The issue of a believer’s security would plague us to our final breath if that security depended on us in any way. We might fear failing to “endure to the end.” What if we falter in our faith just before dying? What if we slip up in our final moments without any opportunity to repent? Would we then miss heaven and plunge into hell? If salvation depended on us, we would have every right to be concerned. We would, in fact, be hopeless. However, Peter tells us that we are “kept by the power of God.” (1Peter 1:5) We are not instructed to do what will keep us safe, but rather encouraged to know Who it is that is keeping us safe.
Scripture tells us God’s power is so great that a word from His lips called the created order into existence. Genesis 1 contains the refrain, “And God said, let there be … and it was so.” God’s power was displayed in the judgment of the great flood in Noah’s day, at the Red Sea in Moses’ day, even making the sun stand still in Joshua’s day. The God who can stop lions’ mouths, turn water into blood, still violent storms, and raise the dead to life again is truly unlimited in His power. Indeed, there is no power greater than His. How encouraging to realize that we, as believers, are kept by the power of our omnipotent God. Neither human will (including our own personal will) nor Satan’s power can overcome the One who keeps His own safe!
The first word of the verse is “who” and points back to those who have been “born again to a living hope” (v3, ESV). Those who are born again also have an imperishable, undefiled and unfading inheritance that is kept for them (v4). Thus, the inheritance is “kept” for the heirs and the heirs are “kept” in order to obtain this inheritance.
How did we become heirs? How were we born again? What occurred so that it could now be said that we are kept by the power of God? Peter says it was “through faith” (v5). We are not kept by our faith, we are kept by God’s power, a blessing received when we were born again “through faith.” Faith in Christ brought salvation, so that now we are under God’s protective hand and have an inheritance waiting for us.
There are those who teach that the phrase “through faith” means that the believer must continue to exercise faith in order to be kept by God’s power. If that were true, in what way is God’s keeping power beneficial at all? How are we being kept and from what? If God’s salvation does not include being saved from myself, what good is it at all? It is either God or us, not both. If we have to keep ourselves safe by our faith, we are hopeless, for our flesh is weak and our enemies (Satan and this world) are powerful.
What does it mean to be “kept”? The Greek word phroureo is a military term for being guarded or protected. The way it is used in Galatians 3:23 and Philippians 4:7 led commentator Wayne Grudem to conclude, “The contexts show that the word can mean both ‘kept from escaping’ and ‘protected from attack,’ and perhaps both kinds of guarding are intended here: God is preserving believers from escaping out of His kingdom, and He is protecting them from external attacks.” Thus, no outside force can take us away from God’s protective hand, nor can any personal failure cause God to drop His guard.
Additionally, the word “kept” is a present participle giving the sense that we are “continually being guarded.” There is never a moment when God lets His guard down, but we are always kept by Him. Peter adds that this guarding takes us all the way to our final salvation (“for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time,” Darby). Final salvation refers to “the whole sum of what God has in store for us, the enjoyment of our inheritance” (C.E.B. Cranfield). Thus, it is impossible to see how God’s keeping activity can ever cease.
I love the words of William Blane’s outstanding hymn:
Kept, safely kept;
My fears away are swept.
In weakness to my God I cling,
Though foes be strong I calmly sing,
Kept, safely kept.
Kept by His power,
Whatever dangers lower
The strength of God’s almighty arm
Doth shield my soul from every harm,
Kept by His power.
Kept all the way,
E’en to salvation’s day,
His mighty love ne’er cold shall wax,
Nor shall His powerful grasp relax,
Through all the way.
What should our reaction be to the truth of being kept eternally secure? The answer is certainly not with a determination to sin. We ought to respond with praise (“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” v1). It’s not surprising we should respond with joy (“you greatly rejoice in this,” v6, ISV ). How appropriate to respond, as well, with love for the Savior Himself (“Whom having not seen, ye love” v8).
We conclude this series on eternal security by asking the question once more, “Just how safe am I?” I am as safe as my God is strong. I am as safe as His promises are sure. I am safe because He is faithful (2Tim 2:13), even when I am not. The only way I can be sure of salvation is when it is obtained by grace and maintained by grace. Otherwise, I can never have any assurance at any time. By God’s grace, I am safe. Are you?