Kept By the Power of the Lord (I Peter 1:4ff)

Call her a “kept woman” and you’ll be in big trouble.

The term implies that some rich guy is paying big for the favor of that woman’s company, covering her rent, maybe lavishing gifts upon her.

In the early verses of this First Epistle of Peter, the apostle twice speaks of that which is “kept” by the Almighty.

“…an inheritance….kept in Heaven for you who through faith are kept by God’s power….” (I Peter 1:4-5)

Our inheritance is kept for us in Heaven. We the Lord’s disciples are kept by Him on earth.

Financial advisor Suze Orman in a radio commercial counsels people not to withdraw their money from the bank and hide it in a mattress as one person told her they were doing. “Put it in a bank where the F.D.I.C. guarantees your deposits up to a certain amount,” she urges.

We want our money to be “kept” for us and available when we need it. We recall Jesus saying, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven….” (Matthew 6:19-20)

Many a bank, when advertising its services, will emphasize the word “security.” For good reason, it turns out, since the economy of any country is so iffy.

This week, President Obama has had sitdown meetings with officials in his administration whose agencies are charged with keeping the traveling public safe. This resulted from a Christmas Day incident in which a Nigerian man tried to set off an explosive in a plane beginning its descent into Detroit. From all reports, the proper authorities knew of this man and should have banned him from travel to this country. Either they did not communicate this to one another or simply were derelict in their duties, but the president is determined that the agencies will do their jobs.

Safety is a big issue and always has been.

At the moment, I’m reading a popular novel in which a vacationing family has their small daughter abducted from under their noses. The law enforcement authorities inform the parents that the kidnaper is a serial murderer and that they should accept that the worst has happened. The father is tortured by thoughts that he should have protected his child and did not.

Your inheritance is protected in Heaven.

You are protected on earth.

The Christians whom Peter is addressing are going through a nightmarish time of persecution and testing. Many are being dragged out of their homes and imprisoned, some are being killed, and churches are being outlawed.

At such times, believers are prone to ask, “Where is God in this?” It’s a question that deserves an answer. Peter’s epistle, penned as his response, has blessed countless pilgrims who were forced to endure difficult circumstances and fiery trials through the centuries.

Without saying it in so many words, Peter also responds to those who are tempted to complain that, “If God is in charge of the universe and we have turned our lives over to Jesus, our lives should have improved. Instead, they’re getting worse. What’s happening here?”

Not every believer, sad to say, is able to sing, “Every day with Jesus is sweeter than the day before.” For some, every day is a torture due to their commitment to Him.

Peter’s answer–layered all through the five chapters of this letter–tells believers they are to expect trials, that God uses trials to perfect them, how they should act when life caves in on them, and that they should learn from the way Jesus Himself endured such treatment.

But before delving into the nitty-gritty of their situation and delivering his counsel, the apostle puts it all in perspective in the opening verses of chapter 1:

1) You are saved.

2) You have a living hope.

3) You have an inheritance awaiting you in Heaven.

4) You are being kept by God’s power for all that He has awaiting you.

5) So, rejoice.

The Greek uses two different words for the inheritance being “kept” in heaven and Christians being “guarded” or “shielded” on earth. The first is the normal word for “watch over” and “protected,” while the second is a military term sometimes translated as “garrisoned.” (See Philippians 4:7 where Paul says the peace of God will “guard” our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.)

We think of the promise of Jesus: “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.” (John 10:28)

Then, in case anyone misses the point, He adds, “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (10:29)

Pastor Adrian Rogers preached this passage in my church in a sermon celebrating the security of believers. I can still hear his booming voice as he said, “Someone says, ‘Well, no person can get you out of the Lord’s hand, but the devil can!'”

He paused a moment, then said, “Now, friend, think of that. If the devil could get you out of the Lord’s hand, he would! And if he doesn’t, it’s because he doesn’t want to. And that makes your salvation dependent on the goodness of Satan!!!”

No one I know wants to go there, believe me.

One of the most triumphant doctrines of the Bible is the security of believers. It’s found on practically every page, from simple statements such as “…whosoever believeth in Him should not perish….” (John 3:16) and “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life….” (John 3:36) to outright declarations of God’s sovereign keeping grace such as the one above found in John 10.

In the great High Priestly Prayer of John 17, just before His arrest and crucifixion, Jesus reported in to the Father: “While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that Name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.” (17:12)

Then He prayed that His followers might have joy (17:13), might be protected from the evil one (17:15), and might be unified (17:20-22).

Security is not an end in itself. We are kept secure by the Lord’s power in order to free us up and empower us to do the work He has assigned us.

In one of his books, John Ortberg tells of a hang-gliding friend inviting him to the top of a mountain where “I have a gift for you.” Thinking the gift was probably the grand view from the summit, Ortberg climbed with his daring friend. Only when they arrived at the top did he learn the gift was that John was to ride that glider off the mountain with him. Suddenly, all his fears went into overdrive.

Ortberg watched as other people strapped themselves into their harness and jumped from the cliff. He knew with his mind that the air currents kept them aloft and was confident the ride down was magnificent. But that was all intellectual until the moment he learned he would be taking that plunge also.

One’s emotions care little about what the mind knows to be facts.

There was nothing for Ortberg to do but to go along with his insistent friend. Frightened out of his wits, he was strapped in and then they edged up to the face of the cliff. The drop stretched hundreds of feet straight down below them.

John uttered a prayer for God to keep them safe. But he knew that in all likelihood his safety was all about the integrity of the glider and the harness and the skill of his friend.

They made the trip safely, it was the experience of a lifetime, and Ortberg says, “I’ll never do it again!”

To one degree or another, most of us will go through something like what Pastor Ortberg did that day. For me, it was the day I was given a flight in a T-38 at an Air Force Base near my church. Captain Bob Orwig, the instructor pilot, was a personal friend and a Sunday School teacher with our youth. Earlier that morning, I was suited up and fitted for a helmet, taught the operation of the parachute and how and when to work the ejection seat should that become necessary. Not a very comforting assurance just before you strap on that slender tube which will propel you through the stratosphere at supersonic speeds.

Toward the conclusion of our 90 minute flight, as we were descending and approaching the base, Captain Bob said through the intercom, “Joe, help me watch for traffic.”

Until that day, when preaching on the need for believers to “walk circumspectly” (Ephesians 5:15), I would use the analogy of a driver who cuts across a parking lot at the mall. “Danger can come from any direction,” I would point out.

That day, watching the skies for other planes that might be in our path, I learned a new definition of “circumspection.” (The word literally means to watch in a circle.) As our plane slowly descended, while Captain Bob busied himself with whatever pilots do, I was scanning the skies above us, below us, to the right and left, in front and behind. Danger could have come from any of these directions.

God kept us safe. The plane kept us safe. The air controllers kept us safe. The pilot did, the designers and manufacturers of that plane did, and the mechanics did.

Even though I watched the skies, no danger appeared and we landed safely. I had not contributed to our safety and security in any way. I was along for the ride.

I cannot keep myself saved. No matter how hard I try, how faithfully I study God’s word, how diligently I tithe and witness and minister to the needy and attend worship, nothing I do keeps me saved.

I am kept by God’s power unto the final stage of our salvation–at which time we shall “see Him” and “be like Him” (I John 3:3)–and His alone.

Personally, I like it that way. He is far more capable than I will ever be.

2 thoughts on “Kept By the Power of the Lord (I Peter 1:4ff)

  1. Hi Joe. Looks like no one is going to agree or disagree with you on this one!! Let me be “The Devil’s Advocate”.

    I certainly agree with you on John 10:28. Perhaps our interpretation is a little different – Surely “no one” refers to other people not to ourselves. Surely “free will” gives us the choice to remain in the Saviour’s care or to step outside.

    Not being a theologian or a student of the Biblical languages I have to rely on what I believe the Scriptures say. I guess I have to assume you were using “Poetic Licence” or whatever preachers use, when you say regarding “security of believers” – “It’s found on practically every page…” I look at verses such as Hebrews 3:12 – “Take care, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.” Hebrews 6:4-6 gives a similar warning. There are other verses too that give warnings.

    One has only to think of Judas. Perhaps he was never a believer. It seems very difficult to believe that he could spend a considerable length of time with the Lord Jesus without at some stage putting his trust in HIM. One can only put it down to the fulfillment of Scripture that the other disciples did not prevent him from leaving the upper room on his mission of betrayal.

    Keep up the good work Joe. I’ll put on my hard hat and wait for the brickbats that I expect from some of your readers!

    Blessings and Shalom

  2. Dr. Joe:

    Thanks for another great article.

    As to your friend, Brian, who was wondering about the implications of Heb. 3:12 for the concept of the security of the believer, it’s been a while since I studied that passage in-depth but if I remember correctly there is something about the Greek verb tense in that verse which indicates that the writer was writing hypothetically (something to the effect of “If you are a true believer you can’t fall away, but assuming you could…”). Greek is like that, having many nuances that are hard to render simply in English (a friend who teaches Greek calls it “reading in color as opposed to black-and-white”). In case, apostasy was a major concern in Hebrews, but the argument that the author seems to make is that those who are truly saved will demonstrate such BY their perseverance; that is to say, if one does not fall away it shows that one had true faith, while the one who falls away may be showing that their faith was never genuine in the first place.

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