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  • CHAPTER - PRAYER FOR PERSEVERING GRACE: OCCASION AND IMPORTUNITY
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    2 THESSALONIANS 1:11-12 IT IS BOTH INTERESTING AND INSTRUCTIVE to compare and collate the different things Paul prayed for on behalf of the several assemblies. For the Roman saints he asked that they might be “like-minded one toward another” and be filled “with all joy and peace in believing” ( Romans 15:5,13). Paul prayed that the Corinthians might “come behind in no gift” and be confirmed unto the end ( 1 Corinthians 1:7-8). Paul prayed that the Ephesians might have the eyes of their understanding opened so that they might apprehend the wonders of God’s great salvation ( Ephesians 1:18-23), and be so strengthened by the Holy Spirit as to experimentally possess their possessions ( Ephesians 3:16-21). The apostle prayed that the love of the Philippians might be regulated by knowledge ( Philippians 1:9-11). He prayed that the Colossians might “walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work” ( Colossians 1:9-12). How rarely these blessings are made the burden of public prayers! There was no petition for justification!

    THE SPIRITUAL STATE OF THE THESSALONIAN SAINTS For the Thessalonian saints the apostle besought their entire sanctification.

    Their spiritual condition was much above the average as is evident from the whole of the opening chapter of the first Epistle, and for them he made an unusual request. They had progressed far in the school of Christ, and the apostle longed that they should attain the highest grade of all. Their case illustrates the principle that those Christians who give the least promise at the outset do not necessarily develop the least favorably, and those who make the best beginning do not always end well. In Acts 17:10-11 we read that those in Berea “were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily.” Yet we are not told of a church being organized there; in fact, no further mention is made of them in the New Testament, whereas two epistles are addressed to the church of the Thessalonians! So also of the churches of Galatia: time was when they “did run well” but they ceased to do so ( Galatians 5:7).

    As to exactly what the apostle prayed for in this particular case there is considerable difference of opinion among the commentators; nor were our translators very sure, as appears from the words in italics. In the case of all regenerate souls God already “hath wrought... [them] for the selfsame thing” ( 2 Corinthians 5:5), i.e, for their “house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” ( 2 Corinthians 5:1). The meritorious and imputed righteousness of Christ has obtained for them an indisputable title to everlasting glory, and the regenerating work of the Spirit in their souls has experimentally fitted and qualified them for the same, as is clear from the case of the dying thief. Therefore, instead of striving to be worthy, or praying to God to make them so, it is their grand privilege and binding duty to be daily “giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light” ( Colossians 1:12), to praise Him for what His grace has effected for and in us. Second, we believers are to diligently and constantly seek enabling grace that we may “walk worthy of the vocation wherewith... [we] are called” ( Ephesians 4:1), that is, our conduct must accord with our high privilege, our daily lives should show that we have been thus marvelously favored. “Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power” ( 2 Thessalonians 1:11).

    The two words in italics have been supplied by the translators, but as is so often the case they serve to obscure rather than elucidate. On this verse Bagster’s Interlinear (which preserves in English the order of the words in the Greek and gives a literal translation) is to be preferred: “For which also we pray always for you, that you may count worthy of the calling of God, and may fulfill every good pleasure of goodness and work of faith with power.” Not only is that far truer to the original but it is much sounder doctrine besides being more intelligible. It should also be pointed out that “may count worthy” is a single word in the Greek, and is not a forensic one, being quite different from the one rendered “counted” (i.e., legally accounted) in Romans 4:3-4 and “imputed” in Romans 4:8,11. The Greek word in our text is axioo and is found again in Luke 7:7; Timothy 5:17; Hebrews 3:3 and 10:29 where in each place it has the force of “deemed” or “esteemed.”

    Now whenever a verse presents any difficulty our initial concern should be to carefully ponder its context. That is particularly incumbent upon us here, for our verse opens with the word wherefore. Let us then consider the occasion of this prayer, for that will throw light upon its meaning. In Thessalonians 1:4, the key to all that follows to the end of the chapter, the apostle declares, “So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure” or “are bearing.” They were being hotly assailed by the enemy and were passing through a great “fight of afflictions.” So nobly had they conducted themselves that Paul held them up as a pattern to other assemblies. And now he seeks to comfort and strengthen them, first, by pointing out the present advantage of their severe trials. Their fortitude and faith supplied “a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God,” that they might be counted worthy of the kingdom of God for which they had suffered ( 2 Thessalonians 1:5).

    JUDGING RIGHTEOUS JUDGMENT The Greek word for “manifest token” occurs again only in Corinthians 8:24: “the proof of your love.” The word for “righteous judgment” in 2 Thessalonians 1:5 of our chapter is the same as in “Judge not according to appearance, but judge righteous judgment” ( John 7:24): that is, “Do not determine your estimate of others on superficial and surface grounds, but let your decision or evaluation be fair, impartial, adequate, and equitable.” Thus, taking 2 Thessalonians 1:4 and together, the meaning of the latter should be obvious. By their becoming conduct in the furnace of affliction the Thessalonians had clearly attested themselves to be among the effectually called. Their “patience and faith” as surely evidenced their regeneration as did the bounty of the Corinthians give proof of their love. Consequently, their bringing forth that fruit in such an unfavorable season was proof of the just verdict of God in accounting them worthy of His kingdom for which they suffered. In other words, Wisdom was justified of her children: their deportment made it evident that they bore the image of God. “That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven” ( Matthew 5:45) signifies that believers may manifest themselves as such by doing what is enjoined in verse 44.

    Next, the apostle assured the Thessalonians that God in His righteousness would both deal with those who troubled them and exonerate His people at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven ( 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10).

    Their Redeemer Himself would take vengeance on those who knew not God and obeyed not the gospel of His Son; whereas He would be “glorified in his saints, and... admired in all them that believe.” Here then was solid consolation for them. In due time their persecutors would be punished, while they would be richly rewarded and fully vindicated. Here we are shown one of the many practical advantages of the “blessed hope” of our Lord’s return. That glorious event should not be made the subject of acrimonious controversy, but it should be a means of comfort ( Thessalonians 4:18) and an incentive to piety ( 1 John 3:2-3). The second coming of the Lord and the glorification of His entire Church at that time should be constantly viewed by the redeemed with the eyes of faith, of hope, and of love. The more it is so viewed, the greater will be its holy influence upon their character and conduct; especially will it enable them amid tribulation to rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him. “Wherefore [for which] also we pray always for you.” The correctness of our analysis of the context is here borne out by the word also. Paul is saying, “In addition to the grounds of consolation set forth by me as pertinent to your suffering [to which the opening ‘for which’ looks back], I would assure you that I make your case the subject of earnest prayer.” (The “always” means “frequently.”) And for what would we here expect the apostle to make request? That the Thessalonians might be delivered from their persecutions and tribulations? No indeed. That would be a natural or carnal desire, not a spiritual one. Paul had previously informed them that God’s people “are appointed thereunto” ( 1 Thessalonians 3:3), that they “must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” ( Acts 14:22). The members of Christ’s mystical Body are first conformed to their Head before they are “glorified together” ( Romans 8:17). Their prayers must be regulated by the revealed will of God ( John 5:14) and not by the promptings of mere flesh and blood which are generally contrary thereto.

    THE PETITIONS OF PAUL’S PRAYER Let us consider, second, the petitions of this prayer, using the more accurate rendering of the Interlinear: “that you may count worthy of the calling our God.” Three things require elucidation: What is here signified by “the calling”? What is meant by “that you may count worthy of” the same? Why did Paul make such a request for them? In Ephesians 1:18 the apostle prayed that those saints might know “the hope of his calling.”

    In 2 Peter 1:10 all Christians are exhorted, “Make your calling and election sure.” It is one and the same “calling” of which God is the Author and we are the subjects. It is our call to Christianity. The same Greek word is rendered “walk worthy of your vocation or occupation” ( Ephesians 4:1). The artist’s vocation is to paint pictures, the wife’s vocation is to look after her home, the Christian’s vocation is to serve, please, and glorify Christ. He is to make holiness his trade; his business is to “shew forth the virtues of him who hath called... [him] out of darkness into his marvellous light” ( 1 Peter 2:9) and thereby “adorn the doctrine” which he professes.

    The Christian’s calling is described by a double attribute: “who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling” ( 2 Timothy 1:9); “wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling” ( Hebrews 3:1).

    The former relates to the way, the other to the end. Therefore it is said that God has “called us to glory and virtue” ( 2 Peter 1:3), meaning by “glory” our eternal inheritance, and by “virtue” grace and holiness. The latter is the way and means by which we arrive at the former. Both are to be viewed first as they are represented in the gospel offer: “God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness” ( 1 Thessalonians 4:7).

    Our daily work is to make holiness the business of our lives. God has also “called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus” ( 1 Peter 5:10).

    So far from suffering loss by accepting the gospel offer, we become incomparably the gainers. Second, our calling is to be considered as it is impressed upon us by the mighty operation of the Spirit. It is by His power that we truly respond to the gospel and are effectually called from death to life.

    THE CHRISTIAN’S LIFE A VOCATION This designating the Christian’s life a calling or vocation denotes work for him to do, duties to be performed. It is not a life of daydreaming and emotional rapture, but rather the carrying out of tasks which are neither easy nor pleasant to the natural man, though pertaining to and delightful for the spiritual nature — such as the mortifying of his lusts and the cultivation of practical godliness. The Christian life is also represented as a race which has to be run, demanding putting forth all our energies. This life is likened to a long journey which is both arduous and dangerous for it lies through the enemy’s territory ( 1 John 5:19) and therefore is beset with many perils. Severe trials have to be endured, temptations resisted, powerful foes overcome, or we shall be overcome by them and perish in the conflict. The Christian career, then, is a persevering in grace, a holding on his way along the highway of holiness, which alone leads to heaven.

    Much grace then is needed by the Christian that, “having put his hand to the plow,” he does not look back and become unfit for the kingdom of God ( Luke 9:62); that, having enlisted under the banner of Christ, he does not yield to temptation and become a deserter because of the fierce opposition he meets from those who hate him and would bring about his utter ruin. This brings us to our second question — a harder one to answer. What is meant by “that you may count worthy of the calling our God”? All the prayers of the apostle may be summarized as requests for supplies of grace but, more specifically, for some particular grace suited to the case and circumstances of each company for whom he petitioned.

    Bearing in mind that these Thessalonians were enduring a great fight of afflictions, it is evident that the principal blessing Paul would seek on their behalf would be the grace of perseverance, that they might hold out steadfast under all their “persecutions and tribulations” and endure to the end of the conflict.

    THE THESSALONIANS EXHORTED TO PERSEVERANCE AND HOLINESS Paul had recently sent Timothy to establish and comfort them, “that no man should be moved by these afflictions” ( 1 Thessalonians 3:3). In his former prayer he requested that they should be “preserved blameless” ( 1 Thessalonians 5:23), and here he intimates how this was to be accomplished. These Thessalonian Christians had begun well, for which he thanked God ( 2 Thessalonians 1:3), and now he makes supplication that they may end well, particularly in view of what they were suffering at the hands of their opponents. Calvin (in his Institutes ) refers to this as a prayer for “the grace of perseverance.” That it was their perseverance in faith and holiness which the apostle here had in view is definitely confirmed by each succeeding clause of this prayer, as we hope to make clear in our exposition of them. “That you may count worthy of the calling our God.” There is no idea whatever here of anything entitled to reward. It is not the worthiness of condignity but of congruity: that is, it is something which evidence meetness, and not that which is meritorious. As patience under suffering makes it manifest there has been wrought in us that which qualifies or fits us for the glory which is to be revealed. The Greek word for “may count worthy” is rendered “desire” in Acts 28:22: “We desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest”: that is, “We deem it right or meet to give thee a fair hearing.” The negative form of the word occurs in “But Paul thought not good to take him with them” ( Acts 15:38). We have referred to these passages to enable the reader to form his own judgment of what is admittedly a difficult word. In 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12 the apostle had said, “Ye know how we... charged every one of you, as a father doth his children, that ye would walk worthy of God [suitably, becomingly], who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory.” And here in our text Paul prays that they would be moved to do so by highly esteeming their calling and acting accordingly.

    The apostle was making request for God’s work of grace to be continued and completed in their souls, particularly that they might be stirred to discharge their responsibilities in connection with the same. The Greek word occurs again, in an intensified form (kataziothentes ) in “they which shall be accounted worthy [adjudged fit] to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead” ( Luke 20:35), which denotes approbation. The same word is found in “Take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all those things that shall come to pass” ( Luke 21:34-36).

    This passage clearly implies some difficulty in realizing this goal and some danger of coming short. As the seed sown, so the harvest: if we “sow to the spirit” then we shall “of the spirit reap life everlasting,” but not otherwise.

    In all of his prayers for the saints Paul sought further supplies of grace on their behalf in order that they might be more fully furnished and stirred up to the performing of their duty. God has called His people to a life of holiness, requiring them to be so “in all manner of conversation” ( Peter 1:15). At regeneration He imparts to them a holy nature, or principle, and then bids them, “Now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness” ( Romans 6:19).

    Yet that holy nature or principle is but an instrument, therefore far from being a self-sufficient entity. Like all other instruments it is dependent upon God for its life, development, and motions. But its possessor, like all other rational creatures, is endowed with the instinct of self-preservation and therefore is responsible to use all suitable means and measures for its wellbeing.

    Nevertheless that responsibility can only be effectually discharged by divine enablement. Therefore it is both our duty and privilege to seek from God all needed grace and trustfully count upon His goodness to supply the same. The particular grace needed will be determined by our varying cases and circumstances.

    THE THESSALONIANS ESTABLISHED AND COMFORTED The Thessalonians were being sorely oppressed by their enemies: so much so that Paul had sent Timothy to establish and comfort them concerning their faith and to urge, “No man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto” ( 1 Thessalonians 3:3).

    Note well that holy balance: though God had ordained those trials, their spiritual father did not conclude there was no reason for him to be concerned with the outcome; rather he dealt with them as moral and accountable agents. Though they had exercised much patience and faith in all their “persecutions and tribulations” ( 1 Thessalonians 3:4), the apostle was mindful of their frailty and the very real danger of their wavering and backsliding. Therefore he prayed much that persevering grace might be granted them; that they might walk worthy of their calling and hew steadfastly to the line of God’s revealed will, thereby glorifying their Master. Such supplication on their behalf was intensified as Paul eyed the day of punishment and reward ( 2 Thessalonians 1:6-9).

    If any readers experience a difficulty in our statement that the apostle here prayed for persevering grace to be granted those sorely tried saints, seeing that the eternal security of all Christians is infallibly guaranteed by the divine promises, it is because of their one-sided and defective views of the subject. That difficulty is a fancied rather than a real one. Before proceeding further let us point out that by “persevering grace” we mean divine quickening, strengthening, empowering, to enable the Christian to hold on his course and run the race which is set before him. Thus, in seeking from God food for the soul, deliverance from temptation, the help of His Spirit to mortify our lusts, we are really asking Him for grace to enable us to persevere in faith and holiness.

    LACK OF SCRIPTURAL BALANCE There has been a deplorable lack of scriptural balance in the presentation of this subject. Calvinists have thrown their emphasis almost entirely upon God’s preservation of His people, whereas Arminians have insisted only upon the necessity for their persevering. Since the great majority of our readers have been influenced far more by the former than the latter, let us point out first that God’s Word teaches both. While it must be the power of God alone which preserves the saints from apostasy (total and final), and not in any degree their own grace, wisdom, strength, or faithfulness, yet we must not fail to press the fact that Christians are responsible to keep themselves: that is, to avoid and resist temptations, abstain from everything injurious, and make diligent use of all those means which God has appointed for their well-being. The Christian is exhorted to “keep himself unspotted from the world” ( James 1:27). We are bidden, “Keep yourselves from idols” ( 1 John 5:21), “Abstain from all appearance of evil” ( 1 Thessalonians 5:22), and “Keep yourselves in the love of God” (Jude 21). It is criminal for preachers to ignore such passages as these.

    DIVINE GRACE AND HUMAN RESPONSIBILITY God’s Word enjoins the saints to preserve themselves, and the Holy Spirit affirms that they actually do so. He moved David to aver, “By the word of thy lips I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer” ( Psalm 17:4), “I kept myself from mine iniquity” ( Psalm 18:23), “I have refrained my feet from every evil way” ( <19B9101>Psalm 119:101).

    Those were not the boastings of self-righteousness, but rather testimonies to the sufficiency of God’s enabling grace. The Apostle Paul, jealous as he ever was of the glory of God, after exhorting the saints, “So run that ye may obtain” (the “incorruptible crown”), and pointing out that the mastery over physical lusts calls for being “temperate in all things,” affirmed, “I therefore run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: but I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway” ( 1 Corinthians 9:26-27).

    Another wrote, “He that is begotten of God keepeth himself” ( 1 John 5:18).

    Someone may raise the objection, Does not God attribute too much to the creature, and divide the honors by ascribing the work of preservation partly to God and partly to ourselves? Our first answer is, God’s Word is to be received with childlike simplicity, and not quibbled over: received as a whole and not merely those parts which appeal to us or accord with our own views. We have not set forth our personal ideas in the last two paragraphs, but have quoted the Scriptures — verses which, alas, have no place whatsoever in the preaching of most Calvinists today. If the reader is unable to fit those verses into his doctrinal system, it is evident there is something wrong with his system. But our second answer is an emphatic denial of such an imputation. For our use of the means God has appointed, our greatest diligence and efforts will all be unavailing unless God blesses the same. Yes, our utmost watchfulness and industry would avail us nothing whatever if God left us to ourselves.

    Our own wisdom and strength, even as Christians, are altogether inadequate for the task assigned to us, and unless the Holy Spirit energized us and afforded success to our efforts our case would be like Gehazi’s, who laid his staff upon the dead child ( 2 Kings 4:31), but there was no quickening until his master came and acted! Though Christians do indeed keep themselves (and to deny that is to repudiate the passages quoted above), nevertheless, it is wholly from and by the power of God, so that they freely acknowledge, “By the grace of God I am what I am” ( Corinthians 15:10). Yet, observe that the apostle added, “And his grace... was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all.” Nevertheless he disavowed all credit for the same: “Yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” He said again, “I also labor, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily” ( Colossians 1:29).

    Grace is given us to make use of, yet grace is required to use it.

    We must therefore press upon another class of professing Christians that we are entirely dependent upon God. We can only work out our own salvation with fear and trembling as He works in us “both to will and to do of His good pleasure” ( Philippians 2:12-13). The ax cannot cut unless it is wielded. Keeping ourselves from evil and destruction is not a distinct and separate work from God’s preserving us, but a subordinate though a concurrent one. It is not as though He were one partial cause and we another — as when two persons unite in lifting one burden. Our keeping is from Him, by Him, and under Him, as the little child writes as the hand of his teacher guides his. Therefore there is no ground for boasting, no occasion for self-gratulation. All the praise belongs alone to our Enabler.

    Thus, while the responsibility of the Christian is duly enforced and his accountability preserved, yet the glory of our preservation belongs entirely to God.

    THE POWER OF GOD NECESSARY As the miraculous power of God is absolutely necessary to the beginning of a work in any one’s soul, so it is equally necessary for its continuance and progress. Unless God renewed the Christian daily he would perish eternally. Only its Giver “holdeth our soul in life” ( Psalm 66:9). God preserves His people by breathing into them holy thoughts and quickening meditations which keep them in His fear and love; by stirring up His grace in us so that we are moved to holy action; by drawing us so that we run after Him; by inclining our hearts to love His law and walk in its statutes.

    God preserves us by giving us a spirit of prayer so that we are moved to seek fresh supplies of strength from Him; by restraining us from sin and delivering out of temptations; by working in us godly sorrow and causing us to penitently confess our sins; by His consolation when we are cast down, which puts new heart into us; by granting us foretastes of the glory awaiting us so that the joy of the Lord energizes us ( Nehemiah 8:10).

    If unfallen Adam was incapable of keeping himself, it is certain that we cannot do so independently of God. Indwelling sin is too potent, Satan too powerful to overcome in our own strength. Our falls demonstrate the need of God’s preserving us. Nevertheless, Adam was responsible for keeping himself, and was fully condemned because he did not do so. Likewise, believers are responsible to avoid every path which leads to death, and to steadfastly tread to the very end that narrow way which alone leads to life.

    As a rational creature is morally responsible to shun known danger, to abstain from poisons, and to eat nourishing food for the sustaining of his body, so a spiritual creature is responsible to do likewise concerning his soul. If he is to guard against the spirit of self-confidence and selfsufficiency, he is also to beware of acting presumptuously. When the devil tempted Christ to cast Himself down from the pinnacle of the temple, assuring Him that the angels would preserve Him, He immediately denounced such recklessness with “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.”

    MEANS AND ENDS We must never divorce the precept from the promise nor what God requires from us from what He has purposed for us. God has inseparably connected means and ends, and woe be unto us if we put them asunder.

    The same God who has predestinated that a certain end shall be accomplished, has also predestinated that it shall be accomplished via the employment of certain means. Thus His people are told, “God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through [1] sanctification of the Spirit and [2] belief of the truth” ( 2 Thessalonians 2:13). Our “sanctification of the Spirit” is by His own operation, but “belief of the truth” is the act required of us, and we are not saved, nor will we ever be, till we perform it. Likewise we are told that the saints “are kept by the power of God,” yet not to the setting aside of their concurrence, for immediately following are the words “through faith” ( 1 Peter 1:5). The duty of keeping his faith healthy and vigorous devolves upon the Christian — seeking from God its strengthening, feeding upon suitable food. The duty of exercising that faith rests upon the Christian also: “Be sober, be vigilant;... resist [the ‘roaring lion’ who seeks to ‘devour’] stedfast in the faith” ( 1 Peter 5:8-9).

    Christ stated, “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed” ( John 8:31). “My sheep hear [heed, obey] my voice,... and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they [those who plainly evidence themselves to be of His ‘sheep’ by yielding to His authority and following the example which He has left them — and no others] shall never perish” ( John 10:27-28).

    It is not honest to generalize the promise of verse 28: it must be restricted to the characters described in verse 27. The apostle guarded and qualified his statement in Colossians 1:22 with the succeeding verse: “If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel.”

    That prince of theologians among the Puritans, John Owen, preserved a holy balance of the truth. Said he, when exposing the sophistries of one who opposed the certainty of God’s preservation of His people to eternal glory on the ground that it encouraged loose living: “Doth this doctrine promise, with height of assurance, that under what vile practices so ever men do live, they shall have exemption from eternal punishment? Doth it teach men that it is vain to use the means of mortification because they shall certainly attain the end whether they use the means or no? Doth it speak peace to the flesh, in assurance of blessed immortality, though it disport itself in all folly in the meantime?... The perseverance of the saints is not held out in the Scriptures on any such ridiculous terms, carry themselves well, or wickedly miscarry themselves, but is asserted upon the account of God’s effectual grace preserving them in the use of the means and from all such miscarriages.”

    On Hebrews 3:14 Owen said, “Persistency in our subsistence in Christ unto the end is a matter of great endeavor and diligence, and that unto all believers. This is plainly included in the expression here used by the apostle: ‘If we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end.’ The words denote our utmost endeavor to hold it fast and keep it firm.

    Shaken it will be, opposed it will be, kept it will not, it cannot be, without our utmost and diligent endeavor. It is true, persistency in Christ doth not, as to the issue and event, depend absolutely on our diligence. The unalterableness of our union unto Christ, on the account of the faithfulness of the covenant of grace, is that which doth, and shall eventually secure. But yet our own diligent endeavor is such an indispensable means for that end, as without it, it will not be brought about.”

    PRAY FOR PERSEVERING GRACE It may be thought that we have wandered far from the subject of our opening paragraphs. But have we? Our endeavor has been to demonstrate the very real need there is to pray for persevering grace, both for ourselves and for our brethren. Some ask, Why should we, since God has solemnly promised the eternal security of all His people?

    First , because our great High Priest has taught us (by His example) to do so: “Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil” ( John 17:11,15).

    Second , as an acknowledgment of our dependency and a confession of our helplessness. Third, as our concurring with God’s revealed will, seeking grace to use the appointed means. We place a very large question mark after the Christian profession of any man who is unconscious of his frailty and who deems such a prayer as “Leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation” ( Psalm 27:9) as unsuited to his case. The present writer frequently cries, “Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe” ( <19B9117> Psalm 119:117), knowing that the converse would be “Leave me to myself, and I shall assuredly perish.”

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