THE NECESSITY OF PERSEVERANCE or “THE RIGHTEOUS SHALL HOLD ON HIS WAY” (Job 17:9)
“The man who is righteous before God has a way of his own. It is not the way of the flesh, nor the way of the world; it is a way marked out for him by the Divine command, in which he walks by faith. It is the king’s Highway of Holiness, the unclean shall not pass over it: only the ransomed of the Lord shall walk there, and these shall find it a path of separation from the world. Once entered upon the way of life, the pilgrim MUST persevere in it or perish, for thus saith the Lord ‘If any man draw back, My soul shall have no pleasure in him.’ [Heb 10:38]
Perseverance in the path of faith and holiness is a NECESSITY of the Christian, for only ‘he that endureth to the end shall be saved.’ It is in vain to spring up quickly like the seed that was sown on the rock, and then by-and-by to wither when the sun is up; that would but prove that such a plant has no root in itself, but ‘the trees of the Lord are full of sap’ and they abide and continue and bring forth fruit, even in old age, to show that the Lord is upright. [Psalm 92:12-15]
THERE IS A GREAT DIFFERENCE BETWEEN NOMINAL CHRISTIANITY AND REAL CHRISTIANITY, and this is generally seen in the failure of the one and the CONTINUANCE of the other. Now, the declaration of the text is, that the truly righteous man shall hold on his way: he shall not go back, he shall not leap the hedges and wander to the right hand or the left, he shall not lie down in idleness, neither shall he faint and cease to go upon his journey; but he ‘shall hold on his way.’ It will frequently be very difficult for him to do so, but he will have such resolution, such power of inward grace given him, that he will hold on his way’ with stern determination, as though he held on by his teeth, resolving never to let go. Perhaps he may not always travel with equal speed; it is not said that he shall hold on his pace, but he shall hold on his way.
There are times when we run and are not weary, and other times when we walk and are thankful that we do not faint; ay, and there are periods when we are glad to go on all fours and creep upwards with pain; but still we prove that ‘the righteous shall hold on his way.’ Under all difficulties the face of the man whom God has justified is steadfastly set towards Jerusalem, nor will he turn aside till his eyes shall see the King in His beauty. [Glory to God! M.J.]
This is a great wonder. It is a marvel that any man should be a Christian at all, and a GREATER WONDER THAT HE SHOULD CONTINUE SO. Consider the weakness of the flesh, the strength of inward corruption, the fury of Satanic temptation, the seductions of wealth and the pride of life, the world and its fashion; all these things are against us, and yet behold, “greater is HE who is for us than all those who are against us,” and defying sin, and Satan, and death, and hell, the righteous man holds on his way. [Hallelujah! M.J.]
The Scripture does not teach that a man will reach his journey’s end without continuing to travel along the road; it is not true that one act of faith is all, and that nothing is needed of daily faith, prayer, and watchfulness. Our doctrine is the VERY OPPOSITE, namely, that the righteous shall hold on his way; or, in other words, SHALL CONTINUE IN FAITH, IN REPENTANCE, IN PRAYER, AND UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF THE GRACE OF GOD. We do not believe in salvation by a physical force which treats a man as a dead log, and carries him whether he wishes or not towards heaven. No, “he holds on,” he is PERSONALLY ACTIVE ABOUT THE MATTER, and plods over hill and dale until he reaches his journey’s end.
We never thought, nor even dreamed; that merely because a man supposes that he once entered on this way he may therefore conclude that he is certain of salvation, even if he leaves the way immediately. No, but we say that he who truly receives the Holy Spirit, so that he believes in the Lord Jesus Christ, SHALL NOT GO BACK, BUT PERSEVERE IN THE WAY OF FAITH.
Though the believer to his grief will commit many a sin, yet still the tenor of his life will be holiness to the Lord, and he will hold on in the way of obedience. We detest the doctrine that a man who has once believed in Jesus will be saved even if he altogether forsook the path of obedience. We DENY that such a turning aside is possible for the true believer, and therefore the idea imputed to us is clearly an invention of the adversary.
No, beloved, a man, if he is indeed a believer in Christ, will not live according to the will of the flesh. When he does fall into sin it will be his grief and misery, and he will never rest until he is cleansed from guilt; but I will say this of the believer, that if he could live as he would like to live he would live a perfect life. If you ask him if, after believing, he may live as he wishes, he will reply, “Oh that I could live as I wish, for I desire to live altogether without sin. I would be perfect, even as my Father in heaven is perfect.” The doctrine is not the licentious idea that a believer may live in sin, but that he cannot and will not do so. This is the doctrine, and we will FIRST PROVE IT; and, secondly, in the Puritan sense of the word, we will briefly IMPROVE IT, by drawing two spiritual lessons from it.
LET US PROVE THE DOCTRINE
We believe that God has an elect people whom he has chosen for eternal life, and that truth necessarily involves the perseverance in grace. We believe in special redemption, and this secures the salvation and resulting perseverance of the redeemed. We believe in effectual calling, which is bound up with justification, a justification which ensures glorification. The doctrines of grace are like a chain — IF YOU BELIEVE IN ONE OF THEM YOU MUST BELIEVE THE NEXT, FOR EACH ONE INVOLVES THE REST; THEREFORE I SAY THAT YOU WHO ACCEPT ANY OF THE DOCTRINES OF GRACE MUST RECEIVE THIS ALSO, AS INVOLVED IN THEM. But I am about to try to prove this to those who do not receive the doctrines of grace; I would not argue in a circle, and prove one thing which you doubt by another thing which you doubt, but “to the law and to the testimony,” to the actual words of Scripture we shall refer the matter.
Before we advance to the argument it will be well to remark that those who reject the doctrine frequently tell us that there are many cautions in the word of God against apostatizing, and that those cautions can have no meaning if it is true that the righteous shall hold on his way. But what if those cautions are the means in the hand of God of keeping his people from wandering? What if they are used to instill a holy fear in the minds of his children, and so become the means of preventing the evil which they denounce. I would also remind you that in the epistle to the Hebrews, which contains the most solemn warnings against apostasy, the apostle always takes care to add words which show that he did not believe that those whom he warned would actually apostatize.
In the sixth chapter he has been telling these Hebrews that if those who had been once enlightened should fall away, it would be impossible to renew them again into repentance, and he adds, “But, beloved, we are persuaded of better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we speak like this.” [Heb 6:9] In the tenth chapter he gives an equally earnest warning, declaring that those who should do despite to the spirit of grace are worthy of more severe punishment than those who despised Moses’ law, but he closes the chapter with these words, “Now the just shall live by faith; but if any man draws back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. But we are not of those who draw back to perdition; but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.” [Heb 10:38,39] Hence he shows what the consequences of apostasy would be, but he is convinced that they will not choose to incur such a fearful doom.
Again, objectors sometimes mention examples of apostasy which are mentioned in the word of God, but on looking into them it will be discovered that these are cases of people who only professed to know Christ, but were not really possessors of the divine life. John, in his first Epistle, fully describes these apostates; “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us; but they went out, so that it might be shown that they were not all of us.” [1Jo 2:19] The same is true of that memorable passage in John, where our Saviour speaks of branches of the vine which are cut off and cast into the fire; these are described as branches in Christ that bear no fruit. Are those real Christians? How can they be so if they bear no fruit? “By their fruits you shall know them.” [Mt 7:20] The branch which bears fruit is purged, but it is never cut off. Those which bear no fruit are not examples of true Christians, but they fitly represent mere professors. Our Lord, in Mt 7:22, tells us concerning many who will say in that day “Lord, Lord,” that he will reply, “I never knew you.” Not “I have forgotten you,” but “I never knew you”; they were never really his disciples.
But now we go to the argument itself. First we argue the perseverance of the saints, most distinctly FROM THE NATURE OF THE LIFE WHICH IS IMPARTED AT REGENERATION. What does Peter say concerning this life? He speaks of the people of God as “being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which lives and remains forever.” [1Pe 1:23] The new life which is planted in us when we are born again is not like the fruit of our first birth, for that is subject to mortality, but it is a divine principle, which cannot die nor be corrupt; and, if it is so, then he who possesses it must live forever, must, indeed, be for evermore what the Spirit of God in regeneration has made him. So in the First Epistle of John we have the same thought in another form. “Whoever is born by God does not commit sin; for his seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born by God.” [1Jo 3:9] That is to say, the direction of the Christian’s life is not towards sin. It would not be a fair description of his life that he lives in sin; on the contrary, he fights and contends against sin, because he has an inner principle which cannot sin.
The new life does not sin; it is born by God, and cannot transgress; and though the old nature wars against it, yet the new life so prevails in the Christian that he is kept from living in sin. Our Saviour, in his simple teaching of the gospel to the Samaritan woman, said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water shall thirst again; but whoever drinks from the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” [Joh 4:13,14] Now, if our Saviour taught this to a sinful and ignorant woman, at his first interview with her, I take it that this doctrine is not to be reserved for the inner circle of fully grown saints, but to be preached ordinarily among the common people, and to be held up as a most blessed privilege.
If you receive the grace which Jesus imparts to your souls, it shall be like the good part which Mary chose, it shall not be taken away from you; it shall remain in you, not as the water in a cistern, but as a living fountain springing up into everlasting life.
We all know that the life given in the new birth is intimately connected with faith. Now, faith is in itself a conquering principle. In the First Epistle of John, which is a great treasury of argument we are told, “Whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, except he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” [1Jo 5:4,5] See, then, what is born of God in us, namely, the new life, is a conquering principle; there is no hint given that it can ever be defeated; and faith, which is its outward sign, is also in itself triumphant for evermore.
Therefore by necessity, because God has implanted such a wondrous life in us in bringing us out of darkness into his marvellous light, because He has begotten us again to a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, because the eternal and ever-blessed Spirit has come to dwell in us, we conclude that the divine life within us shall NEVER DIE. “The righteous shall hold on his way.”
[Read the full sermon – http://www.ccel.org/ccel/spurgeon/sermons23.xxxi.html ]