What comes to mind when you think of a guard? Did you think of a guard inside a prison who makes sure prisoners do not escape? Were you thinking of someone in uniform at a bank who protects you from armed robbers? Or did you envision a soldier standing duty at a post?
I ask the question because the concept is found throughout the New Testament, regardless of how you think of the term. Words like: watching, protected, ward, keeping, hold, kept, beware, and guard are used repeatedly in the New Testament to describe two primary concepts.
To guard those who are incarcerated. The apostles were arrested under the orders of the Council; but when they were to be brought out of their imprisonment to stand trial, the Council was forced to endure the embarrassment of their escape. The doors were securely locked, and guards were at their posts; but an angel of the Lord had set them free during the night (Acts 5:17-26). Years later, when Peter is again imprisoned (this time by Herod), four squads of soldiers were used to guard him. While Peter slept between two guards, kept in chains and further barred in prison by two additional guards, he was once again set free by an angel (Acts 12:1-19).
To guard against those who intend harm. This is the concept most often conveyed in the New Testament. Sometimes the thought is passive. Satan tempted Jesus to throw Himself down from the temple and cited Scripture that said God had already charged angels to guard Him (Lk. 4:9-11). Jesus resisted the temptation by pointing out that it was sin to put God to the test. When a person confidently states that, once saved, there is nothing they could ever do that would cause them to lose their salvation, they completely missed the point that Jesus made to Satan; and they’ve totally bought into the myth that Satan employed in his temptation of Christ.
Usually, it involves participation. Paul told the Thessalonians that God would “protect you from the evil one” (2 Thess. 3:3). But that protection still required their personal diligence to guard themselves by keeping (guard against) away from those brethren who live an unruly life and did not keep (guard) the traditions that Paul had taught (2 Thess. 3:7-8). Paul assured the Corinthians that God would always provide a way of escape from temptation, but they also must “take heed” (watch over carefully) and not become arrogant.
The Christians in Galatia were being urged in every way to accept a perverted view of the gospel—a view that dismissed the redemptive role of Jesus in favor of keeping the Law of Moses. They needed to be reminded that the Law could not impart spiritual life. Its benefit was, to the extent that it was kept, keeping the Jews protected from further sin. But just one sin resulted in spiritual death, and the Law could not reverse that outcome. It kept them from additional sins if kept, and it pointed them to the hope in Christ who does give spiritual life (Gal. 3:21-25).
There are so many passages in the New Testament that urge us to keep (or guard) ourselves from sin and to keep (or guard) the promises and the commands we’ve been given. These two are mutually dependent. One cannot let one’s guard down when it comes to temptation and still be guarding the sacred words of promise and keeping faithful to the commands of God. Nor can one keep as a treasured gift the word of God and still live an unruly life.
You and I must stand guard and know assuredly that we are under the guard of a loving God.
Keep studying. DC Brown ©2016