Perseverance of the Saints
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Perseverance of the Saints

From Series: Fix Our Eyes on Jesus, Volume 2

Selected Scriptures  (ID: 1934)

Can believers lose their salvation? Scripture declares that when we sincerely put our trust in Christ as our Savior, He justifies us and establishes our eternal security. Nothing we do—or fail to do—can alter what Christ accomplished on our behalf. Working through a selection of biblical passages, Alistair Begg reminds us of God’s promises and helps us to understand that as we persevere, God’s preservation of His children holds us to the end.


Sermon Transcript:

Romans 8:28:

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

“What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written,

‘For your sake we face death all day long;
 we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Amen.

Father, we pray that you will come and speak to our lives this evening through your Word. Far beyond the voice of a mere man, may we hear you speak. And in hearing your voice, grant to us comfort and assurance and encouragement and grace and faith, for these we so much need. And we look to you alone. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

For some weeks now in our study in Hebrews, I’ve been wanting to do something to set, as it were, the Scriptures in balance, and I’ve never really had the opportunity to do so. And I determined that I wouldn’t go much beyond today. And so, tonight I want to speak concerning the flip side of the coin in relationship to the issues of apostasy that have been the area of our study in Hebrews chapter 6 and then again in Hebrews chapter 10. And I want to affirm before you and in light of Scripture—and I want you who believe to be strengthened and encouraged and equipped by it—the fact and the biblical doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, or the preservation of the saints, which, in short, is this: Once you’re saved, you’re always saved—that once you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, you can never be lost. You can never go to hell. Christ will always be your Savior.

Now, it is this doctrine which runs the whole way through the Bible. The person who sincerely puts his or her trust in the Lord Jesus Christ is said to be safe: “safe in the arms of Jesus,”[1] in the words of the children’s hymn—secure, and secure eternally.

Now, I want to underpin this by turning you just to one or two verses of Scripture. And if you have your Bible before you, you will do well just to turn them up. I want to draw your attention to them. They will be familiar verses, but I read them purposefully.

First of all, in John 6:39. Jesus is speaking, and he says, “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”

Jesus says a similar thing in John 10:28–29. Concerning his sheep, the members of his flock, in verse 27 he says, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life”—which is obviously a present-tense experience; it’s not something out in a remote and possible future—“I give them,” present tense, “eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.”

And then, in the words of Peter, in 1 Peter and in chapter 1—verses to which we referred this morning in the course our study—1 Peter 1:3: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.”

And then, to those portions of Scripture we would add the verses that we read just a moment ago from Romans chapter 8.

Now, let me give you what is Berkhof’s definition of the perseverance of the saints. You may want to write it down. I’ll read it twice for you in case you do, and if you don’t then you’ll be hard-pressed to recall this. But never mind. He says, “Perseverance [is] that continuous operation of the Holy Spirit in the believer”—“that continuous operation of the Holy Spirit in the believer, by which the work of divine grace that is begun in the heart, is continued and brought to completion.[2] What is this perseverance? “That continuous operation of the Holy Spirit in the believer, by which the work of divine grace that is begun in the heart, is continued and brought to completion.”

Strictly speaking, the perseverance of the saints—and when they use the phrase “saints,” they’re talking about those who have truly believed in the Lord Jesus Christ—the perseverance of the child of God is, strictly speaking, the perseverance of God. Because it is on account of the fact that God perseveres with those who are his children that those who are his children are enabled to persevere to the very end of their lives. In fact, it is often referred to as the “preservation of the saints” rather than the perseverance of the saints, because as God perseveres with those he has redeemed, he preserves his children. As Jesus says, “My flock, they hear my voice, I call them by name, no one can take them out of my hand. My preserving influence over them is begun in a moment of time”—is actually begun in the realm of eternity—“is encountered in a moment of time, and runs all the way through into eternity future.” And the preservation of the people of God emphasizes the fact that it is God who perseveres, it is God who keeps, and it is God who guards us.

Now, surely—and you may want to turn to 1 Peter chapter 1—surely, Peter of all people would have understood this. Because Peter knew what it was to make a mess of things. Peter knew what it was to be on a fairly steady upward trend and then all of a sudden to be coming crashing down. He knew what it was to make great affirmations of faith, and then he had known the experience of Jesus turning to him and saying, “Get behind me, Satan!”[3] So for Peter to write as he does in these opening verses to the scattered believers is a tremendous encouragement. And he wrote out of the wealth of his own understanding of the grace of God. And he writes to let his readers know that it is according to God’s mercy that they have been born anew.

It is impossible to amass enough material possessions or take enough vacations to be able to fill up the emptiness of the human soul.

And they have been given “new birth,” verse 3, “into a living hope.” “Into a living hope.” In other words, the child of God is someone who has been delivered from the realm of hopelessness. Without God, and without God encountered in the Lord Jesus Christ, life is extraordinarily bleak. It is an empty, hopeless existence. There are not enough things to be able to do. There are not enough occasions to be able to look forward to. It is impossible to amass enough material possessions or take enough vacations to be able to fill up the emptiness of the human soul.

Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, in the experience of the loss of his father, mopes and gropes his way around the palace there at Elsinore, and his uncle comes to him and said, “How is it that the clouds still hang on you?”[4] And, of course, Hamlet stands, as it were, in Shakespeare’s play as the very epitome of a hopeless experience. And he gives voice to it on many occasions: “How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable seem to me all the uses of this [life]!”[5] And in expressing himself in that way, he expresses the mind of many a person in the late twentieth century.

What, then, is it that puts a spring in the step of a believer? What is it that lifts the chin off the chest? What is it that fixes our gaze on somewhere else? It is this fact: that according to God’s mercy we have been born again or “given … new birth into a living hope.”

And along with that, we have been granted an inheritance—verse 4. And the unique nature of this inheritance is described for us here. It is untouched by death, it is unstained by evil, and it is unimpaired by time. There is no possibility of it diminishing, because it can’t perish, it can’t spoil, it can’t fade, and it’s in heaven with your name on it. And the believer has been brought to an awareness of this through the reading of the Bible and the considering of the wonder of God’s goodness.

And Peter says to his readers, “I want you to realize that your new birth has brought you into living hope. It has granted you an inheritance, which is absolutely certain.” And in the meantime, notice what he says: “who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.” In other words, as we said this morning, we don’t have the experience of all to which our title deed assures us. That there are dimensions of what it means to know God that are yet unbeknownst to us. That one day we will see the Lord Jesus and we will be like him.

And when we’re tempted to say to ourselves, “Oh, I wonder if I will ever make it to heaven. I wonder if I will ever be able to keep going for another day. I wonder if I’ll make it to another Sunday. I wonder if I can continue on this journey. It’s such a struggle; I’m so aware of my own waywardness and my own sinfulness. I wonder if I will ever make it…” Here, loved ones, here is the assurance: you were given new birth. You didn’t make yourself alive, did you? No, you weren’t physically born as a result of a decision on your part, nor were we spiritually born as a result of a decision on our part. Surely, we came to the day where we acknowledged that we must decisively embrace Christ in faith. But as we’ve looked back down the corridor of time, we realized that long before ever we reached out our hand to grab his, we discover that his hand had been reaching down to lay hold upon us. He gave us new birth. He promised us an inheritance. And tonight, he keeps us, he shields us by his power.

Now, this term is a lovely term here: “shielded by God’s power.” It’s actually a military term. It’s a term to describe the guarding which is done by soldiers in the bringing of somebody safely to their destination. It’s not uncommon, when you read history, to discover that an individual in ancient times making their journey from one place to another would be guarded by a company of soldiers. The same is true in the book of Nehemiah, for example. When Nehemiah makes the journey across the Fertile Crescent from Susa back to Jerusalem, you remember one of the things that he requests is wood and letters, and one of the bonuses that he receives from Artaxerxes is this great company of soldiers who surround him and his friends and guard them on the journey.[6] A wonderful picture!

It’s the same picture, incidentally, when you used to see Muhammad Ali coming into the ring, and he would be all with that thing around his head, and he would have the gloves and the towels and the blankets and all the stuff. And then this great, huge man is surrounded by a group of individuals. Do you ever wonder what these folks are doing there? I guess they got the best seat in the house, for one thing, but it always struck me as interesting. Why would he of all people need these folks around him—as if they could protect him, when he was so strong? Well, the fact of the matter is that he did need protection. And so they gathered around him to take him safely to his destination.

That’s the picture here. You’re a believer tonight, you’re aware of the rigors of sin in your life, you’re buffeted, and you are discouraged, perhaps? Here’s the wonderful truth: God has garrisoned you, shielded you by his power. And in this, the beleaguered believer finds security for our souls.

Now, you’ll notice that this does not take place in a vacuum, because there in verse 5 we come to the little phrase to which we were paying attention this morning: “through faith.” “Through faith.” You see, it is a mistaken notion which regards our preservation as some kind of blanket guarantee, irrespective of the lives that we live. And the “once saved, always saved” notion is often trotted out by people who have no expression of continuous faith in their lives. And that’s why it’s so very important that we pay attention to what the Bible says: that there is no preservation without faith, and also it makes clear that it is those who have faith who persevere. And that is exactly what he’s saying.

You remember, back in Hebrews, that it was the very absence of faith on the part of the listeners which resulted in the word proving “of no value to them.” Remember back in 4:2, he says, and those—they heard the word, but it “was … no value to them.” Why not? Because they “did not combine it with faith.” They sat and listened to the Bible being preached, they read the Bible, and yet it had no value to them at all, because of an absence of faith. As if somehow or another you could simply sit in a church and have somebody read the Bible, and that would be all that was necessary. As if you would be transformed into a Christian just as a result of that! You would be as quickly transformed into a car as by sitting in a garage for the rest of your life; it’s not going to happen. We persevere through faith and never apart from faith.

Now, what the New Testament is emphasizing in this is the absolute certainty of the Christian’s preservation. You’ve been given new birth, you have an inheritance that is certain, and you are now being kept and guarded and shielded by God’s power.

Now, turn, if you would, to Romans chapter 8, because this is the emphasis of the verses that we read previously. And I want just to draw your attention to this familiar territory here. I’m not gonna take a long time on it, but I do want just to underscore the fact that nothing can separate God’s children from Christ’s love. This is the reason for his rhetorical questions here in the middle of the chapter: “Who,” or what, he says, “shall separate us from the love of Christ?”—verse 35. What will separate us from the love of Christ? Is it possible that, once having been laid hold of by the Good Shepherd, that we will then be separated from his love? That the Shepherd—John 10:11—who “lays down his life for the sheep,” thereby saving the sheep, that the sheep would then be saved on a Monday, unsaved on a Tuesday, worried about whether they were saved on a Wednesday, and resaved on a Thursday?

That is what some people teach: that you become a Christian as a result of some decision that you make and something that you do, and since you started it, you can finish it. And so, if you determine to finish it, you just finish it. And then, if you want to start it again, you just start it again. I can’t imagine a worse business in all of my life. It would be as if somehow or another the marriage covenant were like that: married on a Monday, single on a Tuesday, married on a Wednesday, single on a Thursday, and so on. There’d be no relationship at all; it would be absolutely dreadful. And here the Bible is saying, when the Lord Jesus comes and he wins and he woos those who are his beloved and he draws them to himself, he saves us for all of eternity. And once we are saved, we are always saved. You can never be lost. If you’re in Christ, you can never go to hell. He will always be your Savior. He will never, ever, ever quit on you.

Now, the New Testament also makes it very, very plain that no man or woman may suppose that the love of the Lord Jesus has embraced him or her unless that man or woman has come as a sinner to the Lord Jesus Christ—unless we have come, as it were, like Thomas of old and bowed before him and said, “My Lord and my God!”[7]

Now, this love which God has displayed towards sinners was displayed towards sinners! If you go back a few chapters to 5:8, you come to this amazing verse: “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” It is as a result of this amazing love demonstrated by God that we are elected and justified and glorified. And on account of this, Paul further asks the question in Romans 8:33, “Who [then] will bring any charge” against God’s elect—or “against those whom God has chosen?” After all, he says, “It is God who justifies.” It is God who looked at us in all of our sin and declared us righteous on account of the sacrifice of his Son. On what basis did God, in looking at us in our sin, pass his justifying sentence?

Was it because we were so righteous? No! Because we were unrighteous. Was it because we were so interested in the things of faith? No! Because we were disinterested in the things of faith. Was it because we were so lovable, just by dint of our very personalities and nature? Was it because we were so obviously religious, and God was looking for religious people, and he looked around, and he found a few sort of religious-susceptible folks who were sort of into that kind of thing, and he said, “Now, this is the kind of person that I need”? Was that it? No, if we were to stand up and give our testimony, we’d go all the way across the board.

God looks down, and while we were ungodly and when were liable to death on account of our sins, he declared us righteous on the basis of the sacrifice of his Son. It is for this reason that I quote so often the phrase from the hymn,

Because the sinless Savior died,
My [guilty] soul is counted free;
For God the just is satisfied
To look on him and pardon me.[8]

God knew the worst about us, and he accepted us for Jesus’ sake. And the verdict which he passed on us is final. No one can produce new evidence of my sinfulness that will make him change his mind.

On what basis did God pass his justifying sentence? Not on the basis of righteous deeds that we had done,[9] for all of our righteousnesses were ultimately, as the prophet says, like “filthy rags.”[10] Even our best stuff stinks. Even our religious endeavors are futile and worthless. So unless it was on the basis of what another had done, there was absolutely no possibility of sinful men and women ever being declared in a right standing with a holy God. And it is exactly on that basis. He knew the worst about us, and he accepted us for Jesus’ sake. And the verdict which he passed on us is final. And no one can produce new evidence of my sinfulness that will make him change his mind.

And if you’re running around in your days, constantly looking over your shoulder, wondering and worrying if somebody is going to come up with something in your past or some experience in your immediate past, and this will be enough, and they will share it with God and say, “Do you know happened last Tuesday to Freddie-boy here?”—or “to Jane,” or whoever it is—“Did you know that?” And God says, “Oh, that takes me by surprise! Cancel that justification business! Rule him out. Rule him out. He can come back and try again, but for now he’s out of the race.” That is what some people teach! What a dreadful tyranny! Never knowing where you stand, because always looking to myself to see if I’m doing well—always looking to my good deeds or always looking to whether I’m having a wonderful day or a not-so-good day. And all of that looking to yourself will cripple you. There is only one place to look, and that is to look away to Christ. And in looking there to him, we say, “If he would go to that extent for a sinner such as I and save me on the strength of that, I am surely not saved one day and unsaved the next. No, I am preserved, kept by God’s power.”

That’s why some of the old hymn writers do us such a great service. For example, Augustus Toplady. If your name was Augustus Toplady, you better be able to do something special. And fortunately, he could! He could write hymns. Now, listen to these great words.

He’s talking to himself. He says “from whence”—where does this—“from whence this fear and unbelief?” He says, “Here I am: it’s a Tuesday morning, and I’m fearful and I’m unbelieving.” Now, I like that honesty. It’s better than the smug superficiality of a lot of contemporary expressions of Christian faith. It just isn’t true that everybody is “so happy, so rejoicing, so wonderful, never had such a good day.” Cut it out! We know what it is to be fearful, and we know what it is to be unbelieving. And we don’t have to tell people we don’t, to try and keep a good face on what it means to be a genuine Christian.

From whence this fear and unbelief?
Has not the Father put to grief
 His spotless Son for me?
And will the righteous Judge of men
Condemn me for that debt of sin
 Which, Lord, was charged on thee?

Complete atonement thou hast made,
And to the utmost farthing paid
 Whate’er thy people owed:
Nor can his wrath on me take place,
If sheltered in thy righteousness
 And sprinkled with thy blood.

If thou hast my discharge procured
And freely in my room endured
 The whole of wrath divine,
Payment God cannot twice demand,
First at my bleeding [Savior’s] hand,
 And then again at mine.[11]

You see, you cannot sing,

Jesus paid it all,
All to him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow[12]

and then turn around and say, “Maybe.”

Now, what is the application that is then made of this truth? What should it produce within the life of the child of God?

Well, look at what he says in Romans 8:38: “I am convinced…” “I am convinced.” What is this? This is faith. What is faith? “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”[13] It is faith which allows a man to say, “I am convinced.” What is faith? It’s the very gift of God. “I am convinced.” Which stands, of course, in striking contrast to the fears which can so often grip the heart of a believer.

So let me wrap this up by reminding us that we need to set our sights correctly if we are to persevere to the end. To what should we look?

Well, first of all, not to ourselves. Because when we look at ourselves, we only give ourselves a basis for discouragement. Even on a good day, you give yourself enough basis for discouragement, don’t you? I do! All the things that people say to me: “Well, how did it go?”—when they ask you, when I do two things, like two Table Talks—they say, “Well, what happened in the first one?” I say, “Well, I made a set of mistakes.” “And what happened in the second one?” “Well, I tried to correct the mistakes I made in the first one. The trouble is, I made a whole new set of mistakes in the second one.” And that’s exactly the way our Christian lives so often go. And it is less than truthful to say other than that.

So if I look at myself, I only have cause for discouragement. If I look around to my brothers and sisters, it will ebb and flow depending on who they are and where they are, but by and large, it’s not a great help. So I can only look one place—and that is, I look to the Lord Jesus himself. I turn my eyes upon Jesus.[14]

I remind myself, in Hebrews 4:14: “Since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.” It is in looking at Jesus, it is in fixing my thoughts on Jesus, that I am enabled to run the race set out for me. For I remind myself that he is the author and he is the perfecter of my faith. He is the one on account of the joy that was before him endured the cross, he scorned its shame, he sat down at the right hand of the throne of God, and he did it in order that I might be forgiven and continue through my days.[15]

To what, then, are we to look? Well, it is to whom, and it is to his Son.

To what are we to listen? We are to listen to his Word. We are to listen to his Word. This is why it is so important to be in a Bible-teaching church, where the pastors and the elders will labor, along with those who instruct the youngsters, to bring forth the truth of God’s Word for God’s people. Because it is by the very Word of God that we are strengthened and we are equipped. It is God’s Word which warns us; it’s his Word that guides us, teaches us, and encourages us.

If you think about it in relationship to the denial of Peter… You remember, during the passion of the Lord Jesus Christ, he was under strong, strong attack. He had made these very brave statements, Peter had—the kind of things with which we had become familiar in relationship to him. And they were recorded in Luke chapter 22, that after he had made all these affirmations about how everybody else might fall away and how everybody else might leave the Lord Jesus, that he never would. And in Luke 22:60, Peter, now having been asked a couple of times about whether he knew Christ, said, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about! I don’t know Jesus Christ!”[16] Now, this is the guy that Jesus said, “You are Peter, and upon your profession of faith and your conviction regarding the fact that I am Christ, the Son of the living God, I am going to build my church.”[17] This is the same guy, okay? He’s at a fireplace, and a lady asks him, “Hey, weren’t you with that Galilean? You sound an awful lot like him.” What does he say? “I don’t know him.”

And just as he was speaking, the cock crowed. And “the Lord turned and looked straight at Peter.” Then you have this interesting phrase: “Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him.” What was the word that he had spoken to him? “Before the [cock] crows … you will [deny] me three times.”[18] But that wasn’t all. What was the word that he had spoken to him? “Satan has desired to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you that your faith will not fail. And when you’re turned around, strengthen the brethren.”[19] And Peter “went outside and wept bitterly.”[20]

We don’t read our Bibles simply to find blessed thoughts or to get a good start to the day. We must read our Bibles because it is by the very Word of truth that God’s people are kept.

I’m not so sure that he wept on account of the recollection of the word of warning. I’ve a sneaking suspicion that what made the tears smart in his eyes was the awareness that in his moment of most abject, total failure, the word that had been spoken for him was, “Peter, I have prayed for you, that your faith won’t fail, and you’re still my man.” Tell you what, that’s a wonderful Savior to have—a Savior who keeps us in the hour of our deepest darkness, in the moments of our abject failure, at the points of our greatest weakness. And how does he do it? According to his Word! See, we don’t read our Bibles simply to find blessed thoughts. We don’t read our Bibles simply to get a good start to the day. We must read our Bibles because it is by the very Word of Truth that God’s people are kept—transformed by the renewing of our minds.[21] The word that Peter had heard brings joy out of his tears, and God’s Word is the means of our great preservation.

Well then, if we’re going to persevere, we need to look to his Son, we need to listen to his Word, and we need, finally, to keep close to his people. To keep close to his people. Because God has determined that it is in our relationships with one another that we are strengthened and equipped. Hebrews 3:13: “Encourage one another … as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” The vital importance of belonging to a worshipping, praying, learning, evangelizing company of God’s people. Believers not living in isolation but, like sheep, gathering together in a flock. Why? Because God has not only ordained that we will continue to the end, but he has ordained the means whereby we will continue to the end. And one of the means that he brings into our lives for this very purpose is the fellowship of his people.

That’s why it is a great concern to me to watch the church in America in the last twenty-five or thirty years move from the essential nature of the Lord’s Day—the priority and definite emphasis of the teaching of the Word of God on two occasions on the Lord’s Day, not because there are evening services in the Bible but simply because it would seem only right that, seizing the opportunity of the hours in the day, we would gather to look to the Son, to listen to his Word, and to learn from one another. I’m so glad you’re here. I wish the other fifteen hundred people who had been present this morning were here as well—not so we had a big crowd, but so that I could seek to edify them also and encourage them with the truth of God’s Word.

Our faith will not fail, because God sustains it. As Packer says, “You[’re] not strong enough to fall away while God is resolved to hold you.”[22] I love that statement; I wish I’d been smart enough to think it up for myself. “You are not strong enough to fall away [as long as] God is resolved to hold you.”

Let me finish with Toplady again: “The work which his goodness began”—that is, the work of redemption—

The arm of his strength will complete;
His promise is [Yes] and Amen,
And never was forfeited yet.
Things future, nor things that are now,
Nor all things below [n]or above,
Can make him his purpose forgo
Or sever my soul from his love.

My name from the palms of his hands
Eternity will not erase;
Impressed on his heart it remains,
In marks of indelible grace.
Yes, I to the end shall endure,
As sure as the earnest is giv’n;
More happy, but not more secure,
The glorified spirits in heav’n.[23]

The people who have already run the race, breasted the tape, and entered into the joy of the Lord are happier tonight, but no more secure, than the stumbling, bumbling, wandering, struggling, trusting, growing, continuing, persevering believer.

How good to know that our salvation is grounded in the eternal counsels of God, is brought to our experience in a moment in time, and will be brought to completion—absolutely dead certain—on account of his amazing grace.

Let us bow in a moment of silence and thank God for his love.

Some of us are here tonight, and we’ve spent the last period of our lives in Doubting Castle. Some of us have been in By-Path Meadow. Some of us have been spending far too much time with Pliable and Mr. Worldly Wiseman.[24] And we’ve needed a word of encouragement and direction such as we have received, and we thank God for it, and we bless his name. And the tears smart in our eyes—not because he knew about our rebellion and our disinterest, but the tears smart in our eyes because he has promised to bring to completion the work that he has begun.[25] How amazing that he would continue with the likes of such as me!

“It’s grace that brought me safe this far, and it’s grace that will bring me home.”[26] We’ve been “ransomed, healed,” and “restored,” and “forgiven,” so we’re the ones that ought to sing.[27] We ought to declare the joy that is ours in the Lord Jesus. We ought to bow before the wonder of his beauty and his majesty. We ought to declare unreservedly that the whole of heaven redounds with his praise and glory—that he, the Lamb upon the throne, is the one who bore our sin and who pleads our cause and who awaits our arrival.

O God, we worship you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


[1] Fanny Crosby, “Safe in the Arms of Jesus” (1868).

[2] Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 4th ed. (1939; repr., Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979), 546.

[3] Matthew 16:23; Mark 8:33 (NIV 1984).

[4] William Shakespeare, Hamlet, 1.2.

[5] Shakespeare, 1.2.

[6] See Nehemiah 2:7–9.

[7] John 20:28 (NIV 1984).

[8] Charitie L. Bancroft, “Before the Throne of God Above” (1863).

[9] See Titus 3:5.

[10] Isaiah 64:6 (KJV).

[11] Augustus Toplady, “From Whence This Fear and Unbelief” (1777).

[12] Elvina M. Hall, “Jesus Paid It All” (1865).

[13] Hebrews 11:1 (NIV 1984).

[14] See Hebrews 12:2.

[15] See Hebrews 12:1–2.

[16] Luke 22:60 (paraphrased).

[17] Matthew 16:18 (paraphrased).

[18] Luke 22:61 (NIV 1984).

[19] Luke 22:31–32 (paraphrased).

[20] Luke 22:62 (NIV 1984).

[21] See Romans 12:2.

[22] J. I. Packer, Knowing God (1973; repr., Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 275.

[23] Augustus M. Toplady, “A Debtor to Mercy Alone” (1771).

[24] See John Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress.

[25] See Philippians 1:6.

[26] John Newton, “Amazing Grace” (1779). Lyrics lightly altered.

[27] Henry F. Lyte, “Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven” (1834).

Copyright © 2020, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.