Perseverance of the Saints: The Persevering God

John 10:29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand.

John 10:29 is a common reference or “proof text” used in defense of the fifth letter of the acrostic “T.U.L.I.P.”  Attention is given to God’s sovereignty and power.  Discussion takes place surrounding the meaning of the word “able” and the presence of a universal negative.   “No one” has the power (is able) to remove a believer from the sovereign grasp of Almighty God.  Since the believer is a “someone” he also lacks the ability to take himself from the father’s hand, because “no one” has this ability!

There is however, another reason (perhaps an even more compelling reason?) to believe, and find great joy in, the doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints:  the believer’s eternal security finds its basis in the eternal and inviolate Covenant Love of God.

Find chapters 33 and 34 in the book of Exodus.  In chapter 33, Moses asks to be shown God’s glory.[1] God responds by telling Moses that He will make his goodness pass before him and that he will proclaim His name (“The LORD “) before Moses.[2]  The text continues… God tells Moses that He will put him in a cleft of the rock while His glory passes by,[3] and in chapter 34, we find the proclamation of God’s name:

6 The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, "The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation."[4]

So, follow the progression in the answer God gives to Moses:

  1.  Moses asks God to show him His glory
  2.  God tells Moses He will make his goodness pass before him and will proclaim His name.
  3.  Therefore, God’s glory is His goodness/His name.
  4. God then expresses His name in terms of His character.  God is:
    1. merciful
    2. gracious
    3. slow to anger
    4. abounding in steadfast love
    5. abounding in faithfulness
    6. forgiving
    7. just

In particular, notice these attributes:  “abounding in steadfast love” and “abounding in faithfulness”.  In the Hebrew:  Hesed and Hemet.  These attributes are the core of God’s Covenantal love toward His people.  It is striking how often these words appear in the biblical text!  Hesed appears 128 times in the Psalms alone![5]  Clearly, these attributes of God are dear to the Psalmist and should be to contemporary believers.  Consider Psalm 25:6-10:

6 Remember your mercy, O LORD, and your steadfast love (Hesed), for they have been from of old. 7 Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love (Hesed) remember me, for the sake of your goodness, O LORD! 8 Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. 9 He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way. 10 All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love (Hesed) and faithfulness (Hemet), for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.

To “remember” is not merely to have a mental image or memory of something that has occurred in the past.  Biblical remembering includes these things and then serves as the basis for current action.  In Psalm 25 the psalmist is asking God to remember His own character, specifically His Hesed for it has been from of old.  Of course, it has been from of old – it is eternal!  It is the very nature of God, it has no beginning.  Hesed is not a moral ideal that is outside of God, as a standard that He strives to meet.  Hesed  is defined by God.  Hesed is ontological.  God is Hesed in His very being. 

Application:

Believers struggle with sin.  When struggling with sin, they fear that they are falling away, that they will “lose their salvation”, that they will not “persevere”.  Like the Psalmist, believers can ask God to not “remember” their past sins or current transgressions based on God remembering His own nature.  It is as if the psalmist is saying: 

“God, you know my sins (past, present, and future), but remember your own character.  You are a God of Hesed, you are a God of steadfast love and you do not change.[6]   Therefore act toward me in a manner that is congruent with the memory you have of your own character.”

  If you are in Christ, God has made a covenant with you by sacrifice,[7] the sacrifice of His beloved son, Jesus Christ.  In Christ God has supremely demonstrated His Hesed and Hemet.  This Hesed and Hemet are simply expressions of who He is, His very nature or being.   So, when you sin dear believer, run to Christ!  Confess your sins, He is faithful and just to forgive you your sins and to cleanse you from all unrighteousness.[8]  You can take this to the bank, Hesed is His very nature.  Therefore, you will persevere because God will persevere in you.

Martin B. Blocki has served since 2003 as the Associate Pastor of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North Hills in Pittsburgh, PA since 2002.  He is a counselor at the Biblical Counseling Institute in Pittsburgh.  Rev. Blocki graduated from Indiana University, Bloomington (BME), Arizona State University (MM), and the Reformed Presbyterian Theological  Seminary (MDiv).  Martin and his wife, Kathy, have two married sons, one daughter, and 2 grand children.


[1] Exodus 33:18

[2] Exodus 33:19

[3] Exodus 33:22

[4] Exodus 34:6-7

[5] Figures are based on a quick count done by the author after conducting a word search of all forms of the lemma using Bibleworks 8.

[6] Malachi 3:6

[7] Psalm 50:5

[8] 1 John 1:9

 

Martin Blocki

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