–the way of conflict. Sin, the world, and the devil must be actually mortified, resisted, and overcome.

This is the road that saints of old have trodden in, and left their record on high.

When Moses refused the pleasures of sin in Egypt, and chose affliction with the people of God—this was overcoming: he overcame the love of pleasure.

When Micaiah refused to prophesy smooth things to king Ahab, though he knew he would be persecuted if he spoke the truth—this was overcoming: he overcame the love of ease.

When Daniel refused to give up praying, though he knew the den of lions was prepared for him—this was overcoming: he overcame the fear of death.

When Matthew rose from the receipt of custom at our Lord’s bidding, left all and followed Him—this was overcoming: he overcame the love of money.

When Peter and John stood up boldly before the Council and said, “We cannot but speak the things we have seen and heard”—this was overcoming: they overcame the fear of man.

When Saul the Pharisee gave up all his prospects of preferment among the Jews, and preached that Jesus whom he had once persecuted—this was overcoming: he overcame the love of man’s praise.

Reader, the same kind of thing which these men did you must also do, if you would be saved. They were men of like passions with yourself, and yet they overcame; they had as many trials as any you can possibly have, and yet they overcame. They fought, they wrestled, they struggled: you must do the same.

What was the secret of their victory? Their faith! They believed on Jesus, and believing were made strong. They believed on Jesus, and believing were held up. In all their battles they kept their eyes on Jesus, and He never left them or forsook them. They overcame by the blood of the Lamb, and the word of His testimony, and so may you.

Reader, I set these truths before you: I ask you to lay them to heart. Resolve, by the grace of God, to be an OVERCOMING Christian.

I do fear much for many professing Christians: I see no sign of fighting in them, much less of victory; they never strike one stroke on the side of Christ. They are at peace with His enemies: they have no quarrel with sin. Reader, I warn you–that this is not Christianity; this is not the way to heaven.

Men and women who hear the Gospel regularly, I often fear much for you. I fear lest you become so familiar with the sounds of its doctrines, that insensibly you become dead to its power. I fear lest your religion should sink down into a little vague talk about your own weakness and corruption, and a few sentimental expressions about Christ, while real practical fighting on Christ’s side is altogether neglected. Oh, beware of this state of mind! “Be doers of the Word, and not hearers only.” No victory—no crown! Fight and overcome!

Young men and women, and especially those who have been brought up in religious families, I fear much for you. I fear lest you get a habit of giving way to every temptation. I fear lest you be afraid of saying “No!” to the world and the devil—and when sinners entice you, think it least trouble to consent. Beware, I do beseech you, of giving way. Every concession will make you weaker. Go into the world resolved to fight Christ’s battle—and fight your way on.

Believers in the Lord Jesus, of every Church and rank in life, I feel much for you. I know your course is hard: I know it is a sore battle you have to fight; I know you are often tempted to say, “It is of no use, and to lay down your arms altogether.”

Cheer up, dear brethren and sisters: take comfort, I entreat you; look at the bright side of your position. Be encouraged to fight on: the time is short, the Lord is at hand, the night is far spent. Millions as weak as you have fought the same fight; not one of all those millions has been finally led captive by Satan. Mighty are your enemies—but the Captain of your salvation is mightier still–His arm, His grace, and His Spirit shall hold you up! Cheer up! be not cast down.

What though you lose a battle or two? You shall not lose all. What though you faint sometimes? You shall not be quite cast down. What though you fall seven times? You shall not be destroyed. Watch against sin–and sin shall not have dominion over you. Resist the devil–and he shall flee from you. Come out boldly from the world–and the world shall be obliged to let you go. You shall find yourselves in the end more than conquerors: you shall overcome.

Reader, let me draw from the whole subject a few words of application, and then I have done.

For one thing, let me warn all formalists and self-righteous people–to take heed that they are not deceived. You imagine that you will go to heaven because you go regularly to church; you indulge an expectation of eternal life, because you are always at the Lord’s table, and are never missing in your pew. But where is your repentance? Where is your faith? Where are your evidences of a new heart? Where is the work of the Spirit? Where are the proofs that you are fighting the great battle? Oh, formal Christian, consider these questions! Tremble! Tremble, and repent!

For another thing, let me warn all careless members of Churches to beware lest they trifle their souls into hell. You live on year after year as if there was no battle to be fought with sin, the world, and the devil; you pass through life a smiling, laughing, gentleman-like or ladylike person, and behave as if there was no devil, no heaven, and no hell. Oh, careless Churchman, or careless Dissenter, careless Episcopalian, careless Presbyterian, careless Independent, careless Baptist, awake and see eternal realities in their true light! Awake, and put on the armor of God! Awake, and fight hard for life! Tremble! Tremble, and repent!

Reader, the great battle must be fought by all who want to be saved. And more than this, it must be won!

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25 responses to “The Great Battle – by J. C. Ryle

  1. “They believed on Jesus, and believing were made strong. They believed on Jesus, and believing were held up”… I love that!

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  2. Talk about blessed assurance! I’m discussing those sorts of issues again and this time with our daughter’s husband. He loves the Lord and still gets a bit wrapped around being able to lose our salvation. It’s the whole predestination/election/OSAS stuff. I’m focusing on the need and promise of assurance of salvation. I think that’s the most important thing to grasp. Along with that am pointint him to the Boble concerning the state of the human will after the fall.

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  3. “I think that’s the most important thing to grasp”…yes, very important to grasp and yet so hard. Our natures want to fight against it. For me, honestly, if you could lose your salvation, I don’t think you could ever get it back if you use Hebrews to back that point. If that were true, I lost mine a long time ago and I need to just give up the idea of ever seeing the King. I’m so thankful that the opposite is true and that God keeps those He saves…even me. He never gave up pruning this branch.

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  4. I do not consider Calvinism or Arminianism to be important at all, but the whole counsel of God according to the Bible. I genuinely seek to understand. the doctrine of election is biblical. From the mouth of the Christ himself and the apostles, and as long as Romans chapter Nine is in the Bible, well, that’s conclusive.
    On perseverance though, I do not agree with what I hear most Calvinists say. I have never studied any theology and my understanding is purely from Holy Spirit guidance from the Bible. If I am in error in my reasoning, I desire nothing more earnestly than to be corrected in the whole counsel of God.
    In John Chapter 15v6, “If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned”. To me this suggests that these branches initally are indeed of God (because Jesus says they are “cast forth”, obviously from Himself), but being unfruitful, they are cut off. And it’s not a works salvation, because the will of God that men must do is “believe on Him whom He has sent” (John.6v29).
    Also Romans chapter 11 (emphasis mine)
    19 Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in.
    20 Well; BECAUSE OF UNBELIEF THEY WERE BROKEN OFF, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear:
    21 For if God spared not the natural branches, TAKE HEED LEST HE ALSO SPARE NOT THEE.
    22 Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: OTHERWISE THOU ALSO SHALT BE CUT OFF.

    Paul is obviously writing to people who already are Christians. They are presently “grafted in the tree”, but warns us not to be highminded but consider the great mercies of God and His severity and continue in faith. So we are saved as long as we believe. But if we become unbelieving, we can not abide in the tree anymore. And, it’s not that I am not certain I will be saved-I am, because “I know whom I have believed and I am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day”, but surely I am certain only as long as I believe in Him. Therefore, those who continue to believe will all be saved, yet if they become unbelieving, their “initial faith” counts for nothing (Ezekiel.33). So, I think that there indeed are people who are genuinely Christian and would see God if they died then, but, growing cold, do not continue to believe, some even becoming atheists and thus not able to see the kingdom of God.
    Don’t you think that in the parable of the Sower, of the seed among thorns, that while the Christian has little faith he is of God, but “the concerns and toils of this world, and the flesh”, choke away his “vigour” (faith in God) and the final state of the poor seed is damnation? Otherwise why would Jesus say to Christians “keep watch and pray lest you be deceived”?

    Like I said, this seems to me to be plain, but, I repeat, it’s not just for debate, but for an earnest desire to know the whole counsel. I stand to be corrected, and if I am right, I hope others too would not be ashamed to learn.

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  5. Ronald, I believe that whom God saves by His power he keeps by His power.

    Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. – 1 Peter 1:1-5

    I also believe that in the parable of the sower only the seed that fell on good ground were genuinely saved. The parable could represent the ladies down by the river in Actts 16, to whom Paul preach the gospel and only Lydia was saved. The good ground represents those whom hearts have been opened to hear and pay attention to the gospel who are among those chosen from the beginning for salvation. (2 Thes 2:13/Eph 1:4)

    I believe this because God had a purpose in election – to have a people for himself that would never be lost. After all Jesus said that those who believe have eternal life. How could it be eternal if it could be lost?

    thanks so much for your comment!

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    • Could not that Scripture in 1 Peter (great words, by the way), be describing the nature of the inheritance itself? If one believes, those promises are sure for “the calling of God can not be revoked” (Romans.11v29). But all of this wonderful nature of the call is true for one who believes. I don’t think there is a question about that, so, the question is can someone who once genuinely believed cease to believe?
      The paradox would be that, while anyone who believes has the promise that his faith will endure for ever, yet, how can the same fail to continue to believe, which I think is your point.
      I understand it though, to mean that while anyone believes, they have the fullness of the gift of God and have it truely, and are protected by God, as Jesus says “no one can snatch them out of my hand” (John.10v28), yet the sheep can of their own disobedience, or unbelief crawl away from his hand. While no power can snatch us from this promise while we desire it and believe in Christ for it, yet, if we are enticed by the world or fail to the flesh or give way to the enemy to deceive us, God does not deprogram us against leaving his hand in our will. While an unconverted man can not of their free will choose God (our nature is contrary to his), yet, if, after faith we do not commit our whole being to Christ, by free will we can walk away from that blessed estate (greatest folly possible).
      I wish you could say what you think the other scriptures in John.15 and Romans 11 mean.
      Also, why would God continuously warn BELIEVERS against false prophets and deceivers, love of the world, love of money if they could not harm us anyways? Do you reckon that the harm is only of this world? I don’t think so, because such harm would be good for the believer, since “all things work for (our) good”. Is it to test our faith and there is no real danger of being deceived?
      Please read Ezekiel chapter 33 v11-13. Please read it.

      I thank God, though, that His will for us is salvation, and I am comforted and ascertained of the blessed assurance because of Christ who drank God’s wrath that should be mine. His promise in Luke.12v32 “fear not O little flock for it is your father’s pleasure to give you the kingdom” is indescribably precious. I am certain that in this world of tribulation God is well pleased to give me life, and that is the hope of endurance, my hope that he will build my faith so I discern deceiving spirits, and die to the world and the flesh, not to do the lusts thereof.

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  6. Ronald,

    Joh 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

    Joh 3:18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

    Joh 5:24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.

    The above speak for themselves, unless you want to monkey with verb tenses, or maybe the definitions of eternal life, condemnation, is/does not, shall – in other words do great violoence to the text.

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  7. That’s the promise to them who BELIEVE (in all the verses you quote). There is no debate about that. My question throughout is can someone who once believed become unbelieving and thus allienated from the promise?

    I really would appreciate your insight on the verses I mentioned (Romans 11, John 15 and Ezekiel 33).

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    • Ronald,

      Of course the promises of eternal live is promised to those who believe. If eternal life means ‘eternal’ life and it is a present possession of believers, how could they ever become unbelievers and lose that which is eternal? Please tell me how you see the passages you want me to respond to as teaching that you can walk away from God to the point of being forever lost, or forfeit eternal life.

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  8. A bit more detail I pray is helpful.

    Romans 11:

    Romans 11 speaks first of God not having completely rejected Israel, the grafting in of the gentiles, and the partial hardening of Israel (a mystery?). VV 17-23 speak of the unbelieving being ‘broken off’, but also of the possibility of those who do not continue in unbelief being grafted in again. those who are broken off are those who never believed that Jesus is Messiah. Should that change and some believe, they will be grafted in again. I don’t see how it supports the possibility of someone believing/not believing/believing again.

    John 15:

    John 15 speaks of the true vine, branches that bear fruit (fruit of the spirit) and remain in the vine, and branches that bear no fruit and are cut off. In order to bear fruit we must be connected to the vine. Jesus sad that all who are given to him WILL come to him and never be cast out. We are sealed and indwelt by the Holy Spirit. It is God (Holy Spirit) who lives in us to cause us to desire and accomplish His desires (Phil 2:13). Where the Holy Spiit dwells there will be fruit; varying amounts depending on the health of the branch connected to the vine. I don’t see how John 15 can be used to support walking away into perdition.

    Ezekiel chapter 33 v11-13:

    I don’t believe that ‘which accounts for nothing’ is ‘initial faith, but rather that it speaks of ‘righteousness’ and ‘former righteousness’. There are two forms of righteousness in view; man’s righteousness and Christ’s perfect righteousness. Man’s righteousness will never save justify him unless it means perfect sinlessness. Even if someone has been perfectly righteous to a certain point, a single sin means damnation. Note where ‘if’ and ‘though’ are used. Man’s faith is a gift and not something that originates in natural unregenerate men. (Eph 2:8-9)

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  9. Hi Ronald and Born. I’m eavesdropping on you all’s conversation. Hope that’s ok. Like Born, I see groups 2 and 3 in the parable of the soils speaking of non believers who heard the gospel, intellectually believed it was true, but didn’t have their heart prepared by God when they heard it, so the effects were not lasting. In other words, their spirit was not quickened. We see alot of that today. They went out from us because they were not of us and they went out to show that they were not of us. That would apply to your once christian who now is athiest. They never believed…at least not in anything more than an intellectual agreement anyway. The heart wasn’t changed permanently. It is still stoney. I don’t think the question here is can you be quickened and then be unquickened. The question is whether you were ever truly quickened in the first place. I also have some questions about who and what exactly is being addressed in John 15. If I’m wrong, please show me so that I can be corrected.

    Now, Is fruit in the John 15 passage the fruits of the spirit produced by true believers or is the fruit in this passage speaking of converts…converts who come to Jesus Christ because of the proclamation of the first Jewish believers testimony?

    It seems that in John 15, Jesus is addressing specifically…His desciples. He finishes off that chapter by saying And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning. He explaines about the Holy Spirit and finishes it all off praying to His Father for the desciples and those who would believe because of their testimony.

    The desciples were elect in that they were genetically Israel, but not all Israel is Israel as we see later on in the Romans passage you cited Ronald…only those who are the children of promise are Israel, not those who are children of the flesh. In Romans, Paul is addressing believers and explaining that the only reason they are saved, is because of God’s mercy and that salvation is because of faith so be careful not to get boastful, because they are no more special than the Israelites that got cut off. The only difference between an unbeliever and a believer is faith by God’s mercy. If it is true faith given by God, it will continue to the end as God finishes what He starts. I believe that verse was quoted somewhere in the comments from you or Born.

    People themselves have absolutely nothing to boast in. Paul then goes on to say, So too, at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace. He is warning these believers that salvation is by grace through faith. Period. If they decide that’s not true and decide to get salvation by their own works, then they will be cut off too and an example of that is given in Hebrews 6. But notice, in Hebrews 6, these people only tasted…they never digested. Their belief was not real. If it had been, they would not have left to go back to the temple sacrifice system. Good ground produces meat when the rain falls on it, but bad ground produces thorns. You will know them by their fruit. The folks described in Hebrews wanted to add to the finished work of God in Jesus Christ. They went out from us because THEY WERE NOT OF US…! And they went out from us to PROVE they were not of us. I’m not yelling, promise. Just trying to make “they were not of us” stand out. These people in Hebrews were exposed to Jesus Christ. They saw his miracles, they were taught by Him and by those who learned directly from Him. They were raised with scripture and knew the prophecies. They had it all, yet they still chose their own way.

    Jesus says in John 13 that the desciples are clean because of the Word they have heard…but not EVERY ONE of them are clean Jesus says, and then we see Judas leave to betray his master. When Judas has gone to betray, Jesus continues talking to His disciples…and now with Judas not in the room, we see in John 15, they are all clean because of the word Jesus has spoken to them.

    Israel is described in other places as the vineyard…infact, the vineyard is described as a place that will be destroyed because of unbelief. It’s as if, both believing and non believing Israel are part of the vine. Some are dead branches, others are not. Judas is a dead branch. He is Israel, but he is not Israel. He is false, a dead branch who can not bear fruit. He’s like that fig tree that Jesus made wither. He had pretty green leaves, but he wasn’t a good plant that could produce fruit as is shown by his betrayal and as a result, he is cut down. Just like the pharisees and saducees. They were pretty and green too, but they didn’t produce fruit because they were bad branches, keeping the people out of the Kingdom of God rather than bringing them in.

    The dead are cast out, and the living go on to teach the good Word to the world and bear much much fruit as the nations are taught the gospel and converted. Those false teachers who dont believe, no matter their genetic links, get exactly what the temple got…destroyed. Their house was left to them desolate.

    I don’t think John 15 is a general proclamation to believers to produce the fruits of the spirit, rather a statement specifically to the desciples that has to do with their work ahead in telling the World the Good News and their fruit is the believers that would come from that.

    When we get to Romans, Paul is explaining that the work of God has not failed. God will make sure that Israel inherits the promise, but there is a catch…not all who say they are Israel are Israel. Being genetically of Israel does not save you, you must be a child of the promise…spiritually Israel. A believer born of God. Israel thought they were a shoe in. After all, they were Israel right? The genetic people that God chose to reveal Himself to the world through…but look what was taken away from them because fo unbelief. In the same way, if we look at being a part of something…like a member of the church…that does not save you. You must believe, just like Israel needed to believe. If you don’t, you will be cut off just like them. It doesn’t matter if you are a good person, and you go to church every Sunday and you lead childrens choir and Sunday school, if you don’t believe, you are not going to inherit the promises. I don’t think this has anything to do with whether a person can believe and then stop believing, rather telling people to watch out that they don’t make the same mistake Israel did by thinking salvation was in they things they did, rather than the One who saves. It seems the Roman Church didn’t pay attention as we see these days salvation by works taught in the Roman Catholic church and others. It is circumcision of the heart that saves, not circumcision of the flesh.

    And lastly, as far as Ezekiel 33, I think we can compare it to Matthew 21 where A father asks his sons to go work for him in the field. One says no, but then does it. The other says yes…and then doesn’t do it. Which of the two did the father’s will? The first. Then Jesus said to them, the tax collectors and prostitutes will go into the kingdom of God before those self righteous religious leaders who even after seeing Jesus did not change their minds and believe in Him. At the beginning of Ezekiel 33, the watchman is being addressed and then it spreads to the people in general. There were people in Israel, so well taught by the pharisees and saducees that they acted just like them in their own self righteousness. The whole history of Israel is plagued by destruction and bondage to other nations because of their unbelief and they false religiousity. Ezekiel is describing that self righteous man who is not righteous at all, in fact, he’s a hypocrite. He thinks that his own righteousness will save him, but God knows the heart and he knows the self righteous are nothing but hypocrites and tells them to knock it off because it’s not going to save him…in fact, self righteousness will damn you. A wicked man who turns from his ways will be saved before a righteous man who doesn’t. Just like in Matthew 21. Again, this doesn’t have to do with whether one can believe and then stop believing. This has to do with the state of the heart and what results from that state. A self righteous man will continue to be a self righteous hypocrite with worthless works not acknowledged by God because God knows the truth about the state of their heart, but a wicked man who turns from his ways, like the prostitute and tax collectors who believe in Christ, will not have their sins counted against them.

    Ezekiel 33

    Though I say to the righteous that he shall surely live, yet if he trusts in his righteousness and does injustice, none of his righteous deeds shall be remembered, but in his injustice that he has done he shall die. 14Again, though I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ yet if he turns from his sin and does what is just and right, 15if the wicked restores the pledge, gives back what he has taken by robbery, and walks in the statutes of life, not doing injustice, he shall surely live; he shall not die. 16 None of the sins that he has committed shall be remembered against him. He has done what is just and right; he shall surely live.

    17″Yet your people say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just,’ when it is their own way that is not just. 18 When the righteous turns from his righteousness and does injustice, he shall die for it. 19And when the wicked turns from his wickedness and does what is just and right, he shall live by this. 20Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ O house of Israel, I will judge each of you according to his ways.”

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  10. Jesus said, This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day. God is not willing that any should perish, but all should come to repentance (speaking of His sheep). In the book of Acts, as many as had been appointed to eternal life believe. He said, Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house there are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. We are also told, but for us who believe, “after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.

    I want to add here that Jesus must do the will of His Father. If He doesn’t, He is sinning, just like we do every day. But Jesus does not sin. He will do His Father’s will as promised. And we see that ALL those appointed to ETERNAL life BELIEVED. Past tense. So I would assume since they were appointed for eternal life, they didn’t just believe past tense, but continued in their belief.

    Jesus also speaks of His sheep which He purchased with His blood. They know His voice and they follow Him. They won’t follow another. He knows His sheep by name. He doesn’t know the other sheep. Jesus prayed for His sheep, but He didn’t pray for the sheep He didn’t know (the world). When Jesus was glorified, a Comforter was sent to His sheep that testifies that the sheep are His. God knows who are His, and He seals them with the Holy Spirit of Promise. If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him and if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal body through His Spirit who dwells in you. We know that God can not lie, nor does He break His promise. Jesus said “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; That is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God.

    Jesus says He gives eternal life to His sheep,and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of His hand because the Father, who has given the sheep to Jesus is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. The believer is being held tightly by the Father, rather than the other way around. If He is holding me, and I stop hanging on, He is still holding me. He will lift up and He will prune His own. Sometimes, one is even delivered to Satan, for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus…

    They are not all Israel who are descended from Israel. It is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as decendents. It does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. The Lord knows those who are His, and Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness.

    There are those who go out from us because they were not really of us. If they had been of us, they would have remained with us, but they went out to show us that they all are not of us. I think that’s group 2 and 3 of the parable of the soils.

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  11. I decided to try and summarize the options for salvation/perserverance in this debate.

    1. Saved and kept by the power of God, from begging to end. Logically consistent and scriptural.

    2. Saved by the power of God, but kept by human agency (obedience/works/human decision). Logically inconsistent. Why would God elect someone to salvation if they could be lost?

    3. Saved by human decision but kept by the power of God. Human free will would have to be lost/forfeited. Logically inconsistent.

    4. Saved and kept by human decision. Christ died only to make salvation possible. Natural human Free will involved in the saving and the keeping. Logically consistent but scripturally doubtful, unless reading ‘natural freewill’ into the text of scripture.

    Until now, I had not heard of option2. Option 3 equates to the anitnomianism.

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  12. I am not proposing or defending option 2. Salvation and endurance to the end are both solely the work of God. I never said we are kept by human agency. I said we can fall by human agency.

    Thank you dawnmarie4. You were patient to explain and make your point with backing from the word of God, which is the only thing by which we can learn. I see why you would consider the scriptures to mean what you say, but, if you do not presuppose the doctrine of perseverance, they are not the most obvious interpretations.
    By the way, I also used capitals and it was to emphasise the capitalised words, not to yell and I hope no one took it to mean yelling.
    I agree fully with your explanation of Romans.11 concerning Israel.

    I think though, that from verse 16 Paul is taking Israel’s example to warn believers. He says “YOU stand by faith” to the believer and warns them not to boast but consider God’s mercy to them and fear. And in verse 21 he says “lest (God) also not spare THEE (the believer)”. And in verse 22 he talks of God’s goodness to the believer IF THEY CONTINUE in God’s goodness. The “if you continue” part at least suggests that it is possible not to continue. I really can’t see how that can mean anything else. Paul is clearly talking to one who is a believer.

    In John chapter 15, I think it is reasonable to think the branches are not just the apostles but believers (similar analogy as in Romans 11). If he were addressing the apostles specifically he probably would not say in verse six “If a man abide not in me he is cast forth as a branch”. That verse seems general. I think your example of Judas is great. But in verse 2 of the same chapter he says “every branch IN ME that bears not fruit”. I don’t think Jesus would say they “who were not of us” were branches in him. I think branches in Christ have to be believers and they are cut off because they become unprofitable to the tree whatever one takes “becoming unprofitable to the tree” to mean. I do not fully understand what that particularly means but that is what Jesus is saying.

    In Ezekiel 33, God delivers this decree with an oath to His life (verse 12). In the first part of verse 13, God says “If I say to the righteous he shall surely live”. What Born says that it’s about a man being righteous on his own can not apply as God would never say, certainly not with an oath to his life, to one righteous only in their own righteousness “you shall surely live”. God calls him righteous -“If I say to the righteous…”, so it’s someone really righteous in God’s sight. If such a one as God considered righteous and told him already that he would live, if he began to trust his own righteousness and commit iniquity as man is bound to, all his (former, genuine) righteousness shall not be remembered. It is a warning to those who are righteous in God’s sight, but who begin to consider that the righteousness (good works, etc) earns them favour with God, and trusting therein fall by commiting even a single iniquity. Without presupposing perseverence, that is what that Scripture seems to be saying.

    About the promises of eternal life and the convenant that Jesus would keep all that God has given him and raise it on the final day, I think that it means Jesus would not break his covenant of life made to them. It means those who believe in Jesus, Jesus would make good on His promise of eternal life to them. He is their “surety” as John Flavel famously called it and responsible for everything that pertains to them ever seeing God and his kingdom. I just think that men with this estate can of their own folly and susceptibility, being enticed by deceiving spirits or falling to the desires of the flesh and passions of this world walk away from the blessed estate. I think that’s why clearly believers are warned to guard against these. Is there a perdition but from that which was genuine? Is there an apostacy but from that which was right?

    I will continue to pray that God guides me in the understanding of these. I do not want to sneer that perseverence is a biblical doctrine, after all genuinely God fearing people have believed it throughout. There are also many godly scholars that profess it, people who have studied theology and have greater understanding of the mysteries of God’s word than I do. It’s not a light thing that godly scholars and the puritans like John Owen, Bunyan, Edwards, Spurgeon etc have all embraced it. If it is a biblical doctrine I desire nothing more than to understand it. If it is not, then I want to pray that that would be clear too. Thank God my salvation does not depend on that but on the finished work of Christ whether I understand it or not. It is however important to know the full counsel and I hope God makes it clear to me soon. I am 24 years old and have known Christ for about 7 years now and I understand many things now better than when I first believed. I was Roman catholic before I believed and the God who opened my eyes then will lead me to the fulness of his instruction.
    I also struggle in the Christian walk itself with the mortification of sin and growth in charity and good works and in witnessing to people around me the gospel, so please be praying for me.

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  13. Ronald, you said:

    -“Thank God my salvation does not depend on that but on the finished work of Christ”

    -“Salvation and endurance to the end are both solely the work of God”

    I agree. Exactly. My question is this. Is believing a part of endurance? In other words, can you endure if you don’t believe?

    Acts 13:48
    And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.

    John 6:63-65
    63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) 65And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”

    Timothy 2:19
    But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.”

    .

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  14. Endurance is by faith in the finished work of Christ, so endurance is a component of believing. And, no, one can not endure if they do not continue to believe.
    The verses you quoted argue strongly for the doctrine of election. I indeed believe (like I said in the initial post) that God elects people to the gift of eternal life. The doctrines of election and perseverence sound (even to me) to be inseparable; because if they are elected by only of God’s mere pleasure, of the same pleasure they are preserved.
    But, considering the warnings to Christians throughout the Bible to watch “lest you be deceived” and the fact that there are people who at one point believe and seem to genuinely desire God (He says whoever calls on Him will be saved) yet fall, cause me to wonder if indeed perseverence is a biblical doctrine.
    My position has always been that, while they have the gift, all the full promise of it is theirs, and being deceived, etc, they leave the blessed estate. If we are to endure it’s because God helps us to (no one ever would endure without God’s Spirit), but if we fall, it’s due to our own falling away- we simply turn back to our original state as the dog that returns to its vomit.

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  15. So, I would sum it up to be that there are those who are elected, but who do not hold on to it, “to make (the) calling and election sure” (1Peter.1:10), and in the end return to their initial state of damnation. The gift itself was sure and genuine but they, not holding to it, disbelieve and perish.

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  16. Ronald said:

    “I am not proposing or defending option 2. Salvation and endurance to the end are both solely the work of God. I never said we are kept by human agency. I said we can fall by human agency.”

    Option 2:

    Men are Saved by the power of God, but kept by human agency (obedience/works/human decision). Logically inconsistent. Why would God elect someone to salvation if they could be lost?

    What’s the difference, really? If a person has eternal life today but does not have eternal life tomorrow, because he decided to just walk away from it, is it not human agency that has determined that he is now damned?

    So God saves, completely by His power, including inclining turning heart, minds and wills toward Himself, so that when the gospel is presented sinners run to the cross (effectual grace), in order to have a remnant people unto Himself, then leaves it in the hands of men whether or not He will eventually have a remnant people?

    God has a purpose in election that must and will stand. (Romans 9). Did God purpose to have a remnant people for His honor and glory, or not? Shall the God of Heaven accomplish all that He sets out to do, or not?

    Though believers can be deceived for a time by false doctrine and/or false teachers, they cannot be lost or face condemnation. There is no ‘if they don’t decide to walk away of their own free will’ language in any of the passages we have concerning our eternal security. We must insert that reasoning into the passages of scripture, read it into the text.

    Perhaps the best example where such language would be needed and is not present in John 6:44 – Jesus’ own words:

    “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day”.

    I’m back to the purpose of God’s election – to have a remnant people unto Himself – and the truth that God’s purposes cannot be thwarted.

    Have a blessed day!

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  17. 2 Cor. 5:17, “Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”

    -Ronald, this is a question that each person has to struggle with themselves. I pray that you will be fully convinced in your own mind as the Lord leads you.

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  18. I didn’t believe what I believe right now overnight. To use familiar terms, I think God saves most folks as Arminians and that it takes time to grasp hold of the total sovereignty of God in salvation and the ‘named’ doctrines with which it is associated. I can think of several such men who are serious advocates of God’s sovereignty that entered the Kingdom as theological Arminians.

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  19. Dawn,

    Over time, it seems that my love for the doctrines of sovereign grace deepens. Of late I have been abot to see them in the panorama of the doctrine of the chosen remnant that runs from Genesis to Revelation, from the calling of Abraham to the New Heaven and New Earth.

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  20. Acts 17

    24 The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; 25 nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; 26 and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, 27 that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; 28 for in Him we live and move and [t]exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.’ 29 Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man. 30 Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, 31 because He has fixed a day in which He will judge [u]the world in righteousness [v]through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men [w]by raising Him from the dead.”

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