This past week I had the opportunity to attend the Sovereign Grace Pastor's Conference at Faith Mission Camp here in Ontario. I was not able to be there as much as I would have liked because of things to do at the seminary but what I did get a chance to enjoy was excellent. I heard from others in attendance that all the speakers were excellent. The main speaker this year was Dr. Tom Schreiner from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He spoke to us about assurance and perseverance and demonstrated from the Bible the various facets of these important doctrines. So often in evangelical circles the battle lines are formed around those who believe that believers cannot lose their salvation and those who think otherwise. Dr. Schreiner showed that while believers are secure yet they must persevere to the end if they are to be saved. Particularly helpful is the way he handled the many warning passages in the NT. While debate often clusters around verses in Hebrews 6 and 10, these passages are not anomalous. They are part of a major theme that runs all the way through the NT. The warnings are directed toward Christian believers and are means that God has graciously given to keep us in the way of faith and salvation.
His exposition of these themes reminded me how important it is to build our systematic theology on the foundation of biblical theology. In the past there has been a tendency in systematics to cut up the Scriptures into neat categories that sometimes run roughshod over actual texts of Scripture in their biblical contexts. When this happens verses are forced to say things they do not mean so they will fit into a system, instead of allowing them to inform our systems and if necessary make the adjustments the text requires. In my mind there is a need to read the Bible more holistically before we try and sort out the more precise particulars. Expositional preaching is basic to the life the of church, but preachers who will really benefit their flocks will be those who understand and never lose sight of the bigger picture. This is the only way that people will be taught to read and study the Bible for themselves. It is no good to wow the folks with our stunning expositions if they do not see how we are assembling the biblical data so they are able to do the same thing in their own study of the word when we are not around. The priesthood of all believers and the need to make disciples of all the nations require that we show people what we are doing when we cut a straight path in the Scriptures. Anything less is mere rhetorical showboating and contributes to biblical ignorance and illiteracy.
If you are interested in reading more about perseverance and assurance, Tom Schreiner and Ardel Caneday have written an excellent and challenging book on the subject entitled: "The Race Set Before Us." I commend it to you.