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Monergist Father: Augustine of Hippo (5)


Augustine on preserving grace (perseverance of the saints):

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Augustine unquestionably maintained that God sustains every believer and ultimately brings them safely into glory. He preserves those who receive His saving grace so that they persevere to the very end. No believer will ever fall away from the faith but will endure. Augustine writes, “The grace of God, which both begins a man’s faith and which enables it to persevere unto the end, is not given according to our merits, but is given according to His own most secret and at the same time most righteous, wise, and benevolent will.” He adds, “He makes us to live, He makes us to persevere even unto the end, in order that for everlasting we may live.”

. . .

If perseverance were in the ability of man, Augustine argued, men would have reason to glory in their strength. But this is not the case. He says: “Clearly, then, even in the matter of perseverance in good, God did not want His saints to take pride in their own strength, but in Him; for He not only gives them an aid of the kind given to the first man, without which they are not able to persevere, if they will; but He also effects in them the will itself. The result is that, since there is no perseverance without the power and the will to persevere, both the possibility and the will to persevere are given them by the bounty of divine grace.” . . .

Spiritual endurance, according to Augustine, continues because Jesus Christ intercedes on behalf of His people, asking God that their faith should not fail. He says: “Let us, then, understand the words of Christ: ‘I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail,’ as spoken to him who was built upon a rock. So it is that the man of God who takes pride is to take pride in the Lord, not only because he has obtained mercy, with the result that he has faith, but also because his faith does not fail.” Elsewhere he writes: “Consequently, with Christ interceding for them, that their faith may not fail, it will most certainly not fail ever. It will, then, persevere unto the end, and the end of this life will find it abiding in them.” . . .

Augustine understood that even though a true believer may fall away from the church, it is merely temporary. He writes: “If he was predestinated, he strayed temporarily, he was not lost forever; he returns to hear what he has neglected, to do what he heard. For, if he is of those who have been predestinated, God foreknew both his straying and his future conversion. If he has gone astray, he returns to hear that voice of the Shepherd and to follow Him.” . . .

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On the other hand, Augustine recognized that counterfeit believers who fall away from the church remain in apostasy. He says: “They were not ‘of’ them, because they had not been ‘called according to His purpose,’ they had not been elected ‘in Christ before the foundation of the world,’ they had not ‘obtained their lot’ in Him, they had not been ‘predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things.’ For if they had had been all this, they would have been ‘of’ them, and they would no doubt have remained with them.”

—Steven J. Lawson, Pillars of Grace (Reformation Trust, 2011), 243–244.



Posted 2018·09·12 by David Kjos
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Posted in: Augustine · Perseverance of the Saints · Pillars of Grace · Steve Lawson

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