Kept and Sealed

Think about it: Do people with hearts of stone ask God to give them a different kind of heart?

Ezekiel 36:26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

He promises: “I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that 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. 32:40).

On the other hand, it is entirely possible for someone to have a keen interest in Christianity (say a prayer, be a member of a local Church and even be involved in Christian ministry) and never be a genuine Christian in any way at all.

How do we know that? Well, because 1 John 2:19 explicitly says that! In referring to those who had once served alongside him in ministry, the Apostle John writes, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.”

I don’t know how John could have been clearer on the issue. According to him, those who leave the faith never truly were in the faith. John did not conclude that such a person was eternally safe because they had prayed a prayer one day long ago. No, for him, the fact that someone left the Christian faith showed that the faith they professed was never really possessed. They were never truly amongst God’s elect sheep. They were never a genuine Christian.

Jude: 24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. (ESV)

In verse 1 he describes believers as “kept for Jesus Christ” and here in verse 24, he describes God as the One “who is able to keep you from stumbling…” In starting and finishing his short letter with this theme, it is clear he did not wish for this point to be missed.

The fact that God is “able to keep” us in this way would not be a source of joy if He was merely able to do this but not willing to do so. Though the text does not say this explicitly the obvious implication of these words is that God is not only able to do this, but that He is willing and that He actually does this. Imagine the opposite. Imagine God was only able to do this but chose not to. Would this be the source of our great rejoicing (which is what Jude is seeking us to understand and appreciate)? I hardly think so. No, the text is a thundering statement about the keeping and sustaining power of God. He keeps us from stumbling and presents us before Him blameless for all eternity, and this is what causes us to have such great joy. God is to be greatly praised for this salvation for it is entirely His work from start to finish. Salvation is of the Lord!

John 10:27-29: “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.”

From John’s Gospel, we can make the following scriptural statements: All that the Father has chosen to be His from eternity, He has given to the Son (John 6:37); and all whom He has given to the Son, the Son knows (John 10:3); and calls (John 10:3-5); and all whom He calls, know Him (John 10:14) and recognize His voice (John 10:4-5) and they come to Him (John 6:37) and follow Him (John 10:4, 27); and the Son lays down His life for His sheep (John 10:11); and He gives them eternal life (John 10:28) and keeps them in the Father’s word (John 17:6), so that not even one of them is lost (John 6:39), to glorify the Son forever (John 17:10). This is the indestructible foundation for an infallible salvation that rebounds in the end to the glory of both the Father and the Son.

SEALED: “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit…” Ephesians 1:13 (ESV)

(an extended paraphrase) “When you believed God’s truthful message, the gospel that saved you, you were placed into Christ and stamped with a seal that cannot be broken, erased, deleted or tampered with. This unbreakable seal is the Holy Spirit Himself and signifies God’s total approval of you! When He looked over all that He had done in you, He saw nothing flawed or inferior whatsoever, but all was as it should be. That seal tells everyone that you belong to God and no one can ever interfere with the package! Even more, this Holy Spirit-stamp means the postage is pre-paid to get you all the way to your ultimate destination! So you can be sure that once your journey with the Lord began, you will make it all the way to the final destination – safe forever, home at last.”

The concept of being sealed by the Spirit draws from the ancient language of the signet ring of the emperor. When something was sealed and affixed with the imprimatur of the king or the owner, then it became his possession. I think we have to make this qualifier: If it were up to us, I don’t think any of us would persevere, and we would have very little to be secure about. However, the concept as I understand it biblically is that God promises that no one will snatch us out of the hands of Christ, that he will preserve us.

EARNEST DEPOSIT: Eph 1:13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

That term (EARNEST DEPOSIT – translated as “guarantee” in the ESV) is a little bit obscure in everyday vocabulary, although when we buy a home the real estate agent might ask us to make a little down payment that we call earnest money. That is an economic phrase we use, and it is used in Scripture in that same way. An earnest was a down payment, an absolute guarantee that the balance would, in fact, be paid. When God the Holy Spirit puts a down payment on something, he doesn’t renege on the payments. God the Holy Spirit does not give you an earnest that becomes less than earnest. He’s deadly in earnest to finish what he has begun with you.

CHRIST’S COMPLETE ATONING WORK: Christ’s work on the cross secured the salvation of His people. Heb 10:10 And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

THE POWERFUL INTERCESSION OF CHRIST – Luke 22: 31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

“If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million enemies. Yet distance makes no difference. He is praying for me.” – Robert Murray M’Cheyne

Rom 8:31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.

Heb 7: 25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

The intercession of our Mediator guarantees that not one of His people will be finally lost.

THE ANGELS BELIEVE THIS: “I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” — Luke 15:10

If angels did not believe this doctrine (the perseverance of the saints), they could have no ground on which to rejoice. They would need to wait until the sinner gets to heaven before they could be sure…

NO WAY, NO WAY, NO WAY, NO WAY!!! – In Hebrews 13:5, our English Bibles contains the simple statement, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” Yet in the original Greek text, it says far more than this. There is a 4 time repetitive statement of denial.The Amplified Bible gets closest to the original:

Heb 13: 5 for He [God] Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. [I will] not, [I will] not, [I will] not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let [you] down (relax My hold on you)! [Assuredly not!]

“As grace led me to faith in the first place, so grace will keep me believing to the end. Faith, both in its origin and continuance, is a gift of grace.” – J.I. Packer

Romans 8:31-39