The Father’s keeping of the saints must be understood to be similar to that keeping which Jesus provided for the disciples when he was present with them (Jn. 17:12). Jesus’ keeping did not violate the disciples’ free will, did not release them from personal responsibility (1 Jn. 5:18), and did not prevent Judas from apostatizing (Gal. 5:4 f; 2 Pet. 2:20-22). Nevertheless, Jesus kept the apostles through his teaching, exhortations, and care for them.
Here are some of the things which the Father does to keep his saints.
1. Providence. God acts in his providence to keep us from sin. Jesus taught us to pray that the Father would lead us from temptation (Matt. 6:13); Paul promised that God would be faithful to protect us from temptations we are unable to bear (1 Cor. 10: 13). Peter promised, “The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished” (2 Pet. 2:9). He kept Abimelech from sinning through marrying Sarah, the wife of Abraham (Gen. 20:6). The Lord works providentially to keep his saints.
2. Provisions. The Lord has provided these other things which work to keep the saints saved:
(a) His word. The word of God was provided to enable men to persevere (Acts 20:32). Through its teachings, we are alerted to the dangers which threaten our souls (Ps. 119:11,105,130,133).
(b) The church. The congregation of God’s people was provided for saints to provide spiritual encouragement to one another (1 Cor. 12:26).
(c) Worship services provoke us to love and good works (Heb. 10:24-25).
(d) Mature Christians provide a good example for us (Heb. 13:7).
(e) Elders watch over the souls of saints (Heb. 13:17). Many people are not “kept” because they willfully turn away from what God has provided to keep them.
3. Restoration. Still saints stumble into sin. God’s provisions for our souls do not stop when we sin. He commands spiritual men to restore us (Gal. 6:1). He is patient to give us time to repent (2 Pet. 3:9 ff; Rom, 2:4; Rev. 2:21). He graciously forgives us our sins when we confess them (1 Jn. 1:6-9). We see God’s working with David when he fell into sin (2 Sam. 12). After David committed adultery and murder, God gave him time to repent, sent Nathan to rebuke him, and graciously forgave him his sins. These provisions are part of God’s keeping of his children.
Conclusion: Man will never be lost as a consequence of a deficiency of God’s grace. God will provide for us what we cannot provide for ourselves.