Will I fall away from Jesus? This is one question that sometimes comes up in the Christian life – and it is addressed in the Bible. Sam Storms discusses this topic in his new book, Kept for Jesus (Wheaton: Crossway, 2015). This book isn’t an exhaustive explanation of perseverance (preservation) of the saints; rather, it is specifically a discussion of the texts in the New Testament that teach this truth. Storms also takes some time to deal with the difficult texts that seem to teach Christians can fall away. In this volume, Storms frequently quotes and builds upon the work of contemporary Baptist theologians such as John Piper, Tom Schreiner, and Wayne Grudem.
There are eleven chapters in this book (covering just over 190 pages). In the first chapter, Storms talks about perseverance in John 6 and 10. In the second chapter, he talks about some tough texts in Matthew – specifically the “Lord Lord” text from Matthew 7, blasphemy against the Spirit in Matthew 12, and the parable of the soils in Matthew 13. Chapter 3 is Storm’s exposition of the vine text in John 15. The next chapter (4) is where he discusses the steadfast love of God in Romans 5 and 8; in chapter 5 he discusses Romans 8 in more detail. 1 and 2 Corinthians is the focus of chapter 6, specifically 1 Cor. 1:4-9, 11:27-32, and 2 Cor. 1:21-22. Difficult texts (Heb. 6 and 2 Cor 13) is what Storms writes about in chapter 7. Storms talks about perseverance in other epistles in chapter 8, and in chapters 9-10 he works through some difficult texts (e.g. Rom. 11:22, 2 Cor. 6:1-2, James 5:19-20, etc). The final chapter asks and answers the question: “Can a Christian commit the sin unto death?”
I have to admit the overall structure of this book seemed a bit random – I was hoping it would have a more unified outline or structure. It sort of read like a collection of articles instead of an outlined book. Another minor critique worth noting is that though the subtitle mentions “assurance,” there isn’t a whole lot of space devoted to it. Storms also made the common mistake of equating “Reformed” and “Calvinism” in the introduction (p. 14); not to nitpick, but it is important to remember that there is a whole lot more to Reformed theology than Five Points! This becomes evident since Storms doesn’t talk about (for just two examples) the covenant of grace or the intra-trinitarian covenant (which both show up in the NT).
I don’t want to be too critical, however, because the book is specifically only meant to be a defense of perseverance of the saints in New Testament passages. Storms wasn’t out to write a Reformed systematic defense and description of perseverance in this book, so I can’t critique him for not doing so! I especially appreciated the section where Storms talks about the unforgivable sin; his treatment was superb and pastoral. His chapter on love from Romans texts was also very helpful and edifying – God’s love in Christ means nothing can separate the sheep from the Shepherd! There are some obvious strengths to this book, and I’m glad to have read these sections I just mentioned. Though some “difficult” texts weren’t discussed in much detail, the ones that he discussed in detail were explained pretty well.
If you’ve read other books on perseverance that discuss these key texts or if you’ve read quite a few other books on this topic, you might not need this one. [Also, I’m not sure “convinced” Arminians would all appreciate this book because at times Storms notes what Arminians teach but does not cite his claims.] However, if you need a Calvinist resource that discusses NT texts about perseverance, this is one to get! It’s not overly difficult (though it isn’t structured for a book club/reading group) or too lengthy, and it has some good explanations of the truth that no one can snatch Christ’s sheep out of his hand.