Dr. Ray E. Heiple, Jr.
King Jesus Preserves All of His Elect
And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. John 10:28NKJV
For the third week in a row we reflect upon Question 45 of the Larger Catechism, which asks, “How doth Christ execute the office of a king?” It gives the answer, “Christ executeth the office of a king, in calling out of the world a people to himself, and giving them officers, laws, and censures, by which he visibly governs them; in bestowing saving grace upon his elect, rewarding their obedience, and correcting them for their sins, preserving and supporting them under all their temptations and sufferings, restraining and overcoming all their enemies, and powerfully ordering all things for his own glory, and their good; and also in taking vengeance on the rest, who know not God, and obey not the gospel.” Last week we saw how Christ, as king, supernaturally governs all of His elect. This week we consider the Biblical doctrine of the preservation of the saints.
Near the middle of its answer, the Catechism declares that King Jesus is actively “preserving and supporting [His elect] under all their temptations and sufferings, restraining and overcoming all their enemies.” Some within the Church have argued that a Christian can lose his salvation. Maybe you have wrestled with this question. How do we know that the elect will not be finally overcome by some particular temptation, or by a period of prolonged suffering, so that they completely fall away unto perdition? How do we know that some enemy of the world, the flesh, or the devil will not prevail over a child of God, to the point where he casts off his faith and is lost forevermore? Very simply, we know that these things cannot and will not happen because King Jesus will never fail to strengthen His elect to endure every trial, or to push down their enemies until they conquer them.
As the Scripture at the head of this article declares, Jesus gives all of His elect eternal life. Likewise, 1 John 5:11 says (in the past tense) that “God has given us eternal life.” Two verses later John states that he wrote his first epistle so that believers may know that they, right now – present tense – “have eternal life.” Beloved you cannot have eternal life, if that life that you do have might in fact be lost and therefore be shown to have been temporary and not eternal! The Scriptures clearly and repeatedly teach that the true believer cannot lose his salvation: “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith,” (Heb. 12:2); “This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing” (John 6:39); “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life,” (John 5:24); “My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father's hand,” (John 10:29).
Some struggle with those warnings of Scripture which threaten professing believers that they will not be saved if they presume upon God’s grace (Heb. 4, 6), or if they fail to abide in Christ or to fully repent from their sins (John 15; Luke 13), etc. Yet they fail to realize that it is through the warnings and threatenings of Scripture, that God, by His Spirit quickens us and keeps His elect from falling away! The elect are not kept by their sinful wills! They are kept by the almighty power of God! No one can snatch them out of Jesus’ hand, neither will they ever perish. That is, they will not fall out of his hand by their own weakness of faith. Listen to these powerful verses from Romans 8:35-39 “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: ‘For Your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.’ Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 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 created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The will of a believer being a “created thing” will not cause him to be separated from Christ. The future decisions of believers being “things to come” will not cause them to be separated from Christ. No power outside of you and no power within you can take away your salvation, for your king who keeps you is stronger!