If we would take the basics of the Christian faith seriously, then we must begin with what Jesus actually said.
Of Final Perseverance

Jesus said: "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," (John 10:27-29).

These words of Jesus raise an important issue: Is it possible for one who is saved, a believer, to fall away and perish? Can a Christian fall from grace and be lost? The answer of Jesus is straightforward. His sheep are given eternal life and that gift can never be lost, for it depends not on the sheep but on the shepherd who gives it unto them. He holds them in His hand and they can never perish. God holds them in His hand and they can never be plucked out.

But does not Jesus say when He speaks of the trial of His people, "he that endureth to the end shall be saved" (Matthew 10:22)? Does He not call us to "abide in me" (John 15:4) and say also, "If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men cast them into the fire, and they are burned," (John 15:6)? Are we not called to persevere in faith unto the end? The answer is certainly, yes. We also hold fast to Christ. But we do so because He wrought faith in us, gives us eternal life, and holds us by the power of that life that we might also persevere unto the end. Jesus keeps and preserves us and therefore we endure unto the end and are saved. This also is God's work of grace in His sheep. If a person's faith is based on his own decision, his work of faith, rather than a work of grace, that person is always in danger of changing his decision. To teach that our holding on to Him or our enduring in faith is the cause of our final perseverance, is to teach that salvation is man's work.

But what of our sins? When we fall into sin, do we not fall from grace? The answer is, that left to ourselves, we would certainly fall from grace and perish. Peter, who denied his Lord, would certainly have perished in himself as would we all. It was grace that kept him. As Jesus testified unto Peter even before his denial, "But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren," (Luke 22:32). Jesus' piercing glance brought to remembrance Jesus' word, and by it Jesus turned Peter's heart (Luke 22:61) and wrought repentance. Jesus keeps His sheep, seeks them when they stray, and turns them. Because He will never let them go, they cannot perish.

What then of those who do not abide in Christ? The answer is, they were never truly in Him. They appeared on the vine as branches in Christ, were outwardly members of the church, but they were dead, they drew no life out of Him by faith. They were unbelieving. Jesus teaches this in the Parable of the Sower (Mark 4) of the seed which springs up quickly in stony ground. He says of them, "who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness; and have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time" (Mark 4:16, 17). They had not the root of faith. Emotional and intellectual enthusiasm are not faith. By grace alone we are preserved and persevere unto the end. Do you stand in Christ?

By Rev. Thomas Miersma, Missionary pastor

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