In continuing consideration of the fact of an everlasting covenant of grace, it is now time to review and then consider a new element of the everlasting covenant of grace that has existed since before creation. It has ALWAYS been God's purpose to redeem a people for Himself, regardless of the day-to-day affairs of men, and particular "deals" (my word) or other lesser covenants He made with particular individuals in a matrix of man's subsequent broken promises. Understand that man is a covenant breaker, but that God is a covenant keeper. God is the initiator in any covenental relationship.
To quickly summarize the points in the previous 2 blogs, I want to focus on Grace (comprehending the background of redemption - redemption being based on nothing but God's grace.) To the left is a general consideration of the historic condition of grace, the primary recipient at the time is in brackets with its significance/explanation)
The element that I want to introduce is one that in over 40 years of church attendance I have heard preached on less than the fingers of one hand. It is an element that Armenians - with their "works-based" (or man-centred) salvation - fear to contemplate lest they stumble over it (as it would tend to refute their idea of possible loss of salvation), and Reformed types are less than enthusiastic about because taken to its possible conclusion could lead to an extreme practice of hyper-Calvinism - the position that we might as well all go home and watch the ball game, because "what we do doesn't matter - salvation is of the Lord."
Of extreme importance is to note that one’s adherence to Armenian theology does not necessarily exclude them from the kingdom of God, nor that an embrace of so-called Calvinistic theology necessarily renders one included in the kingdom of God. YOU MUST BE BORN AGAIN (John 3:3) I tend to agree with C.H. Spurgeon, who once said:
Also of extreme importance is to appreciate that one is not saved by a proper understanding of grace, election, Divine sovereignty, or the extent of the atonement. These issues are important, but they are not the core of the Gospel; rather they indirectly relate to the Gospel (as do many other Biblical teachings), but are not the primary essence of it. The puritan, John Bradford, stated: "Let a man go to the grammar school of faith and repentance, before he goes to the university of election and predestination." In the same way that it is wrong to detract from the Gospel message, so it is wrong to add to the Gospel message one’s particular theology. This is not to deny that what I am discussing in these blogs are not important matters; but simply to point out that the minute one makes mandatory for salvation a correct understanding of grace, election, effectual calling, or the extent of the atonement (regardless of how true they might be), they are guilty of adding to the Gospel. This is usually the error of young, zealous Calvinists (although not always), but to use the words of James, "My brethren, these things ought not to be this way" (James 3:10). One’s heart may be right, while one’s head may be wrong!
We give our hand to every man that loves the Lord Jesus Christ, be he what he may or who he may. The doctrine of election, like the great act of election itself, is intended to divide, not between Israel and Israel, but between Israel and the Egyptians – not between saint and saint, but between saints and the children of the world. A man may be evidently of God’s chosen family, and yet though elected, may not believe in the doctrine of election. I hold there are many savingly called, who do not believe in effectual calling, and that there are a great many who persevere to the end, who do not believe the doctrine of final perseverance. We do hope that the hearts of many are a great deal better than their heads. We do not set their fallacies down to any willful opposition to the truth as it is in Jesus, but simply to an error in their judgments, which we pray God to correct. We hope that if they think us mistaken too, they will reciprocate the same Christian courtesy; and when we meet around the cross, we hope that we shall ever feel that we are one in Christ Jesus (New Park Street Pulpit [London: Passmore & Alabaster, Vol.6] p.303).
To reiterate and emphasize, Scripture alone is the final standard of authority for doctrine and practice. God has spread His truth throughout various theological traditions (Baptist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Reformed, etc.) so that we might not put our singular trust in men or institutions, but in the testimony of God’s Word. Let us not make a "pope" out of Calvin, Luther, Penhearow, McManus, Carson, Billson, Yogrynch (well, maybe Yogrynch is okay...) or any other mere mortal - be they Pastor, Elder or Deacon, Evangelist or Television Personality, Author or Blogger! (Jeremiah 17:5) Though God does choose to reveal Himself to nations/peoples/congegations He primarily directs Himself to individuals (Matthew 16:15) and reveals Himself to individuals (Matthew 16:17.)
The element revealed
What is this mysterious element? The book of life. Sometimes referred to as the Lamb's book of life, heaven's book, the book of remembrance or simply the book, or referred to as one's being enrolled in heaven.
The difficulty in understanding the significance of the existence of this "book" is the correlation it has with the elect. In most passages it is used in the negative sense, that is "the damned are not in it" kind of sense, rather than the "redeemed are in it" kind of sense.
It is most talked about in Revelation, the "end" (my word) book of Scripture.
Let's begin with Revelation 20:12 - 15 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
Next we look at Revelation 13:8 and all who dwell on earth will worship it (yogrynch note - "it" refers to the beast, not a good thing!), everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb that was slain.
Consider next Revelation 21:27 But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
From these passages alone we can glean a few things.
1. There is a book, an important book containing some names.
2. Significantly for the concept of an everlasting covenant of grace/redemption it was written "before the foundation of the world."
3. It is connected to "the Lamb", ie Jesus Christ.
4. It is bad not to be written in it.
5. It is good to be written in it.
Next we should consider other verses concerning the book written for our benefit and assurance.
Malachi 3:16-17 Then those who feared the LORD spoke with one another. The LORD paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the LORD and esteemed his name. 17 “They shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him.
Wow. Grace, magnificent grace! Blessed assurance, Jesus is MINE and I am HIS! Marvelous Grace! Wondrous Grace! Oh what a foretaste of Glory Divine!
Psalm 107:2a Let the redeemed of the LORD say so,
Romans 15:4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
In Christ we have incredible hope! By His grace we can endure the many trials that daily confront us. There may be many uncertainties in this life - salvation of the redeemed is not one of them! How do you glory in the Grace that has been shown to you since before the creation? How should you?