Promise of hope
PROFESSIONS OF FAITH
If I were to ask you which promise of God is the most encouraging and comforting for a Christian, what would you say?
I believe it is the doctrine of eternal security, or the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. It is the idea that once you are saved, you can never lose it or that you are saved forever.
Take that doctrine away and we lose our joy, our confidence, our rest, our comfort, and our hope. If the Lord can’t hold onto me, what hope is there?
If God can’t keep me I know I certainly can’t keep myself. I am not good enough to save myself and I’m certainly not good enough to keep myself. If we could lose our salvation, we would. If staying saved depends on my power and ability and commitment and righteousness, I am never going to make it.
Think about Adam in the garden, he had no sinful tendencies, he lived in a perfect world and he could not keep himself in a right relationship with the Lord. How could I then with a fallen nature living in a fallen world? I am still prone to sin, prone to doubt, prone to unbelief, prone to rebellion and frankly Satan could go to God’s throne and lay out a long list of my sins and it would be accumulative and horrific. So I say if I could lose my salvation, I would. Surgeon said it well when he wrote, “No man can keep himself, he’ll surely fail. If left to ourselves, we’ll go to hell. Only Jesus can save us from our sins.” So I submit to you that the guarantee that God will keep us is the most important doctrine for the Christian. That brings us to v.24 and 25 of Jude. It is a benediction. It is a doxology which is a word meaning praise or a praise word. Scriptures are filled with doxologies. There are 150 Psalms divided into five books and at the end of each of those five books is a doxology.
Angels sang a doxology at Christ’s birth in Luke 2. People gave a doxology at Christ’s arrival in the city of Jerusalem in Luke 19. And the N.T. epistles are filled with doxologies and they always deal with salvation. They are words of grateful praise to God for saving sinners. They are outbursts of praise in contemplation of the greatness of our salvation. Thus Jude offers a doxology, a doxology that will calm our fears and fuel our hope. It is a doxology of assurance. He says there are two things you must know: He is able to keep you and he is able to make you stand in the presence of His glory. Two critical things the Lord is able to do. First, He is able. What a great thought. He is able. It is the word from which we get the word dynamite. Daniel said, “Our God is able to deliver us”. The N.T. is loaded with testimonies about the power of God. II Cor. 9:8,” God is able to make all grace abound in you.” Eph. 3:20, “Now to him whom is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all we ask or think according to the power that works within us.” Heb. 7:25, ” He is able to save forever those who draw near to God through him.” Even our Lord prayed in the Garden to the one who was able to save him from death. There is no question about God’s ability, he is able. It is a dangerous environment we live in, apostasy is on the increase, we are surrounded by endless heresies and we are called to rescue these false teachers and the thought occurs that maybe we should draw back in fear that somehow we might get burned as we try to snatch someone out of the fire. Jude says if you are a true believer there is no danger of a fatal corruption, no danger of damnation. God is able. The path to heaven is absolutely safe, not because I am able but because he is able. He is able to keep me. Keep me. It is the Greek word to guard. It is a military word meaning to watch over. He stands guard over us. He is at his post and we are in safe custody while under assault.
It is the only time in the Bible the word is used this way, to keep us from apostasy. How does He do it? He does it by the gift of permanent faith and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. John 10:28 says, “I gave eternal life to them and they shall never perish and no one shall snatch them out of my hand because my father who has given them to me is greater than all and no one is able to snatch them out of the father’s hand. Phil. 1:6 tells us that he started a good word in you and he is able to finish it. Nobody will fall through the cracks. Yes, apostates in Israel fell, angels fell, Sodom and Gomorrah fell, but true believers are kept. Our Lord has the will and the power to preserve us. Secondly, He is able to present us. To present us in the Greek is actually to set you. Right now we stand in grace but then we will stand in glory. It is the opposite of falling, it is standing. It is enduring to the end. But you say I know people who went to church who confessed Christ and now they are no longer around. I John 2:19 explains that. John said they went out from us because they were never really of us. If they had been of us they would have remained with us. When someone falls away it is because they were never really of us. But the statement in our text is not about standing on the earth. Being kept has to do with earth; standing has to do with heaven. It means he keeps us here and takes us there. Such astonishing grace, is it not? Standing in the presence of God is a place no sinner can stand. Rev. 21 says nothing unclean shall ever come into the heavenly city. To stand in His holy, glorious presence, you have to be without blame or guilt. Without fault or faultless was a word originally used to apply to sacrifices.
Right now we are not blameless, but we are treated as if we were blameless because Christ bore our sins and we have been given his righteousness. God treats Christ on the cross as if he lived our lives so he can treat us as if we lived his life. Right now we are not worthy to enter heaven. That is why we have to be transformed; we have to lose this body of flesh and go into God’s presence and receive a new body. That will happen! We will not only be free from sin and guilt but we will be blameless and faultless. We will not be able to do evil and capable of doing only right. We will be emancipated from every power and passion for evil and be devoted only to holiness. That is why joy defines heaven. And Zephaniah 3:17 tells us of another aspect of heavenly joy.
It says, “The Lord your God will rejoice over you with joy, He will joy over you with singing.” Isn’t that great? Not only will we sing praise to God, He will sing praise concerning us. He is going to rejoice over us. Spurgeon wrote, “I think that’s the most wonderful text in the whole Bible. God himself singing? I can only imagine when the world was made, the morning stars sang together, shouting for joy. But God didn’t sing. He said it was all very good, that’s all. There was no song. But when all the chosen race shall meet around the throne, the joy of the eternal Father shall swell, so high that God will burst into infinite song.” So rest dear Christians and join in the celebration of verse 25. “To the only God our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority before all ages, that’s the past, now, that’s the present and forever more, that’s the future. Amen. Let me close with a quote from Charles Spurgeon. “And when I heard it said that the Lord would keep his people right to the end, when I heard it said that Christ said, ‘My sheep hear My voice and I know them and they follow me and I give them eternal life and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand.”
When I heard that said, I must confess that the doctrine of the final preservation of the saints was the bait that my soul could not resist. It was sort of life insurance, an assurance of my soul, an assurance of eternal destiny. I knew I couldn’t keep myself but if Christ promised to keep me, then I would be safe forever and I longed and prayed to find Christ because I knew if I found him, He would not give me a temporary salvation as some preach, but eternal life which could never be lost. The living and corruptible seed which lives and abides forever so no one and nothing could ever separate me from the love of God which is in Jesus Christ our Lord.” That is the thought that brought Spurgeon to salvation. I mean why come if there is no guarantee? But there is thus we can sing: To the only God and Savior be glory and majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore. Amen!
The Rev. Dr. James Barnes is currently the pastor of White Memorial Church in Milroy.