Reference: John 10:27-29
Those who see and believe
“Okay, so salvation is all about the plan of God and the work of Christ. I have no active part. I’m just going to relax and wait for God, and if I end up not saved, well that’s the way it is… because he needs to do it.”
Thus we might rationalize. But it’s not what Scripture teaches.
The Shepherd’s call leads to a response
“My sheep hear my voice and they follow me.” Two things are clearly stated here. To hear is to respond to what has been said; it includes hearing and listening. Jesus opens ears. So those whom Jesus calls will hear. The one whom he preserves will respond in faith. Yes, that faith is worked in the believer as a gift from God (see Eph. 2:8), but they do have faith. They do believe. As a Christian, then, you don’t just exist passively, doing nothing. You are doing what the Lord has enabled you to do.
Secondly, “…they follow me.” They are faithful to the call of Christ; they live out the life Christ has called them to. It is absolutely impossible for anyone to say, “I have heard the good news of the gospel, I believe it, I trust I will be in heaven some day — but right now the temptation of this world is too inviting and too enticing, so I’m just not interested in the things of God.”
Hearing Christ’s call and following him go together. If you have indeed heard the voice of Jesus, you will be faithful in your life as his sheep.
That speaks directly to being preserved. No one who really hears Jesus will one day no longer hear Jesus, because then they are not following him. If that is the case, then they never heard him.
The response: Persevering in faith
We need to be very careful in understanding this doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. It is not as though Christ tagged you, you’re it, and it’s over. Rather, it’s a message of comfort: Christ never gives up on you. But you are still the one who hears and follows. So you need to understand how Jesus accomplishes preserving you.
The Scriptures are filled with exhortation and warning. When God brought the children of Israel into the promised land, He made it very clear that if they ignored God’s law and lived as the pagans did, they would fall by the wayside. Which is exactly what happened. The apostle Paul strongly warns in Eph. 6 that you are in a wrestling match. The Devil seeks to own your mind and heart; you need to arm yourself and take up the fight. If not, you will lose the battle.
So how do we square that with “and so preserves me”? Think of it this way. When you have a product you seek to preserve, you do something with it: put it in the freezer, follow a recipe to can, etc. There’s a process followed for the end result of preservation.
Similarly, Christ does something or uses something to effectively preserve his sheep. By the words of the Scriptures and through the Holy Spirit, Christ works in you. So the exhortations, warnings to follow his word, and responsibility he puts on you as his sheep toward that end serve as the recipe, if you will, that he uses to accomplish preservation.
Hearing Jesus and following Jesus continues. The prophet Amos speaks of a famine of the word. The promise, laid out in the catechism, is in fact a promise of the continued hearing of the word. The word of God is the food by which your soul is fed and you are preserved. The promise to you, “and so preserves me,” does not give an opportunity to be lazy and say your actions make no difference. It is not an opportunity to set aside the Bible and catechism, to be casual about attendance in worship, etc. In fact, it offers an occasion for you to take your faith seriously. To examine yourself and ask, “Am I actually responding?”
The sovereignty of God never provides an opportunity for you to be careless.
So ask yourself: are you really hearing and responding?
Once again, the message of the catechism is truly one of comfort. The comfort of the gospel is something to celebrate, to be excited about, to rejoice in. It is the basis upon which you can look to tomorrow, and the next day, and next year, and forever, with great anticipation following Jesus.
Blog post content taken from a sermon series delivered by Dr. Maynard Koerner, President and Professor of Ministerial Studies at Heidelberg Theological Seminary.