OceanSide church of Christ

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Victor M. Eskew

     In Exodus 23:20-23, the children ofIsrael are introduced to the Angel of the Lord.  This Angel is believed to be the second person of the Godhead.  He is definitely divine.  In Exodus 23;21, the Angel has the power to pardon and God’s name is in him.  Further proof of his divinity is found in Joshua 4:13-15.  When he appeared to the noble leader of Israel, Joshua “fell on his face to the earth, and did worship him” (v. 14).  In Joshua 5:15, Joshua was commanded to remove his shoes from his feet; “for the place whereon thou standest is holy.”  It was the presence of this wonderful Being that made the place holy.  This Being was not Moses.  The evidence abounds that He was more than one of the created angelic beings of heaven.  He was a divine Being worthy of worship.  Again, most believe him to be a manifestation of the Son of God.

     Returning to the book of Exodus, we read of the Angel’s purpose in Exodus 23:20.  “Behold, I send an Angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared.”  The Angel was “to keep” the Israelites in the way.  The word “keep” is filled of meaning.  Strong defines the word as “to hedge about as with thorns, to guard, to protect, attend to.”  Brown, Driver, and Briggs give this definition of the word “keep”:  “to keep, guard, keep watch and ward, protect, save life.” 

This verse is meaningful to the Christian because he is also a “kept” being.  Peter acknowledged this I Peter 1:5.  Speaking to the Christians of the dispersion, Peter wrote:  “Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation to be revealed in the last time.”  The question that we raise is:  “Can the child of God fall from the grace of God if he is kept by the power of God?”  Because he is kept, many believe that it is “impossible” for him to fall.  This passage in I Peter is one of the passages that they believe to teach that once one is saved, he is always saved.

     This writer finds it interesting that Israel was kept by a divine being while wandering in the wilderness.  Surely, the power of this Angel was strong enough to keep Israel from falling.  Such, however, was not the case.  Israel did fall.  The writer of the Hebrew epistle expounds upon Israel’s apostasy in Hebrews 3.  “So I sware in my wrath, they shall not enter into my rest.”  One generation certainly did not.  Why?  Was it because the Angel’s power was not great enough to keep them?  Absolutely not!

     The fact is that their being kept by the Angel of the Lord was conditioned upon Israel’s faithful obedience.  In Hebrews 3:19, we read:  “So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.”  In Exodus 23:21, we learn that obedience was to be part of their faith.  Speaking of Israel’s obedience to the Angel of the Lord, the Lord said:  “Beware of him, obey his voice, provoke him not…”  Israel did not do this.  Israel turned from the Lord, and He ceased keeping them in the way.

     This same application can be made to Christians today.  Peter says that we are kept by the power of God “through faith.”  This is a faith that obeys God (John 14:15).  If we cease to obey the Lord, we show a lack of faith.  Our lack of faith can result in God’s failure to keep us.  Thus, the warning found in Hebrews 3:12.  “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.”

     The doctrine of “once saved, always saved” is a fallacy.  Our salvation is conditional.  We must believe and obey just as Israel did.  “Let us therefore labor to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief” (Heb. 4:11).