Audio Worship 6/2/2024, "The 'P' of TULIP" John 10.22-30

Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1640

June 2, 2024

John 10:22-30             Click here for audio Worship

Dr. Ed Pettus


“The ‘P’ of TULIP”

 22At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. 24So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name bear witness about me, 26but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. 27My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29My 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. 30I and the Father are one.”

  • Summary of TULIP

This is the final sermon in our look at the doctrines of TULIP, the five points of Calvinism. We have learned about total depravity which states that we are so deeply affected by sin that we cannot choose rightly for God. We have heard about unconditional election which is the infamous predestination doctrine. It teaches that God chooses whom God chooses. Limited atonement addresses the death of Christ for the elect of God. Irresistible grace makes known that when God chooses to bring us to Christ, there is no way we can or want to resist God’s purpose for our life. Today we conclude with the perseverance of the saints, a doctrine that reminds us that we cannot lose our salvation, because nothing can snatch us out of God’s hand.

The perseverance of the saints might be better titled the preservation of the saints, because the meaning of this doctrine teaches that God has elected His own, saved His own, and will preserve His own to the end. When God begins His work of salvation in us, He sees it through. Paul writes about the confidence in God’s work of salvation to eternal life in Philippians 1:6, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” God began a work in us. He started it and He will finish it! God is at work in us today and will continue that work until the end. That’s why we sometimes ask people to be patient with us because God is not yet finished with us!

Ben Lacy Rose makes this somewhat amusing contrast about this doctrine. He says that God is the source of our eternal security and we might better understand that by seeing it as a cat doctrine. He writes, “One can hold either to the cat or the monkey doctrine of how salvation is accomplished for or by believers. A mother cat, wishing to move her kittens, grasps the kitten firmly by the nape of the neck in her mouth and carries the little one where she will. In stark contrast, the poor baby monkey must grab hold of the mother’s fur and hold on for dear life. As the mother monkey swings through the trees, the little monkey must hold on tightly or fall. Those persons who hold the monkey doctrine believe that they have hold of God and it’s all up to them to hold on. Those who hold to the cat doctrine believe, as the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints teaches, that God has hold of them and He will never let go” (TULIP, p. 58).

God is the one who makes this doctrine possible. In the same way that God chooses us in unconditional election, God saves us in limited atonement, and God draws us through his grace through Jesus Christ, so too does God keep us securely in salvation by carrying us to eternity. What TULIP leads us to see is that God is behind everything we do and everything that happens to us for the purpose of salvation. For that, we are eternally grateful and humbled.

  • Jesus’ Sheep

In our reading for today, John 10 speaks of the sheep, His sheep, to whom Jesus gives eternal life. This is a gift that is never taken back. Jesus says we will never perish and says in two ways “no one will snatch them out of my hand”. Once we have been found we cannot be lost. Once we have been chosen, we will not be abandoned. Once God has us in hand, He will not let anything or anyone take us out. This is probably the clearest teaching on eternal security. “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish.” No one can snatch us out of Jesus’ hand, no one can snatch us out of His Father’s hand, and we have already been given the gift of eternal life!

God the Father has given the sheep to God the Son. We are the sheep, the chosen, the elect of God. Even if one sheep strays away for a time, the Good Shepherd will leave the ninety-nine behind to search for the one and restore that one to the fold.

12What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? 13And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray” (Matthew 18.12-13). It may not be the main point of this parable, and I will speak to this issue more in a moment, but the parable could be seen as acknowledging that believers can stray from the faith, or from the Shepherd, or from the church. But that does not jeoprodize their salvation, only for a time will one stray until Jesus draws them back. This is the preservation of the sheep no matter if they stay among the flock or wonder off into the wilderness. How many Christians wonder off into the wilderness of the world? We do not know for certain the status of someone else’s salvation, but we know that if that person is doing something that is opposed to God’s Word and ways, then we are obligated to find ways to lead them back to Jesus.

That may also bring comfort to us when we are going through difficult times and might draw back from the faith. We can still know that God will not give up on us and will carry us through the storms of life.

  • Guarded for an Inheritance

Let me share one other passage for today that also speaks to our preservation.

1 Peter 1.1-6a, “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you. 3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6In this you rejoice…”

The “who” of verse five goes back to the “us” of verse three. “He has caused us to be born again...who by God’s power are being guarded…” In between those phrases is the inheritance that is also kept for us in heaven, an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. These assurances brought great comfort to the earliest believers because God promises to protect and God promised an inheritance that would not go away. The same is true for us, that until we are able to receive this inheritance kept in heaven, God is at work protecting us. There is no greater guard or protector than God. God is at work in us that we might persevere, that is, He is preserving us for perseverance!

  • Once Saved Always Saved

 The Parable of the Sower does not speak directly to the doctrine of perseverance, but does speak to the question of some people who may appear saved but are not, Mark 4.1-20, Again he began to teach beside the sea. And a very large crowd gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat in it on the sea, and the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. 2And he was teaching them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: 3“Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. 4And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. 5Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. 6And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. 7Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. 8And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” 9And he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” 10And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. 11And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, 12so that “‘they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven.’”

 13And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? 14The sower sows the word. 15And these are the ones along the path, where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them. 16And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. 17And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away. 18And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, 19but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. 20But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.”

Some might receive the gospel and rejoice in it for a time. We would even get all excited with them, but without that Word rooting in them, any tough time in life will see them fall away. Some might also hear and receive the gospel, but the cares of the world and the lure of riches and worldly things will choke out the Word. Time will tell. Some may appear to be among the chosen, but may fall away. To some like that, the Lord will greet them in judgment with “I never knew you.”

In 1 John we read that some had left the fellowship or church, but they were not really saved, 1 John 2.19, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.”

Those who disagree with eternal security will often quote Hebrews 6 or other references, but none of those texts are definitive toward the eternal security clearly stated in the texts we site in support of the perseverance of the saints.

Westminster Confession Chapter 17 - Those whom God has accepted in His Son and has effectually called and sanctified by His Spirit can never completely or finally fall out of their state of grace. Rather, they shall definitely continue in that state to the end and are eternally saved.

Goes on to say: Nevertheless, the temptations of Satan, the world, and their old carnal nature, along with neglect of the means of their preservation, may lead believers to commit serious sins and to continue in them for a time. They consequently displease God and grieve his Holy Spirit, have some of the fruit of God’s grace and his comforts taken away from them, have their hearts hardened and their consciences wounded, hurt and offend others, and bring temporal judgments on themselves.

Two things are taught about those who may fall away: a) their faith was not genuine from the start, or b) if they fall away and faith was genuine, the falling away is only temporary and they will return.

God gives the power to endure, power for obedience, security in salvation, assurance for persistence, growth in faith, sanctification, and zeal! God holds us and empowers us in and for salvation.

John Owen, one of the giants of Puritan thought in the seventeenth century, spoke of the misunderstanding of perseverance of the saints because perseverance implies that it is something we do, as in our efforts to persevere. But, as RC Sproul also says, a better term is preservation as in God preserving us to the end. It is God’s faithfulness to us that preserves our salvation and carries us into the promises of eternal life. “The faithfulness of the Father, the grace of the Son, and the power of the Spirit, all are engaged in our preservation.” It is the “cat theology”. It is the knowledge that nothing can snatch us out of God’s hands.

One final word on this is also the final word that concludes the letter of Jude, verses 24, 25… "Now to him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you without blemish before the presence of his glory with rejoicing, to the only God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen."

This is the preservation and perseverance of the saints:

He keeps us from falling and presents us without blemish!

To God alone be glory! Amen.