THE DOCTRINE OF DIVINE PRESERVATION
Although the Bible tells us that salvation is a gift, and that we are "kept by the power of God through faith," many believers are troubled by a fear of losing salvation (1Peter 1:5). They may be familiar with passages that assure us that God is able to keep us from falling, yet they derive little comfort from such passages because other passages seem to contradict what they say. In fact, on the surface it looks like there are two sets of passages, one assuring us that God will keep us from falling, the other warning us of the danger of falling. That fact leaves many people confused. However, what they fail to understand is that one set of passages is law, while the other is gospel.
The passages that are law are God's warning to the unrepentant. Those passages rebuke any unrepentant thoughts and desires that may arise in our hearts, while reminding us of our need for God's sustaining grace. In contrast, the gospel comforts believers by assuring us that God will keep us by His grace. Both are important! The unrepentant need to hear God's warning just as much as those who repent need God's assurance that He is able to keep them from falling. Therefore, those who emphasize only one set of passages to the exclusion of the other set are failing to rightly divide the Word of Truth.
Luke 8:13, Those on the rock are the ones, who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; but they have no root, THEY BELIEVE FOR A WHILE, but in time of temptation fall away.
Galatians 1:6, I am astonished that you are so quickly turning away from him who called you into the grace of Christ to another gospel.
Galatians 5:4, Christ is of no benefit to those of you, who seek righteousness by the law; you are fallen from grace.
1Timothy 1:19-20, Having faith, and a clean conscience; which some by disregarding have made shipwreck of their faith.
1Timothy 4:1, Now the Spirit specifically says, that in the future some will depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.
1Timothy 5:11,12, 15, But refuse the younger widows: for when their desires are in opposition to Christ, they will marry outside the faith; Having damnation, because they have cast off their first faithÖ For some are already turned aside after Satan.
1Corinthians 9:27, Instead I buffet my body, and bring it under my control: lest there be any way that I, after having preached to others, might be rejected.
Hebrews 6:4-6, For it is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and became partakers of the Holy Spirit, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, and have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance; seeing that they crucify the Son of God anew for themselves, and put him to public shame.
Hebrews 10:26-27, For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sin remains, But only a fearful expectation of judgment and raging fire, that will devour the enemies of God.
Hebrews 10:38-39, Now the just will live by faith: but if any man turns back, my soul will take no pleasure in him. But we are not of those who turn back and are destroyed; but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.
2Peter 2:20-22, For if after they have escaped the corruption of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in it, and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment that was given to them. But it has happened to them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to back to his own vomit; and the sow that is washed to wallowing in the mire.
[Comment: Just as the passages that warn sinners of the danger of hell, were intended to show us our need for forgiveness in Christ, the passages that warn us of the danger of falling were intended to show us our need for Godís sustaining grace (Jude 1:24, Romans 7:4). In both cases God wants us to trust in His grace, not in our own efforts. Therefore, if the verses cited above trouble you, instead of trusting in your own efforts, believe His promise to keep you from falling, for by so doing you commit your soul to His care.]
John 10:27-29, My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give them eternal life; and they will never perish, nor will any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, who gave them to me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Fatherís hand.
1Peter 1:5, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation which is waiting to be revealed at the end of time.
2Timothy 1:12, For I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.
Jude 1:24, Now to him who is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before his glorious presence with great joy.
Philippians 4:7, And the peace of God, that transcends all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
2Thessalonians 3:3, But the Lord is faithful, and will strengthen you, and keep you from evil.
[Comment: The words, "none can keep alive his own soul" make it clear that it is impossible for us to keep ourselves saved (Psalm 22:29). However, the good news is that it does not depend on us. Just as God brought us to faith through His Word, He strengthens our faith and keeps us in faith through the preaching of His Word (Romans 10:17, 1Corinthians 3:6). Moreover, just as He brought us to faith by leading us to recognize our sin and need of repentance, He keeps us in faith by keeping us repentant, not by letting us sin. We are kept by His grace.]
Believing that God will keep you by His grace goes hand in hand with believing that you are saved by grace (Ephesians 2:8-9). Therefore, those who think that they can keep themselves saved are just as foolish as those who think that they can save themselves. At the same time, those who think that they can harden their hearts in unrepentance (by denying their sin or willfully flaunting God's law) yet still be saved, are under a delusion (Galatians 5:4, Hebrews 10:26-27, 2Peter 3:6). Such people need the warning of God's law, while those who have a repentant heart need assurance that God will keep them by His grace.
Gary Ray Branscome