He is able to keep you from falling
Published 8:13 am Saturday, October 4, 2008
This article is the second in a series of articles on “God is able.” Last week’s topic was “God Is Able to Save” and today, “God Is Able to Keep.” Our key Bible verse is “God is able to keep you from falling and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 24).
Some Christian denominations see a doctrine in the Bible called “the perseverance of the saints” or “the eternal security of the believer”. They see this teaching in Romans 8:29-30; John 10:27-29; Hebrews 7:25; Ephesians 1:13-14, 4:30; and other scripture passages. The purpose of this article is not to prove the correctness of such a doctrine. My purpose is to give the Biblical balance between God’s ability on one hand and the shared responsibility on the other in a believer being kept from falling away. Two erroneous and tragic concepts have arisen out of the “perseverance” and “eternal security” doctrine. One has been on the part of a local church which says, “We have led this person to a profession of faith and baptism and now the Lord will keep this person saved.” The other is on the part of a new professing, baptized believer who is led to think, “Now I have made my profession of faith and been baptized. That is all there is to the Christian life.”
It only takes observation and not extensive research to see that great numbers of professing Christians and church members have fallen away from following Jesus, from the church and from “the faith.”
In the great intercessory prayer of the Lord Jesus in John 17:1-26, he revealed his great concern that his eleven disciples and all believers be kept from falling away. In speaking to God the Father in prayer He said, “While I was with them in the world I kept them in thy name: those that you gave me I have kept…”(v. 12). “Holy Father, keep through your own name those you have given me” (v. 11). “I pray that you should keep them from the evil” (v. 17). When the Bible says that “Jesus Christ always lives to make intercession for us” (Hebrews 7:25), I am sure His continual prayer for believers is that we be kept from falling.
When a person begins the “saved life,” that person receives forgiveness for all past sins, acceptance before Holy God and the indwelling of the Spirit of Christ (Holy Spirit). But there is nothing automatic or mechanical that assures a new believer will continue to be faithful to the Lord. In God’s plan and power to keep a believer from falling away, the Bible presents a shared responsibility including God, a local church and the individual believer. We see much of this in what we call “The Great Commission” in Matthew 28:18-20. The church is told that when they make a disciple and baptize that individual, then the church is responsible to teach that new believer all that Jesus ever taught in word and by example. And the Lord Jesus promises to be present in this process of obedience by the church. The Book of Acts and the New Testament Letters give a tremendous emphasis to the responsibility placed on the local church, members and leaders, for teaching, encouraging and supporting the new believers and weak believers in Spiritual growth and service. Each of the twenty one Epistles in the New Testament is an effort by a church leader to help professing believers to grow in the knowledge of, and in the likeness of the Lord Jesus and to keep believers from falling away from “the faith.”
The responsibility of the believer to keep himself/herself from falling away from “the faith” is emphasized again and again. The Apostle Peter gave great emphasis to personal responsibility by using the word “diligence.” In 2 Peter 1:5, 10, and 3:14 he emphasized personal diligence for spiritual growth, in having assurance of salvation and in being prepared for the return of Christ. The Apostle Paul’s letters emphasized the necessity of personal effort and commitment.
Yes, God is able to keep you from falling. You are to “work out your own salvation” but “it is God who works in you both to be willing and to do of his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13). Our Lord Jesus calls us to nothing less than a life of unending self-denial, sacrificial and unashamed obedience with the results of an abundant earthly life and heaven beyond. But He has provided you with the resources of the indwelling Holy Spirit, the Bible, prayer and a local church. There is absolutely no good reason to fall away. Although we have the daily enemies of the flesh, the world and the devil: God is able to keep you. But you are to look to him and make use of the resources he has provided for you. A climactic word for us would be Hebrews 12:3, “Look to Jesus the author and the finisher of our faith.”