By William S. Plumer, 1875
HOW SAINTS ARE KEPT
I. It cannot be denied that God's people have many
enemies, and are surrounded with terrible dangers. There is the world,
with its enchantments, riches, pleasures, and honors. Now "all that is in
the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of
life, is not of the Father, but is of the world." 1 John 2:16. Then there is
the flesh—the natural corruption that is in man. "The flesh lusts
against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary
the one to the other; so that you cannot do the things that you would." Gal.
5:17. Then there is the great adversary, the devil, who, as a roaring
lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour. 1 Pet. 5:8.
II. No marvel, therefore, that self-deceivers, whose
hearts have never been really changed, should often give up their
profession. The Scriptures tell us of such people, and warn us to expect
apostasies. The longest-lived apostle explains their case: "They went out
from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no
doubt have continued with us: but they went out that they might be made
manifest that they were not all of us." 1 John 2:19. Divine truth made no
impression at all on the "wayside" hearers. Satan "immediately took away the
word that was sown in their hearts." The stony-ground hearers were
different. A pleasant impression was made on them, but they "had no root in
themselves, and so endured but for a time." Still another class was
impressed, but the "cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches,
and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word." Mark 4:15-19.
III. A godly man once said: "If through God's mercy I
shall reach heaven, three things will greatly surprise me: 1. I shall find
some there of whose salvation on earth I had no hope. 2. I shall meet many
there of whose salvation on earth I had many fears. 3. The greatest wonder
of all will be to find myself there." Every godly man regards himself as a
miracle of grace. Even real saints are at first but babes in Christ. Matt.
11:25; 1 Peter 2:2. The best men on earth confess their own weakness. 2 Cor.
12:10. Their safety very much consists in knowing their own weakness. So
that all of us might despair of coming off conquerors.
IV. Were it not for God's plan and gracious purpose so
clearly revealed in the Scripture, all men might despair. But he has said:
"The mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall
not depart from you, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, says
the Lord that has mercy on you." Isaiah 54:10. "I have loved you with an
everlasting love;" "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." Jer.
31:3; 32:40. "This is the Father's will who has sent me, that of all which
he has given me I shall lose nothing, but shall raise it up again at the
last day." John 6:39; compare John 17:2; Romans 8:29,30.
V. God has set his hand to this work, and he is of one
mind, and who can turn him? Job 23:13. He never begins a work and gives it
up because of difficulties. Paul was "confident of this very thing, that he
which has begun a good work in you, will perform it until the day of Jesus
Christ." Phil. 1:6.
VI. The saints are kept because God is their keeper. "How
excellent is your loving-kindness, O God! therefore the children of men put
their trust under the shadow of your wings." "The Lord loves judgment, and
forsakes not his saints; they are preserved forever." Psalm 36:7; 37:28;
compare John 17:11; Phil. 2:13; 1 Pet. 1:5.
VII. Jesus says: "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. Christ and
his Father are not divided in keeping the saints. When Paul was in great
distress, did not Jesus say to him: "My grace is sufficient for you: for my
strength is made perfect in weakness"? Did not our Lord purchase his people
at a great price, and shall he fail? "You know that you were not redeemed
with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation
received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of
Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot." 1 Pet. 1:18, 19. But
Christ has not only bought his people; he also intercedes for them, and him
the Father hears always. John 11:42. "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has
desired to have you that he may sift you as wheat; but I have prayed for
you, that your faith fail not." Luke 22:31,32. No wonder Peter was brought
to repentance under the power of such prayer. Compare John 17:1-24. Jesus
"is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he
always lives to intercede for them." Heb. 7:25.
VIII. God's word teaches that the Holy Spirit does keep
and sustain Christ's people. He abides with them forever. John 14:17. "The
Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of
God." Romans 8:16. Surely the Holy Spirit will not allow his witness to be
falsified. All the saints are strengthened with might by the Spirit in the
inner man. Eph. 3:16. And so they are warned not to grieve the Holy Spirit
of God, whereby they are sealed unto the day of redemption. Eph. 4:30.
IX. Some of the passages already cited prove that saints
are kept by the might, the strength of Jehovah. Other
Scriptures speak the same language. Of the weak brother, Paul says: "He
shall be hold up: for God is able to make him stand." Romans 14:4. Of the
good man, David says: "Though he falls, he shall not be utterly cast down:
for the Lord upholds him with his hand." Psalm 37:24. And Peter says, that
saints "are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation." 1 Pet.
1:5; compare Eph. 3:16.
X. In the preservation of the saints the word of God has
its use, and does its part. "Now you are clean through the word which I have
spoken unto you." John 15:3. "Your word is very pure." Psalm 119:140.
"Sanctify them through your truth: your word is truth." John 17:17.
XI. God also keeps his people by stirring up their hearts
to "put on the whole armor of God, that they may be able to stand against
the wiles of the devil." Eph. 6:11. He commands us to keep ourselves pure, 1
Tim. 5:22; and to "resist the devil," with the promise, "he will flee from
you." James 4:7.
XII. In preserving his saints the Lord makes much use of
the gospel ministry, and so he commands: "Obey those who have the rule over
you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls as they that must
give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief." Heb. 13:17.
XIII. To the same end he employs the afflictions of his
people. "He chastens us for our profit, that we might be partakers of his
holiness." Heb. 12:10. Compare 1 Pet. 1:6, 7.
XIV. It is by and through faith that God's people have
their stability. "Whoever is born of God overcomes the world: and this is
the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith." 1 John 5:4, 5.
Compare Psalm 125:1, 2; 1 Peter 1:5.
XV. The blessed conclusion to which all these Scripture
truths lead us, is abounding triumph in God through Jesus Christ. Find and
read Romans 8:35-39.