Reference: John 10:27-29
When you seek to preserve something, you want to keep it in its current state, or in a usable condition: so it can be kept. For example, gardeners grow and can their vegetables, keeping them usable for a future date. Other applications of the word include preserving something from the past, or making sure that something of value will still be of value at some point in the future.
All these scenarios contain a simple concept: the thing being preserved does not preserve itself. The owner or caretaker provides so that the preservation can take place.
I trust that as we have been examining the message of the gospel, using the 1st Q&A of the Heidelberg Catechism, it is clear that our salvation is about what God has done for us, for those He has determined to save. This fact does not change as we turn to the future of our faith, our preservation.
Your hope of salvation is in God; your hope in the permanency or preservation of your salvation is in God. We come to the words in the catechism, “and so preserves me.” They follow the statement concerning payment for sin and redemption from the Devil. Very simply put, part of the good news to you in the message of the gospel, as captured by this creed, is that God has promised to you to preserve you as one of His own. That means God keeps your sin covered. You remain redeemed from the power of the Devil.
This is simple covenant theology: God has legally bound Himself by oath to save a people. That promise of salvation does not refer to a mere possibility, but the fact of God possessing a people who will be saved. It is sure and certain.
For anything to be sure and certain, there must be a reason or a basis established to keep it from fading away. I gave some human examples we use for preservation. Yet all of them are limited. No preserved vegetables will stay edible forever. However, the difference is that we are talking about God’s work of salvation, a permanent process. Your salvation, your comfort depends entirely on what God has done. The catechism helps you and me learn from Scripture, explaining the good news of all that God has done.
Your trust and confidence, your faith, and your hope for the future are grounded totally and completely on what God has done for you.
Today we are going to look specifically at what it means for you and me, individual believers preserved by Jesus Christ. And if the individual is preserved, it follows that the church is preserved. I intend to first address the individual’s preservation, and then come back to the same statement later to see how the church is preserved.
By the will of the Father
As we seek to understand God’s work of preservation, let us be absolutely clear about what we mean when we speak of God being the author of our salvation. The issue is really quite simple. Is salvation actually the accomplished work of God in every aspect, or is it a message God presents so you know what you can and must do to be saved? What about God doing the first part, bringing you to faith — then it is up to you to maintain that faith? Is it a God-centered salvation or a man-centered salvation?
Sadly, many Christians regard salvation as man-centered, at least partially. Certainly most would acknowledge that Jesus did something for them, even that he did everything, but when it comes to the response of faith, personally embracing Jesus’ work as planned by the Father, and continuing in that faith — well, that becomes man’s part.
If that were true, Scripture clearly teaches that, owing to man’s sinful condition post-fall, not one person would be saved. “Dead in sin” means dead, unable to respond to God.
As Jesus speaks of the good shepherd, he does speak of the sheep hearing and following him. But notice the relationship between Jesus and the sheep as he speaks of this.
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 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 10:27-29 ESV)
There exists a clear relationship with the believers belonging to him. “My sheep… I know them.” Regarding those who do not hear and follow, as mentioned in vs. 26, those who do not believe are not his sheep.
So how does this relationship of belonging to Jesus come about? This is answered clearly in vs. 29: “my Father… has given them to me.” Even more clear in this regard is the statement we have in John 6:39, specifically mentioning that the sheep for which Jesus accomplishes salvation are given to him by the Father.
Blog post content taken from a sermon series delivered by Dr. Maynard Koerner, President and Professor of Ministerial Studies at Heidelberg Theological Seminary.