Christians Are Kept
We never find the phrase “the perseverance of the saints” in the Bible. Instead, we find the idea of “keeping.” To be kept is to be protected, to be preserved. The great priestly blessing of the Old Testament began with these words: “The LORD bless you and keep you” (Num. 6:24). Those who are saved are kept, not just today, but forever; not by their own resources, but by the power of God Himself. Thus, it is not surprising that we find Jesus praying, “Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me” (John 17:11).
This petition can be read in a couple of ways. Jesus might have been saying, “Keep them through the power of Your name.” He may have been appealing to the instrument by which believers are preserved. On the other hand, Jesus might have been saying, “Keep them in Your name.” I prefer this interpretation. If I am “in God’s name,” I am numbered among the redeemed. That’s how the disciples were on that night before the death of Jesus, before they were to face their supreme crisis. So Jesus prayed for them, asking God: “Keep them. Don’t release them. Don’t let them go. Hold on to them.”
Imagine a father walking beside a railroad track with his three-year-old son. There is danger at hand, so the father holds the child’s hand. If the boy’s safety depends on the strength of his grasp on his father’s hand, he is in grave danger—he could lose his grip and wander into the path of a train. What keeps the child from destruction is not the boy’s grip on his father’s hand but the father’s grip on the child’s hand. That is what Jesus was asking the Father to do—to keep His grip on the disciples.
This excerpt is taken from R.C. Sproul’s commentary on John.