The Perseverance of the Saints
March 17th, 1957 @ 7:30 PM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-17-57 7:30 p.m.
And the Lord bless you and may the Lord help me as I try to preach the Book. Would you like to read where I’m going to preach tonight in the first chapter of Philippians? Let’s read the first eleven verses: the first chapter of Philippians. There’s just no place in the Bible where any preacher could preach that will have more in it of the love of God and the fruits and mercies of the Lord than we’ll gather here in this beautiful letter to the church at Philippi. Now, do you have it? The first chapter of Philippians – let’s all read the first eleven verses. All right:
Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:
Grace be unto you and peace from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
I thank my God upon every remembrance of you,
Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy,
For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now,
Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ;
Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my bonds and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace.
For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ.
And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment,
That you may approve things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense ’til the day of Christ,
Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.
Now my text is the sixth verse, the middle verse: "Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ" [Philippians 1:6], and my subject is The Perseverance of the Saints. That is a Calvinistic doctrine. It’s a great Baptist doctrine. It’s a true doctrine. It’s a revelation of the Scriptures.
When a man preaches the Book, when he declares the whole counsels of God, he will declare this doctrine. It is inwoven. It is enmeshed in the revelation of God and His work and His grace as we find it here writ on the page of the Bible. The Perseverance of the Saints: that God’s elect – God’s saved, God’s chosen – will persevere. They will not fail; they will not fall. They will be saved. Ultimately, all God’s own shall be perfected, shall enter heaven. When the roll is called up yonder, they will be there. "Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ" [Philippians 1:6].
The Christian life is lived in the midst of appalling dangers. All of us who have read or who have listened to these 8:15 o’clock services are conversant with the structure of life in the midst of death. Our bodies exist only because they war successfully against the invasion of bacilli found on every hand of germs and microbes that destroy everywhere. And when, finally, our bodies aren’t able to war against the invasion of these disease-causing, antitoxic microbes, then the body fails and dies.
So our spiritual lives are lived in the midst of appalling enemies and dangers on every side. We live our spiritual life in the very jaws of death between an abyss to the right and a chasm to the left, and the fiery darts of Satan [Ephesians 6:16], a thousand fold, are on every side to pierce and to ruin the soul. We live our lives, I say, in the midst of danger appalling.
The life of a Christian is one endless, continuous miracle – just as great a miracle as if you were to see a flame burning in the very middle of the ocean down in the depths of the sea, as much a miracle as if you were to see a great rock suspended in midair, as much a miracle as if you were to see robust health in a pest house, as much a miracle as if you were to see a beautiful white swan there in rivers of filth, and mire, and mud, and muck, and dirt. The life of a Christian is a miraculous life. It is sustained by the power of God: "confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ" [Philippians 1:6].
Now this text has in it elements of great encouragement. Every syllable, every word in it is written for our encouragement. "He that hath begun a good work in you" [Philippians 1:6]. This thing that has been created in us is a work of grace. It is a work of God. It is a work of the Holy Spirit. It’s called a "work." It is something that God hath wrought: the new birth [John 3:3-8; 1 Peter 1:3], the salvation of the soul. This new man, this life, it shall never die [John 11:26]. This something inside that shall take us to heaven, it is a work of God.
It was a work of God in Eden when we were formed of the dust of the ground when God created us [Genesis 2:7]. It is a work of God when God recreates us [2 Corinthians 5:17-18], when we are born anew [John 3:3-8], when God breathes into our souls that breath of immortal life [Genesis 2:7; Acts 17:25]. It is a work of God; it is a good work. For a man to be brought to affluence, for a man to be brought from disease to health, for a man’s mind to be saved from ignorance and darkness and superstition is a good work, but it is nothing comparable to the work of a man being spiritually resurrected from the dead. For a man to be recreated, to be born again, to be a Christian is a good work by the hand of God: "He that hath begun the good work in you will perform it" [Philippians 1:6].
It is initiated by God. A dead man could never resurrect himself. Look and see: stand over any casket, stand by the side of any grave. It is only by the promised, moving power of God that any man who has died could ever hope to rise from the grave. Resurrection is a prerogative of God, and the Scriptures say that our souls are dead in trespasses and in sins [Ephesians 2:1], and death can never give birth to life – not of itself. It is a prerogative of God [Exodus 33:19].
The fires of hell could never illuminate the glorious elements of heaven. The seeds of Hades could never give birth to the seeds of life and glory. Corruption could never, of itself, inherit incorruption. Flesh and blood and the natural man could never inherit the kingdom of heaven [1 Corinthians 15:50]. This is an initiation by the Spirit of God – that "He who hath begun this good work in you" [Philippians 1:6].
When a child reaches the age of accountability, the quickening of his heart is the quickening of the Holy Spirit of God [Ephesians 2:15; Colossians 2:13]. When the preacher makes appeal and a man is convicted in his heart, that is the work of the Spirit of God [John 16:8]. And did God not take the initiative, we all would be lost. It is God’s Spirit that quickens us [John 6:63; 1 Peter 3:18], that brings us to hear the gospel. We hear and hear and hear it, and one day we hear. It is the Spirit of God that takes the initiative, always, in the quickening of the soul of a man [John 1:12-13, 3:5-8].
It is God’s work that hath begun, and it is God that will perform it [Philippians 1:6]. A man may begin something and fail and falter and fall by the wayside, but not God. A man may begin a work, and because he didn’t have forethought or because he wasn’t able or because of unforeseen difficulties, he may fail; but not God. God sees the end from the beginning [Isaiah 46:10]. God does not begin a work and be unable to finish it, nor do unforeseen difficulties arise and God loses that for which He thought at first to contrive and to bring to pass. "He that hath begun this good work in you will perform it" [Philippians 1:6].
God’s great decree is said: "We’re saved by the decree of the Father and by the death of the Son and by the operation of the Holy Spirit." And God never fails: "I have purposed it. I also will do it. I have spoken it. I will also bring it to pass" [Isaiah 46:11]. This thing of a man’s being saved lies in the omnipotent hands of God [Romans 9:15-18]. Were that not so, all of us would be damned and lost. "Confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ" [Philippians 1:6].
When is this perfection? When is it to be consummated? It is to be in "the day of Jesus Christ" [Philippians 1:6]. Here and now, we know no final triumph – not as of now. Our great hope is yet to come [1 Peter 1:13]. Our perfection is not now; it is in the day of Jesus Christ [1 John 3:2].
There’s a marvelous thing that the Scriptures have to say about this consummation of God’s salvation. It is this: the Scriptures do not look upon a man as being perfected if just his soul is perfected, if just his spirit is perfected. For example, when a man dies and he goes to heaven, he is still – according to the Bible – incomplete. He is "waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of his body" [Romans 8:23].
The Holy Scriptures look upon the whole man. He’s not just spirit; he’s not just soul; he’s also body. And when a man is perfected, according to the Bible, a man is perfected in his body as well as in his soul. And this great salvation of the Lord, ready to be revealed in the last time, is not now, but it is then [1 Peter 1:3-5]. And when it finally comes to pass, it will be achieved at the blowing of the trumpet, at the voice of the archangel, at the descent of the Son of God from heaven in the great, final, resurrection day of Jesus Christ our Lord [1 Corinthians 15:51-57; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17].
The whole man is to be saved: saved in his faculties, saved in his mind, saved in his spirit, saved in his soul, saved in his body – the whole possession redeemed by the power of the Lord. "Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ" [Philippians 1:6].
Now, may I turn to some Scriptures that fortify this tremendous revelation in the Book of God? Let us take two sheaves out of the Old Testament. In the one hundred twenty-fifth Psalm is a song that our choir sings: Psalm 125. How many of you up there in the choir have your Bibles? Turn to it and let’s read it together. You have sung it many, many times, and I love to hear you sing it. In fact, if you were prepared, while I’m preaching here tonight, I should let you sing that song. This is one of the great promises of the Book and one of the great supporting passages of this doctrine that we shall be saved by the grace of God. We shall make it, not a one of us lost.
All right, let’s read the first two stanzas together, the first two verses, Psalm 125. Just the choir, all of us, all right:
They that trust in the Lord shall be as Mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but abideth for ever.
As the mountains around about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about His people from henceforth even for ever more.
Did you ever sing that? Last Sunday night. How about next Sunday night? Next Sunday night, we’re going to sing it again. "They that trust in the Lord shall be as Mount Zion . . . As the mountains around about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about his people" [Psalm 125:1-2]. Just for a month? No, sir. Just for a year? No, sir. Just to manhood? No, sir. But down to old age and to death and "from henceforth, even forever" [Psalm 125:2]. The Book says it. "They that trust in the Lord shall be as Mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but abideth forever" [Psalm 125:2]. This is the Word of the Lord.
Now, in Isaiah 54, just two sheaves out of the great passages of the old Book – in in Isaiah 54, the tenth and eleventh verses:
"For the mountains shall depart and the hills shall be removed, but My kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of My peace be removed," saith the Lord, that hath mercy on thee.
"O thou afflicted, and tormented with tempest, and not comforted, behold, I will lay thy stones with fair colors, and lay thy foundations with sapphires."
"No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper, and every tongue that shall speak against thee in judgment, thou shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of Me," saith the Lord.
God’s kind of righteousness, not ours: ‘"This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of Me,’ saith the Lord" [Isaiah 54:17].
God’s children are in His hands. They are the apple of his eye [Zechariah 2:8]. His favor is upon them, and He saves them not for the day or the hour, but He saves them forever and ever [Hebrews 7:24-25, 10:14]. And they shall be there when the roll is called in glory [Revelation 20:12].
Now, could I – out of a multitude, the whole Bible is this – may I take two sheaves out of the New Testament? The very famous and oft-quoted and comforting word in the tenth chapter of the Book of John and the twenty-seventh following verses: "My sheep, My sheep," if you belong to Christ, "My sheep hear My voice" [John 10:27]. When the preacher’s up there preaching, and he makes appeal, you hear the voice of God in the message that is brought: "My sheep hear My voice" [John 10:27]. If you don’t, you don’t belong to God. You’re a goat; you haven’t been redeemed [Matthew 25:31-46; 1 John 5:11-12]. You haven’t been chosen [Ephesians 1:4-6]; you haven’t been elected. You’re lost [Luke 19:10].
How a man ought to cry and pray unto God if he can’t cry. How he ought to cry and pray unto God if he can’t pray. How a man ought to plead with God if his heart is hard and calloused. My soul!
My sheep – My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.
And I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish
– never –
neither shall anyone pluck them out of my hand.
My Father, who gave them Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to pluck them out of My Father’s hand.
I and My Father are one.
One other passage in 1 Peter, the first chapter, and the third and fourth and fifth verses:
Blessed be God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy hath begotten us again into a lively, living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
To an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you.
[1 Peter 1:3-4]
This is your place. This is your house, your home, your mansion. God’s got your name on it, inscribed with the point of a diamond adamantine and forever: "Fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you" [1 Peter 1:4]. You who may fail, may fall by the way, no, sir! "You who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time" [1 Peter 1:4-5]. God says, "If My sheep, if My sheep" – if their name’s written in the Book, if they’re saved, "if they’re Mine, they’re not Mine for just a day or an hour or half a lifetime, but they’re Mine forever, always and always" [John 10:27-30].
Now these great doctrines of the Bible sustain that marvelous revelation of the perseverance of the children of God. The doctrine of the atonement is this: that in Christ all of our sins are washed away – all of them [Hebrews 10:14]. Our sins of yesterday, our sins of today, and our sins of tomorrow: all of our sins are washed away in the blood of Christ [1 John 1:7]. If He has paid for them, then we do not pay for them [Colossians 2:13-14]. They are washed away in Christ [John 1:29]. Nothing I could do could wash the stain from my soul or the blood of guilt from my hands [Isaiah 64:6]. It is an atoning work of Christ [1 John 2:2]. It is a God-righteousness [2 Corinthians 5:21].
The doctrine of justification implements the same marvelous revelation. "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth" [Romans 8:33] – not a man, not his own righteousness, but the pronouncement of God. God for Christ’s sake saves us, and He saves us forever, and He justifies us world without end now and in the world that is to come [Romans 5:1, 9].
And the doctrine of intercession sanctifies and glorifies the same revelation. "Wherefore He is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them" [Hebrews 7:25].
And the doctrine of the body of Christ fortifies the same revelation. Christ is our Head [Ephesians 5:23], and our Head is in heaven [Ephesians 1:20], and we are the members of His body [Romans 12:4-5; 1 Corinthians 12:27]. And shall the least members of the body of Christ perish? Never! It is unimaginable. It is unthinkable. If our Head is in heaven, we shall be there too – the feeblest and humblest members of his body. "Because I live," he says, "ye shall live also" [John 14:19]. The very inner life of Christ in us argues for our ultimate salvation [John 15:4; Colossians 1:27]. "We are born," says First Peter, first chapter, twenty-third verse: "We are born not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, which liveth and abideth forever" [1 Peter 1:23]. It can never die: not the sowing and the planting of the seed of God in the heart of one of these elect – one of His saved, one of His sheep.
Jesus said in the fourth chapter of the Gospel of John: "The water that I give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life" [John 4:14]. Shall the well go dry? Shall it cease to flow? Never! It is the water of life! It is the fountain of the Lord. In the sixth chapter of the Book of John, Jesus said, "And whosoever shall eat this bread shall never die" [John 6:50, 58] – never die, live forever. These are just some of the great, fortifying doctrines and scriptures in the Bible. God’s children shall be saved. When the roll is called up yonder, they will be there [From "When the Roll is Called Up Yonder," by James M. Black, 1893; based on Revelation 20:12].
Now, may I say a final and concluding word? What effect does a doctrine like that have upon the lives of the people? Well, some critic who doesn’t know the Book and who doesn’t know Christ and doesn’t know the Spirit of Jesus, he listens to the presentation of that truth from the Word of God, and he says, "Well, well, how come? If the saints are going to be saved, if the elect are going to heaven, if God saves His children forever, why then, let us go our separate and indifferent ways, and let us forget about the great calling and precepts of the Lord. We’re going to be saved anyway, anyhow, no matter what. So let us each turn to his own merit and self-chosen way. We’re going to be saved anyhow."
Well, he doesn’t know it, but that’s exactly the way it is. That’s exactly correct. That’s exactly right. God’s children are going to be saved. God’s children are going to heaven. God’s children have their names written in the Lamb’s Book of life [Luke 10:20; Revelation 20:15]. When that roll is called, they’ll be there [Revelation 21:27]. "Therefore, let us go our own separate ways, do exactly as we please. We’re going to be saved anyhow." It works just like that.
The thing about it is, as you already know – isn’t it funny – that old life doesn’t make you happy anymore. Something happens to you. You’ve changed inside. Get around people of the world, and they’re cussing on that side of you and telling filthy jokes on that side of you, and they’re getting drunk on that side, and they’re pulling off-colored and off-shaded deals on that side, and they have no reverence for God, and they plan things on Sunday that take them away from God’s house, and you’re miserable! Something happened to you on the inside of you.
You are at liberty. Get drunk all that you please. You are at liberty! Curse all you please. You are at liberty! Desecrate God’s name all that you please, all that you want to. You’re not going to be saved by your works [Ephesians 2:8-9], the Book says. You’re not going to be saved by not swearing. You’re not going to be saved by not getting drunk. You’re not going to be saved by not being worldly. Just be worldly and drink and curse and carouse and live vile and wicked all that you please. But a man who’s saved got somethin’ on the inside of him that’s turned him around and changed him, and the old life doesn’t make him happy anymore. Isn’t that a strange thing?
But listen, I’m not near done. Listen to me. Why doesn’t that doctrine work? Here’s a man, he’s going to be saved. He’s going to heaven. Why doesn’t he just lay the cause down? "God will do it all, and we go our separate ways."
Let me illustrate the effect that a thing like that has upon the human soul. Here is an athlete, and he feels in his heart that he’s elected – that he’s destined to win. What effect does it have upon him? Does it slacken his pace? Does he not try as hard? Does he not run as vigorously? The opposite! You find an athlete anywhere that feels that he is destined to be a world Olympic champion, and you’ve got a contestant that is unimaginably fierce in his way. How he’ll run and run and run. How he’ll play and play and play. How he’ll hit that line. How he’ll throw that discus. How he’ll train for that event. He feels destined of God to win, and it drives him on.
Same way about history. You can’t read a man like Napoleon Bonaparte [1769-1821] – you can’t read a man like Napoleon and not sense as you read the man that a great source of the tremendous drive and energy in his life lies in the feeling, in the conviction, that he’s a child of destiny. That empire is in his soul, and in his brains, and in his mind, and in his hand, and he drives and he drives and he drives because he feels called of God. He’s a man of destiny. Having that feeling, that conviction, why doesn’t he just sit down? Why doesn’t he just go his way? He’s a child of destiny and God’s going to use him for the remaking of the world. No! It works the opposite. It makes a man pour over his plans and pour out his life’s energy into the thing for which he feels destiny has called him.
May I – now, this is copied word for word from Spurgeon to show you that the certainty of a thing does not hinder a man from striving after it, but rather quickens him:
I will give you an anecdote of myself: it happened to me when I was but a child of some ten years of age, or less. Mr. Richard Knill, of happy and glorious memory, an earnest worker for Christ, felt moved, I know not why, to take me on his knee, at my grandfather’s house, and to utter words like these, which were treasured by the family, and by myself especially, "This child," said he, "will preach the gospel, and he will preach it to the largest congregations of our times." I believed his prophecy, and my standing here today is partly occasioned by such belief. It did not hinder me in my diligence in seeking to educate myself because I believed I was destined to preach to large congregations; not at all, but the prophecy helped forward its own fulfillment; and I prayed, and sought, and strove, always having the Star of Bethlehem before me, that the day should come when I should preach the gospel.
["The Perseverance of the Saints," by C.H. Spurgeon, sermon delivered May 23, 1869]
These things are written for our encouragement: "Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ" [Philippians 1:6]. To God’s fainting children who live in this world of woe and who travel in this veil of fear, God says, "My brother, heaven is just over the way. The great, glorious reward of God is treasured up for you" [1 Peter 1:13].
"In the world, you may have tribulation. Be of good cheer, our Christ hath won a victory for us that can never be taken away" [from John 16:33]. It is our assured possession as though I held it in my hand right now [1 Peter 1:4]. He’s there. He’s there. Our Head is there. Our Master and Savior is there, and He hath secured our eternal salvation for us and it can never be taken away. That’s the gospel that Paul preached: "Confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it unto the day of Jesus Christ" [Philippians 1:6].
He doesn’t say here, "Oh, you blessed Philippians, I can look at you, and I can tell by your goodness and by your earnestness and by your dedication that you’re going to be saved in that great and final day of the Lord." No, sir. He doesn’t say it. But he says to the Philippians, "I’m confident of this, that God who’s begun that good work in you, that God will perform it unto the day of Jesus Christ" [Philippians 1:6]. That’s the gospel of the apostle Paul. It’s no rickety gospel that can’t bear up a man’s weight. It’s no chariot whose axles snap off and whose wheels fall away. This gospel of Paul is no foundation of sand, and when a man builds his house on it, the first great storm ruins his hope of heaven and casts him down [Matthew 7:26-27]. No, sir. This gospel of the apostle Paul is one upon which a man can take his stand [Matthew 7:24-25]. He can build his life. He can look up and be glad. He can look forward and there is certain victory. It’s an everlasting salvation.
"For God so loved us," His sheep, "that He gave His Son to die for us," His sheep, "that whosoever believeth in Him," His sheep, "should never perish," His sheep, "but have everlasting life" [John 3:16]. The gift of God to His people: the perseverance of the saints. We shall be there. "Confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ" [Philippians 1:6]. Blessed hope, precious comfort, incomparable encouragement. My brother, good cheer! Bon voyage! Bless your heart. We’ll make it on the other side. Surely as God lives, surely as Christ reigns, "I’ll meet you in the morning by the bright rivers bank" [From "I’ll Meet You in the Morning," by Albert E. Brumley, 1936].
While we sing this song tonight, as the Spirit of Jesus shall make appeal to your heart, somebody you, put your trust in Him and stand by me. "Preacher, tonight, the best I know how, I yield the destiny of my life and soul to Christ – Lord, Savior, King forever – and here I am." Would you come? Somebody to put his life here in the church, a family of you, or one somebody, as the Spirit shall make the appeal, as He shall woo, as He shall draw while we sing this song, would you come and stand by me, while all of us stand and sing together?
THE PERSEVERANCE OF THE SAINTS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. The appalling dangers which attend the Christian life
1. Like the physical life and bacteria, disease, so our spiritual lives are lived in the midst of enemies and dangers, in the very jaws of death
2. Life of a Christian is one endless series of miracles
II. The encouragement of the text
A. It is the work of God
1. A work of grace
2. A good work
3. Begun by God – a dead man cannot resurrect himself
4. He will perform it – confident He will finish what He began
B. When is it to be consummated?
1. The day of Jesus Christ – our great hope yet to come
2. Scriptures do not look upon a man as being perfected if just his soul is perfected – the whole man is to be saved
III. Scriptural support for the perseverance of the saints
A. Old Testament(Psalm 125:1-2, Isaiah 54:10-11, 17-19)
B. New Testament(John 10:27-30, 1 Peter 1:3-5)
C. Great doctrines of the Bible sustain the revelation of the perseverance of the children of God
1. The atonement of Christ – in Christ all our sins are washed away
2. The justification of Christ (Romans 8:33)
3. The intercession of Christ (Hebrews 7:25)
4. The body of Christ
5. The inner life of the Christian(1 Peter 1:23, John 4:14, 19, 6:47-51)
A. Critics say if we are going to be saved anyway, let each turn to his own merit and chosen way
1. The funny thing is, the old life doesn’t make you happy anymore – you are changed inside
B. The effect on the human soul
1. If an athlete feels he is destined to win, does he not try as hard?
2. Napoleon believed himself a child of destiny
3. Spurgeon spoke of believing the prophecy he was to preach
C. These things written for our encouragement(John 3:16, 16:33)