Preservation of the Saints
Elder Allen Daniels
“And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen” 2 Timothy 4:18.
“Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is thy keeper: the LORD is thy shade upon thy right hand. The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul. The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.”
The “Preservation of the Saints” is the fifth, and perhaps the most important, point in the so-called “TULIP” acronym of the doctrines of grace. During my three decades as an ordained minister, I have studied the Scriptures that relate to this subject numerous times. I have read many articles and commentaries about preservation, and heard many sermons preached about it; therefore, I am sure that much of what I write here will simply be a review for most; nevertheless, I am thankful for the opportunity to express my views again.
Webster's 1828 dictionary gives the following definition for preserve, “to keep or save from injury or destruction; to defend from evil”. Strong’s Concordance gives the following definition, “to guard; to protect, attend to; to save, i.e. deliver”.
“Preservation of the Saints” means that all of God’s elect shall be kept by the power of God and shall be eternally saved; though from time to time they may walk in darkness and disobedience here in this time world, thereby losing the joy of their salvation in their timely existence, yet they can never be eternally lost.
This principle is sometimes referred to as “eternal security.” or in the vernacular, “once saved always saved”. If this doctrine is not the truth of Scripture, then the eternal covenant is false and the work of Jesus Christ in redemption and justification is of non-effect.
I can think of no other doctrine that brings more comfort and blessed assurance to God's born again saints than to believe that they are embraced in the eternal covenant and that Christ Jesus has redeemed them from all their sins (past, present, and future); yet, I can think of nothing that could be more discouraging or despairing to one of the Lord’s children than to fear that their eternal salvation could be lost.
Nevertheless, a large percentage of Christendom believe and teach this very thing, that a person is not actually eternally saved here on earth, but that they only have eternal life in prospect. Logically speaking, it stands to reason, if our obedience places us in Christ, then our disobedience can remove us from Christ.
But what do the Scriptures teach concerning this doctrine of preservation of the saints? The Scriptural proofs are many, but for sake of brevity, we will consider only two.
First, we consider that which Jude wrote:
“Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called.” Jude 1.
The phrase “to them that are sanctified by God the Father” identifies the ones to whom Jude is writing and ascribes their eternal election to God the Father. The word “sanctified” in this text is in the past tense and means, set apart for a holy or sacred purpose, and here it means for God’s purpose.
This statement is in perfect harmony with Ephesians chapter one where the Apostle Paul addresses “the saints which are at Ephesus”. He states that these saints were chosen in Christ Jesus before the foundation of the world and were predestinated unto the adoption of children that they should be holy and without blame before him in love.
The word “holy” in Ephesians 1:4 and the word “saint” in verse 1 come from the same Greek root (hagos) as the word “sanctified” in Jude 1:1. These words mean “set apart for a sacred use (physically, pure, morally blameless or religious, ceremonially, consecrated).” Paul verifies this definition by stating that these “saints” had been made accepted in the beloved (Jesus Christ), in whom they had redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins according to the riches of his grace.
The next portion of our text in Jude 1 states that those who are sanctified by God the Father are “preserved in Jesus Christ”; that is, those who are sanctified - set apart by God the Father in the eternal covenant in Christ Jesus - are “preserved” (guarded and protected: delivered from destruction by the power of God). This preservation is before they are “called”. The calling spoken of here is the effectual calling (regeneration, being born again); therefore, there is not the slightest possibility that any of those who were “sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ” will fail to be born of the Holy Spirit.
Secondly, we consider that which John wrote:
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: 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. I and my Father are one.” John 10:27-30.
Notice the language, “my sheep;” when did they become his sheep? They were his sheep before they heard his life giving voice. Jesus said, “I know them, and they follow me;” this means that all who were chosen in him by God the Father shall follow him in regeneration. “I give unto them eternal life;” he did not say, I give unto them temporary life, or I give unto them eternal life in prospect, but “I give unto them eternal life”. Eternal means lasting for all time without beginning or end. The Greek word for eternal here is “aionios” and means perpetual, ceaseless, forever, everlasting. This eternal life is a gift from God and Jesus said those who have it “shall never perish.” “Never” in this phrase, further strengthening our position, means “not ever; not at any time; at no time”.
These words of Jesus are in complete agreement with those of Jude: “preserved in Jesus Christ, and called”. We can see the eternal security of the sanctified by the continuation of Jesus’ words, “...neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” because they were given to him by God the Father in the eternal covenant before the foundation of the world. There being none greater than the Almighty Creator God, no man is able to pluck them out of the hand of God.
Many sincere people reject the doctrine of the “Preservation of the Saints” through a misunderstanding of Scripture. Passages such as 1 Corinthians 9:27 - where Paul stated that he worked to not become a castaway, or Acts 8 - where Simon the sorcerer was condemned because he thought that he could purchase the gift of God with money, are sometimes taken as evidence that a man will spend eternity in hell if he does not successfully serve God and continue to do so until he dies. A better and more consistent reading of Scripture shows that these and other similar verses relate to the believer’s standing in the Kingdom of God here on earth. Through disobedience a man very well may lose the benefits of salvation in terms of his communal relation with Christ during his life journey in this time world. (See Romans 10:1-3.)
The fact that we cannot walk perfectly in the footsteps of our risen Saviour is what makes the doctrine of the “Preservation of the Saints” so comforting to our souls; therefore, let us be forever thankful for the belief in this most excellent doctrine.