The Tenacity of God for His people
The following scriptural study is intended to help believers have confidence in our great God's protection and care that He has for His people. He is tenacious on our behalf. There are responsibilities and duties that God requires of His people because of His covenantal relationship with man. That will be a focus of a future study. This present study will focus on the Sovereign God who opens and softens hearts, bringing men to conversion and who is more than capable of holding on to His people and protecting them by His grace through the omnipotent power of the Holy Spirit. We should never forget that grace is a gift and not something earned. The Scriptures declare that faith is a gift of God's grace "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that [faith is] not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast" Ephesians 2: 8,9. Grace is God's unmerited favor. We exercise faith but it is one of God's gracious gifts that cannot be claimed by man as a work or contribution on his part.
Doctrinal Considerations; Justification and Covenant:
Of utmost importance is the question of how man is made righteous or justified before the Holy God of Scripture. Most misunderstanding in this area happens because of a confusion between justification and sanctification. Sanctification is a process that starts once a person becomes regenerate and lasts through the entirety of the Christian life. Justification in contrast, is a judicial or forensic one time act of God that involves the pardoning and forgiving of our sins, and accepting us as righteous in His sight because of what Christ accomplished for us. Moreover, justification is unequivocal or absolute for eternity. Our sins (the breaking of God's law) were imputed to Christ in that he experienced God's judgment on our behalf, and because of this, Christ's righteousness (keeping the law perfectly) is imputed to us. We are therefore pardoned and counted as righteous for His sake. It is not a legal fiction as some may say, it is fact in the courts of heaven based upon Christ's perfect propitiatory sacrifice and accomplishment at Golgotha.
In further consideration, Biblical justification involves the Hebrew verb tsayke, to which both the Greek word dikaioun and the Latin justificare refer, and is used in Scripture when dealing with passages on forensic or declared judicial righteousness. As noted, the Hebrew verb is forensic, and means to to absolve someone in a trial, or to hold or to declare just, as opposed to the verb to condemn and to incriminate. See Exodus 23:7, Deuteronomy 25:1, Job 9:3. Psalms 143:2, Proverbs 17:15, Luke 18:14, Romans 3-5, Acts 13:39. The Scriptures are unequivocal in establishing our justification because of how Christ bore the wrath of God for us Romans 4:1-7. Justification does not happen over and over again. Christ's died once for our all of sins (not just some) and His death was accepted by the Father on our behalf. It is a finished fact!
In addition, and of particular importance for this study is doctrine of God's covenantal dealings with man in Scripture and how this explains God's transactions with man. What is a covenant? In short, a covenant is an agreement or contract between two parties. The word covenant is translated by the Hebrew word berith. It literally means "to cut." In the scripture there are covenants made between men, and there are covenants made between God and man such as the covenant God made with Abraham in Gen. 15:9-18, 17:2.
It should be noted that there are two types of covenants, the unconditional and conditional. A conditional covenant obligates both God and specifically man to certain responsibilities. In the case of a conditional covenant, God's promises are contingent upon man meeting his part of the agreement such as the land promises made with Israel. Historically, Israel was removed from the promised land by Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon for her unfaithfulness to God's covenant. By way of contrast, in an unconditional covenant, God obliges Himself to certain expressed responsibilities for the fulfilling of the contract regardless of how man responds. An unconditional covenant is a promise made by God to man that is not contingent upon man fulfilling any obligation or conditions. Genesis 15:9-18 is a perfect example of this where we see the cutting of the animals into pieces and God alone walking between the pieces of animals in the form of a smoking furnace and a burning lamp in verse 17, thus guaranteeing the eternal covenant would be fulfilled because of His action. If God did not keep the covenant made with Abraham and ultimately his spiritual descendents in Christ, God is saying that He Himself would be cut in pieces, or bear the judgment for violation of the covenant, which is an impossible thing to happen.
God is our strong tower. He has hedged us about with protection from the outside forces. He has graciously placed his Holy Spirit within us to protect us from inward uncertainties. He is even there to protect us from our own failings. God has purchased our salvation by the death of His Son on the cross and He gives us assurance of our salvation by the fact that we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit which is said in Scripture to be "the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession." We are God's purchased possession which is said in the past tense, thus solidifying the reality of our salvation. We have the God's earnest money, or God's down payment, which is the Holy Spirit. Jesus said that He would never leave us or forsake us. He really meant this! Some may raise a question at this point about us forsaking Him. Is this possible in light of the indwelling Holy Spirit and the strong promises of God in Christ? For those that raise this question, consider the testimony of God's promises.
Consider the overwhelming evidence from scripture of God's tenacious care for us:
And he [a believer] shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. Psalms. 1:3
This passage teaches that the believer will bring forth fruit in his season and his leaf shall not wither and in fact shall prosper. Why? This is because the increase is God's doing and not ours. He is our strength and responsible for our fruitfulness. The next verse in the Psalm says that: "The ungodly are not so:" What a contrast between the godly and ungodly. There are certainties for both the believer and non-believer.
The angel of the LORD encampeth round about them that fear him, and delievereth them. Psalms. 34:7
Many believe from what we learn in Genesis 16:7,13 that the angel of the LORD is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ. Consider Joshua's encounter with the Commander of the Lord's army as this will show us how God encamps about his people: He said, "No, but as Commander of the army of the Lord I have now come." And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped, and said to Him, "What does my Lord say to His servant?" Then the Commander of the Lord's army said to Joshua, "Take your sandal off your foot, for the place where you stand is holy." And Joshua did so. Joshua 5:14-15
It is interesting that Joshua worshiped the Commander of the Lord's army. If he been simply a created angel he would not have done this, neither would this Commander if he had been a created angelic being have received it. This makes many believe that this is none other than Christ himself. This passage in Psalm 34 is telling us that Christ himself and His heavenly hosts encamp around us to protect us and deliver us. What a blessed defense, we truly do not need to fear!
For this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death. Psalms. 48:14
The passage says that God will be our God, who is a loving Savior for ever and ever. Because of God's covenant this loving relationship is permanent. He will lead us across the river or through death and onto the resurrection and the heavenly city. We will see death swallowed up in victory.They that trust in the LORD shall be as mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but abideth for ever. As the mountains are round Jerusalem, so the LORD is round about his people from henceforth even for ever. Psalms. 125:1,2
We see permanency here as the scriptures comfort us with the assurance that LORD is round about us "even for ever."
The LORD will perfect that which concerneth me: thy mercy, O LORD, endureth for ever: forsake not the works of thine own hands. Psalms. 138:8
The LORD will complete His work in us. We are the work of His hands. We can be sure that He will not forsake us, i.e. the work of His own hands!
For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the LORD that hath mercy on thee. Isaiah. 54:10
God's UN-changeability or immutability is seen in this verse by the contrast between the LORD and His creation. Again, as in Psalm 125 we see permanency as Isaiah says the mountains may depart and the hill may be moved, but God's mercy would never cease for His covenant people. If mountains departing is seemingly next to impossible, it should be magnified in our minds the strength of this unbreakable promise. God Himself makes this contrast with the seemingly impossible with the absolute impossibility of His kindness and the peace of His covenant departing from His people.
And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me. Jeremiah 32:40
In this passage there is clearly an unconditional aspect of God's covenant made with His people, which is one reason it is said to be everlasting! God guarantees this by saying that He will not turn away from us and He will insure this by putting His fear in our hearts so as to keep us from departing from Him. The New Covenant in Christ which is built upon and the fulfillment of the Older Testament Covenants and is also seen to be an everlasting covenant because it is said that God's law is written on the heart, where God's spirit dwells in the hearts of redeemed men. See Joel 2:28.
And I will betroth thee unto me for ever, yea I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies. I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know the LORD. Hosea 2:19,20
Betrothal historically was a contract or a ceremonial state of engagement considered to be just as binding marriage. Using covenantal language in this passage, the LORD binds Himself to His people forever.
How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not away. Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish. Matthew 18:12-14
We learn of the Father's revealed will in this passage, namely, that not one of these little ones should perish. What a comfort this revelation is to the sheep, His people.
For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Matthew 24:24
The implication in this passage is that the elect cannot be lost since Christ says this could happen only if impossible things could happen. In establishing this, we must consider the promises of God for His elect: one; his grace for them, two; their safety in Christ, and finally, three; their protection by God's power. We can rightly agree that in light of the promises of Christ, the elect's deception is impossible.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16
For the one who truly believes it is said; "should not perish, but have everlasting life." In the second phrase "but have" is in the presence tense meaning that the everlasting life is now a reality. In addition, the tense, "should not perish" means will not ever and following directly the text says; "but have everlasting life" strengthens and proves that "everlasting life" is to be savored as a reality by the believer right here and now.
He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life... John 3:36
This everlasting life the apostle speaks of is something that the believer possesses now as a real present possession! There is a future aspect to this obviously, yet awaiting the future final fulfillment in way that does not diminish the present pleasure of this gift and all the enjoyment it brings in the here and now.
But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst... John 4:14
This phrase "shall never thirst" helps us understand that the water Christ is giving is eternal life. We have a strong revelation of God's security for his people in this passage.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. John 5:24
Again in this passage, we have the comfort of knowing that eternal life is a present possession that the believer enjoys now. And to add to the blessings of knowing this the part of the passage that "shall not come into condemnation" guarantees the future. We are secure in Christ. We have everlasting life now!
And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day. John 6:39,40
We see in the verse God's choice or the election of His people, which is the strong guarantee of our preservation. The promise of Christ is sure, He will raise us up on the last day!
And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. John 10:28,29
Christ gives us eternal life now as a present possession along the unmovable promise that the believer shall never perish. Christ not only protects His people, He adds the guarantee of the Father who is greater than all.
...that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end. John 13:1
We see a the heart of Christ towards His people in His unceasing care for His sheep.
And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever. John 14:16
Our Mediator, Christ, prays for His people giving us great assurance. The Holy Spirit the third person of the triune Godhead is promised to stay with us "forever." Some translations call the Comforter (Holy Spirit) our Helper.
While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled. John 17:12
We see in this passage our Lord's perfect protection of His people. Of those the Father gave to the Son, Christ says: "none of them is lost." We can be assured that not any of Christ's sheep given Him by the Father can or will be lost!
But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. Romans 5:8-10
If Christ died for us we were in a spiritual state of unbelief characterized by a heart of stone that hated and rejected God's testimony which surrounded us at every moment in our innermost being and consciousness and in addition to all of creation, how can anyone doubt that we will be given the grace to persevere and be saved eternally and glorified after being justified by His blood?
There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. Romans 8:1
If you are truly justified, you will walk after the spirit. It is part of our new nature to do so. We are indwelt by the Holy Spirit who leads us in the ways of life and call us to repentance and gives us His strength each day. The apostle make it clear; "There is therefore now no condemnation."
For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come. Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38,39
The apostle is persuaded, that nothing will be able to "separate us from the love of God." We should agree and be thankful.
For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. Romans 11:29
Salvation is a gift of God that He gives without repentance. It is a gift that cannot be lost due to His ongoing protection guaranteed by the indwelling Holy Spirit.
Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord. I Corinthians 1:8,9
Christ Himself shall confirm us unto the end. And furthermore, the passage says that God is faithful to keep us blameless to the end or the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.
There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. I Corinthians 10:13
In this passage we see God's guarantee to give us grace to escape fatal temptations.
Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you. II Corinthians 4:14
The passage encourages the believer by the fact that is God who will perform this action of raising us up. In addition, we are further encouraged of the certainty of our resurrection to life because of the fact the God raised up the Lord Jesus.
Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will....ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:5,13,14
The apostle says that we have been sealed with the Holy Spirit and this act on God's part is the "earnest" or certainty of our redemption.
Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6
Paul tells us that God will perform or accomplish this work which He began in us until Christ comes. Our confidence is in God's work, not our own.
For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. Colossians 3:3,4
When Christ appears or comes in His glory, we are told that "ye [you] shall appear" with Him in glory!
And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it. I Thessalonians 5:23,24
We are assured that God is faithful who calls us and He will also preserve us until the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Our salvation rests upon God's faithfulness, not ours!
But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil. II Thessalonians 3:3
Again we learn that the Lord is faithful, by the fact that He shall "stablish" us and keep us from evil.
...having obtained eternal redemption for us....And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. Hebrews 9:12,15
It is a fact, Christ has "obtained eternal redemption for us!" Again, we see our salvation is a present reality.
For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. Hebrews 10:14
Our perfection in Christ is complete and forever!
Who [believers] are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. I Peter 1:5
Since we are kept by the power of God through faith which is a gift of grace and not our own work we do have to fear. Our salvation is grounded in the power of God!
These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the of the Son of God. I John 5:13
John tells us that we "can know" and that "ye have eternal life." Eternal life is therefore a present possession of believers in Christ. If it can be lost, it would not be "eternal."
...to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called.... All believers are sanctified by God the Father. And we are preserved in Jesus Christ! Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy. Jude 1:1,24
God Himself is able to keep us from falling and more than able to present before the presence of His glory. Our eternal salvation rests upon God power, not ours! If anyone still maintains that God will respect our so-called free will and allow us to depart from Christ hopefully the following thoughts in the next paragraph will be of value.
When a person chooses Christ, one must ask, why did the person do this? Was it his decision on his own apart from God's action? Or, does man act or choose for Christ as a result of God changing his heart by the power of Holy Spirit? The Scripture declare that unbelievers are dead (not just sick) and have hearts of stone. Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit changes our heart of stone to a heart of flesh. As said, unbelievers are dead spiritually and Christ quickens us or makes us alive. We are risen from the dead when Christ regenerates us. Regeneration happens before we can exercise faith.
Therefore, Christ gets the credit for our decision to believe in Him. Unbelievers do not choose Christ, because they in their fallen state hate him and are spiritually dead. And furthermore, it should be noted that fallen man's nature is corrupt and fallen man freely chooses in harmony with his fallen nature to reject Christ. So then, when fallen man is regenerated and exercises faith in the Lord Jesus Christ's atoning work at Calvary, what credit does God get for this decision? "All" is the only possible correct answer.
Remember, we were the servants or slaves of sin. We yielded ourselves to sin because this was the inclination of our fallen nature. We are now the servants of righteousness and no longer the slaves of sin. Our sin natures have been changed. As the apostle Peter tells us that "ye might be partakers of the divine nature..." II Peter 1:4. The believer now has a new nature. We still make choices or decisions. Since we have a new nature our desires have been changed through the inward work of the Holy Spirit. We are now slaves of righteousness (not perfectly) by His grace.
In conclusion, both the non-believer and the believer make choices but they are determined by either a corrupt nature or a changed redeemed nature. The will can said to be free if it is understood that this freedom is always in accord with the desires of man's nature. It can be said that the will is bound, yet free. The believer is now a new creation in Christ. We follow Christ because we love Him and want to please Him. The Holy Spirit lives in the believer and guides us and convicts us to do what is right according to the Scriptures.
What about those who seem to have faith and fall away?
One of the characteristics of fallen man is to hide his sin like Adam in the garden Genesis 3:7. The Pharisees were prime examples of very outwardly religious men. What did Christ say about them? But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Matthew 3:7. It is clearly possible for people to act religious for disreputable motives and still be dead in their sins.
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. Matthew 7:21,22,23. Here we have individuals mentioned who did things in Christ's name and yet Jesus says: "I never knew you." Outward religious works may be done in order to hide one's rebellion against God and remain respectable in the community.
The Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter IX Of Free Will
I. God hath endued the will of man with that natural liberty, that it is neither forced, nor, by any absolute necessity of nature, determined to good, or evil.
1. James 1:13-14; 4:7; Deut. 30:19; Isa. 7:11-12; Matt. 17:12; John 5:40
II. Man, in his state of innocency, had freedom, and power to will and to do that which was good and well pleasing to God; but yet, mutably, so that he might fall from it.
2. Eccl. 7:29; Gen. 1:26, 31; Col. 3:10
3. Gen. 2:16-17; 3:6, 17
III. Man, by his fall into a state of sin, hath wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation: so as, a natural man, being altogether averse from that good, and dead in sin, is not able, by his own strength, to convert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto.
4. Rom. 5:5; 8:7-8; John 6:44, 65; 15:5
5. Rom. 3:9-10, 12, 23
6. Eph. 2:1, 5; Col 2:13
7. John 3:3, 5-6; 6:44, 65; I Cor. 2:14; Titus 3:3-5
IV. When God converts a sinner, and translates him into the state of grace, he freeth him from his natural bondage under sin; and, by his grace alone, enables him freely to will and to do that which is spiritually good; yet so, as that by reason of his remaining corruption, he doth not perfectly, nor only, will that which is good, but doth also will that which is evil.
8. Col. 1:13; John 8:34, 36; Rom. 6:6-7
9. Phil. 2:13; Rom. 6:14, 17-19, 22
10. Gal. 5:17; Rom. 7:14-25; I John 1:8, 10
V. The will of man is made perfectly and immutably free to good alone, in the state of glory only.
11. Heb. 12:23; I John 3:2; Jude 1:24; Rev. 21:27
It is my prayer that these Scriptures and reasoning based upon Scripture will convince the reader that God is truly Sovereign in our salvation. If He were not Sovereign in our salvation, no one would be saved.
Mr. Kettler is an ordained Presbyterian Elder and the owner of Undergroundnotes.com where his theological, philosophical and political articles can be read. He has worked in corporate America for over 30 years and is now realizing his dreams as a successful home business entrepreneur. Permission is hereby granted to reprint this article as long as my web site is retained in the biographical information. Mr. Kettler can be contacted by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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