Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him. (James 1:12)
Today our congregational reading brings us to the book of James which is one of the most practical books of the New Testament concerning the life of a Christian. Often in the New Testament there are various tests that are given to prove the genuineness of people that profess to be Christians. These tests distinguish true believers from false professors and help us to determine if our faith meets the standard of saving faith.
One of these standards, and surely a most important one, is the test of perseverance. Is our faith capable of withstanding the many types of temptations that assail us or does it wither and die under those hardships? Unfortunately, there are many in our Baptist ranks that deny the doctrine of perseverance and say it is not scriptural to teach that a person must persevere in order to be saved. They claim that preservation is taught but that God requires nothing from the believer but faith in the sustaining grace of God.
We would certainly agree that preservation is a definite promise for believers. Once we have believed our salvation is safe and secure because the ground of our justification is not our works of righteousness but is based upon the imputed righteousness of Christ. However, we also believe that true faith in Christ is demonstrated by the perseverance of believers. It is hard to escape this doctrine when we read verses such as James 1:12. “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life” is a statement of perseverance. The word endureth is translated from a word that means perseverance and some translations use this word in place of endureth to help clarify the meaning. Jesus said in Matthew 10:22, “…he that endureth to the end shall be saved.” This is the same word used by James which means “to persevere.” It is evident that enduring or persevering is connected to our salvation in both of these verses.
An underlying issue that causes certain Baptists to reject perseverance is their failure to grasp the submission of believers to the Lordship of Christ. Inherent in the belief of the gospel is this submission. However, there are those that teach submission is not a part of salvation, which may come later or may not come at all. These types of believers are labeled as true believers but are not truly disciples. Therefore it is possible to be a believer in Christ but not a disciple. This leaves room for the carnal Christian whose faith may not be demonstrated and therefore he may not persevere in the faith. He lives the life of a defeated Christian, but is a Christian nonetheless. Such misinterpretations of scripture are the basis for fantastic soul winning numbers in which professors have never given any evidence of their belief.
We maintain that lack of perseverance is the demonstration of the lack of saving faith. Though a Christian may sin and may backslide, it is impossible that he could be a true believer if his entire life is characterized by sin as his norm. This is clearly taught by John in 1 John 3:2-10. This also accords with the teachings of Jesus in Matthew 10:32-39. Those that do not meet this persevering standard are not truly born of God.
There are temptations that come upon us daily which are the works of Satan. There are trials that come as well which God allows for refining and perfecting our faith. How a person responds to these is the exposure of his faith. Which do you think is the response of true believers? Is it persevering faith or failing faith?
Pastor V. Mark Smith