The Riches of the Reformed Faith: “The Glory of God” Part One

In Isaiah 14:12-15, we read words that are addressed historically to the King of Babylon. In this passage, he is presented as a type or figure of the arch-enemy of our faith, namely, the Devil himself: “How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star (KJV – Lucifer), son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations! You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ But you are brought down to the grave; to the depths of the pit.”

As many of us already know, that sin which brought about Satan’s downfall was his desire to exalt himself and to be like God. This is the very same sin with which he tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden at the very dawn of history.

Interestingly enough, that same sin is at the very heart of the philosophical world-view known as humanism. “Humanism” has been defined by the late Christian philosopher, Dr. Francis Schaeffer, as “the placing of man at the center of all things and making him the measure of all things.” (Christian Manifesto, Schaeffer, Francis A., Crossway Books, Westchester, Illinois, 1981, p.23) While we can by no means equate Arminianism with Humanism, and while we must remember that truly saved, believing Arminians are indeed our brothers and sisters in the Lord, it is true that Arminianism, historically and classically understood, does have a good smattering of “humanism” woven within.

For example, in his summary of Arminianism and classic Calvinism, The Reformed Faith, Dr. Loraine Boettner writes:

According to Arminianism: Salvation is accomplished through the combined efforts of GOD, who takes the initiative, and MAN, who must respond, man’s response being the determining factor. God has provided salvation for everyone, but His provision becomes effective only for those who of their own free will, ‘choose’ to cooperate with Him and accept His offer of grace. At the crucial point, man’s will plays the decisive role; thus MAN, not God, determines who will be the recipients of salvation. According to Calvinism: Salvation is accomplished by the almighty power of the triune God. The Father chose a people, the Son died for them, the Holy Spirit makes Christ’s death effective by bringing the elect to faith and repentance, thereby causing them to willingly obey the Gospel. The entire process (election, redemption, regeneration) is the work of God and is by grace alone. Thus GOD, not man, determines who will be the recipients of the gift of salvation. (The Reformed Faith, Boettner, Loraine, P&R Publishing Co., Phillipsburg, New Jersey, 1983, pg. 28)
If Arminianism is correct in declaring that “Man, not God, determines who will be the recipients of salvation”, is it not then true that man, not God, ultimately deserves all the glory? Ah, but “what saith the Scriptures!?” In Isaiah 42:8 we read, “I am the Lord; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols.” So too, in Romans 11:33-36, Paul writes, “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgments, and His paths beyond tracing out! ‘Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been His counselor?’ ‘Who has ever given to God, that God should repay Him?’ For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever! Amen.” And finally, in the words of Jude 24-25, Jude declares, “To Him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power, and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen. ” You see, that is why the very First Question of the Westminster Larger Catechism asks, “What is the chief and highest end of man? Answer: “Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy Him for ever.”

In other words, in stark and direct contrast to the practical profession and implications of a consistent Arminianism, the Sacred Scriptures teach, and our own Reformed Confessions repeatedly reaffirm, that even in the midst of many false and spiritually deadly and deceptive doctrines, even in the midst of ever increasing cultural decay and moral corruption, all those who have truly been saved by God’s grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone are encouraged and exhorted and under holy obligation to give THE GLORY TO GOD ALONE for at least Two Key Reasons which Jude sets forth in verses 24 and 25. One we look at this month; the other, next month.

Faithfully Preserved

In Jude 24, Jude declares, “To Him who is able (dunamai – i.e., He has the power, He has the ability, He has the strength, He has the wherewithal) to keep you (phulasso) from falling.” (or, stumbling, NAS; ie. from not standing firm). This is the same term used by Luke in Luke 2:8 where we read at the time of the birth of Christ, “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over (phulasso) their flocks at night.” Consequently, in similar fashion, as the Good Shepherd of the sheep, God our heavenly Father, through the Person and power of His Son, Jesus Christ, “keeps watch over” His flock!

Interestingly enough, to the very best of my knowledge, in the original language this term translated as “falling” in Jude 24 is used only here in the entire New Testament. (Greek: aptaistos) It is a term that was used by Greek philosophers in reference to such things as a surefooted horse that does not stumble, a steady falling snow, and also of a good man who does not make moral lapses. And that, says the Sacred Scriptures, is precisely what “the only God our Savior ... through Jesus Christ our Lord” does for us! He sovereignly and graciously “keeps us from falling.”

Ah, but how so? And in what ways? Well, we are given insights into the answer to these sorts of questions by considering the context of this particular doxology of praise recorded in Jude 24-25. For example, in Jude 1 we read, “Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James, To those who have been called, who are loved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ:” – that is, kept not simply in time, but also for all eternity!

This touches on that beloved Reformed doctrine known as the “Preservation” or “Perseverance of the Saints”, one of the powerful and precious “Five Points of Calvinism,” which posits the position that once a person is truly saved they cannot lose their salvation. This is true, not because of how “tightly” we are “holding onto God by faith”, but because of how tightly God is holding onto us by grace! Indeed, as the great English preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon said, “The brightest saints on earth would fall into the lowest hell if God did not keep them from falling.” (Sermons) And that’s true! That is why we rejoice to read that in John 10:27-28 our Lord Jesus Christ declares, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.” (see also Romans 8:35,37-39; Philippians 1:6; and II Timothy 1:12)

It is because of a myriad of texts such as these that in the Canons of Dort we read not only of a positive affirmation of the comforting doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints, but we also read the Rejection of Errors of those (Paragraph 1) “Who teach: That the perseverance of the true believers is not a fruit of election, or a gift of God gained by the death of Christ, but a condition of the new covenant, which (as they declare) man before his decisive election and justification must fulfill through his free will.” (Paragraph 2) “Who teach: That God does indeed provide the believer with sufficient powers to persevere, and is ever ready to preserve these in him if he will do his duty; but that, though all things which are necessary to persevere in faith and which God will use to preserve faith are made use of, even then it ever depends on the pleasure of the will whether it will persevere or not.” (Paragraph 3) “Who teach: That the true believers and regenerate not only can fall from justifying faith and likewise from grace and salvation wholly and to the end, but indeed often do fall from this and are lost forever.” (Paragraph 4) “Who teach: That true believers and regenerate can sin the sin unto death or against the Holy Spirit.” (Paragraph 5) “Who teach: That without a special revelation we can have no certainty of future perseverance in this life.”

And so, as Jude teaches us, our ever faithful God and Father through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ does indeed “keep us from falling” from our salvation. Ah, but notice: according to Jude 4 and 19, our blessed Triune God also “keeps us from falling” finally and fatally into doctrinal error. For in Jude 4 & 19 we read, “For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord … These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.”

Commenting on this particular portion of Scripture, Charles Spurgeon has so insightfully said, “The best taught man, apart from divine guidance, is not incapable of becoming the greatest fool possible. There is a strange weakness which sometimes comes over noble spirits, and which makes them infatuated with an erroneous novelty, though they fancy they have discovered some great truth. Men of enquiring and receptive minds are often decoyed from the old paths - the good old ways; and while they think they are pursuing truth, they are being led into damnable error. He only is kept, as to his thoughts and doctrinal views, whom God keeps, for there are errors that would, if it were possible, deceive even the very elect.” (Sermons)

We would do well to be on our guard and to apply these very insightful words not simply to a whole host of sects, cults, New Age teachings and any number of false religions that are running rampant in our world today, but also to apply them to the damnable error of Mr. Harold Camping of Family Radio who is teaching and has written without qualification “that the churches are under the judgment of God, Satan is now ruling, and that the Holy Spirit has been removed and with Him, the possibility of salvation in the churches.” (The End of the Church Age … And After, Camping, Harold, Family Stations Inc., 2002, p.226) And again Mr. Camping writes, “As this study will show, we are now in that time of history when the church age has come to an end. Consequently, God has commanded each and every believer to leave his local church and continue to serve God as his ambassador outside of the churches and congregations. This is the action required by God for any and all who truly tremble before the Word of God.” (Preface, XV)

Though he lived and ministered over 100 years ago, Spurgeon seems to have been speaking about Harold Camping when he preached, “Blessed are they who are preserved from these wolves in sheep’s clothing ... God grant that the man may be forgiven who thought it to be a worthy purpose of his life to found a sect whose distinguishing characteristic should be that it would have no communion with any other Christians! The mischief that man has done is utterly incalculable, and I can only pray that, in the providence of God, some part of it may die with him.” (Sermons)

Let us not only listen to what Charles Spurgeon has to say on this score, but let us also listen to what the Apostle Paul has to say concerning false teachings and false teachers in Galatians 1:6-9 where Paul declares,

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!

Let us both hear and heed this Holy Spirit inspired exhortation as it comes to us through Jude 24, and let us Give God Alone the Glory due to the fact that concerning the eternal security of our souls, as well as concerning His gracious ability to deliver us from fatal and final doctrinal error, “the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord”, preserves us forever!

Rev. Richard Kuiken is the Senior Pastor of the Reformed Bible Church [URCNA] in Pompton Plains, New Jersey. Tapes of this series are available at www.pprbc.org or by calling the church office at (973) 835-4784.

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