by I Gordon
'...nor can I comprehend a gospel which lets saints fall away after they are called, and suffers the children of God to be burned in the fires of damnation after having once believed in Jesus. Such a gospel I abhor. If one dear saint of God had perished, so might all; and then there is no gospel promise true, but the Bible is a lie, and there is nothing in it worth my acceptance... If I did not believe the doctrine of the final perseverance of the saints, I think I should be of all men the most miserable, because I should lack any ground of comfort.' Charles Spurgeon.
Eternal Security - What it is:
That once a lost sinner has put his/her faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as the only means of salvation and has been justified from every charge, being made a partaker of the divine nature, then it is impossible for that person to ever be lost again.
Eternal Security - What it isn't:
Eternal security doesn't mean that anyone who attends church, or brings their life into accord with Christian teaching, or goes forward at a salvation meeting is forever saved. It is important to mention that this whole study is concerning those that have been truly born again. Many profess Jesus Christ but have never been saved. This whole study is based on the promises and work of God for those that have truly entered into His family.
I want to start this study on eternal security with a couple of questions that at face value may not seem to have much in common with the topic at hand. Here are the questions:
Why does the nation of Israel still exist, and why are they still in possession of their land?
The answers to these questions have a lot to do with eternal security because it shows the faithfulness of God to keep his word even when his chosen people are in a state of unbelief.
The Abrahamic Covenant
Israel still exists and is in possession of their land because God made an unconditional covenant with Abraham. In it, God promised Abraham that his descendants would become a great nation and that they would be given the land forever. (Gen 12:1-3, 13:14-17) The term in Hebrew for making a covenant is 'to cut a covenant'. The corpse of an animal is cut in half and both parties making the covenant would pass through the two halves of the carcass. In the Abrahamic covenant God put Abraham into a deep sleep and passed through the pieces alone signifying that the fulfillment of the covenant rested entirely with Him! (Gen 15:6-21)
Because of this covenant, Abraham's descendants are still in possession of the land today. They have been persecuted more than any other nation but they still exist because of God. You cannot point to their faith or love for God as reasons why God has preserved them because they have largely been in a state of unbelief, rejected His prophets, even rejecting His own Son. They exist because of God's faithfulness to keep his promise. In showing what is going to happen to Israel, Paul declares 'that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and so all Israel will be saved... From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God's choice they are beloved; for the sake of the fathers; for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.' (Rom 11:25-29)
Why is this important?
This is crucial cause it shows that once an unconditional covenant has been made, God will not change his mind but will fulfill what He has promised. Paul's confidence that Israel will be saved in the end was based on two things:
1) The fact that Israel is beloved for the sake of the fathers (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob)
2) The gifts and calling of God are irrevocable (meaning He will not change His mind.)
The New Covenant that a believer enters into is an unconditional covenant!
It is God who has promised to keep our salvation safe and secure to the end. Has God called you? Have you been given the gift of the Holy Spirit? Then if so, believe in the faithfulness of God because the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable! He will not change His mind or go back on those He has called!
Four Passages Teaching Eternal Security
The following are four passages that I want to comment on concerning eternal security. There are far more than these, some of which have been mentioned at the end of this study.
Vs 30: 'And those whom He predestined, He also called; and these He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.'
Question: Who is the 'He' is this verse?
Obviously it is God the Father who has done these things. That's why we believe the salvation is from God. We don't save ourselves. God saves us. This verse declares that God performs each stage of our salvation. It started before the foundation of the world (predestined...) and ends at the Second Coming.(glorified...). Our glorification is so assured that it is written in the past tense. Glorification is not earned but is an act of divine grace to those who believe. And it is assured because our life (the new creation) is hidden with Christ in God and is revealed when He comes in glory. Do you really think a true believer can lose his salvation when God has done all this to make it safe?
Question: Going back to Rom 8:30, where in a passage like this could you even begin to talk about a true believer losing his salvation?
Nowhere, because it is God who completes each stage of our salvation. You see, it doesn't even come down to what a person believes about predestination and election. Some believe that God specifically chose those that He would save, and this choice is totally independent of any action on the part of one chosen. Others believe that God, before the foundation of the world, simply saw those that would believe (because He is outside of time...) and chose them, knowing that they would have faith and live for Him. Either way, we can still be confident that the ones God has predestined, He will call. Those that He calls, He will justify. And those that He justifies, He will certainly glorify! The only question left would be that which Paul asks next - 'What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us who can be against us?'
Vs 33 'Who will bring a charge against God's elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.'
For a moment, let's say you can lose your salvation. If this were true then obviously God would be the only one who could pass that decree. He is the judge of mankind. He is the one who declared you to be righteous in his sight so therefore he is the only one who could now declare you to be 'lost' again. Now do you really think that God is going to bring a charge against his elect? Of course not! He justified them knowing everything that they would ever do. Verse 33 states that God the Father will not do this. Will Jesus Christ bring a charge against a believer? Of course not! He died for them and now lives to intercede for them. Their salvation is secure because it is in Gods hands, not mans.
Vs 37-39 'For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
This is the climax of Paul's doctrine of salvation. It comes at the end of Romans eight where he is summing up his message, the good news of salvation for those who believe.
Question: What is there that is not included in the words 'death', 'life' or 'things to come' that could cause you to lose your salvation?
Nothing! He is trying to make it as clear as he can. There is nothing in this life that can separate us from God. There is nothing in the future that can cause us to be separated from God! Our current life can't do it, our death can't, and angels and demons can't. There are no powers that can even come close because God is the author and perfecter of our salvation!
Vs 37-38 'All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to me I will certainly not cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.'
Verse 37 combines Gods sovereignty, mans responsibility, and eternal security for those who do come to Him. We can be assured that of all that the Father gives the Son, he will never cast them away.
Question: What would have happened if Jesus didn't complete the will of God?
For Jesus to be able to die on our behalf he had to be a spotless sacrificial offering to God. If at any stage he had not performed the will of God then that would be sin. Jesus had to be perfect in all that he said and did for his death to be accepted by God.
Question: What was the will of God that he had to do?
Vs 39 'This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose none, but raise them up on the last day.'
The only place I can find where Jesus stated what the overall will of the Father was, is in this verse and it's states that it is God's will that Jesus loses none of those that the Father has given him!
Question: Will Jesus ever fail to do God will?
Never! Otherwise no one could be saved. So to say that a truly born again believer can lose his salvation is equivalent to saying that Jesus has lost one of those that God has given him and thus has failed in completing the will of God! No No No No, No! A believer's salvation is secure because it is Jesus who keeps them safe and loses none!
Vs 27 'My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.'
This whole discussion about eternal security is only directed towards those that have been born again. In this passage, Jesus calls them his 'sheep'. He says that he knows them, and they in turn follow him. There are a lot of people out there that profess to be Christians who are not. They may join a church, be baptised, and perform good works but if they have never truly come to God for salvation through Jesus Christ then it will not help them. Jesus spoke of these people when he said 'Many will say to me on that day, Lord did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name cast out demons, and in your name perform many miracles? And then I will declare to them 'I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.' By their very question they show themselves to be false sheep, for what truly born again believer would come into God's presence and point to the things that they had so-called done for God? True sheep boast only in their shepherd and it is utter stupidity, when God is calling all to behold his Son, to tell God to behold your works!
Question: What is the difference between these groups?
Of the first group he says 'I know them'. Of the second group he says 'I never knew you'. The difference is not about the works done but about truly being saved and having a relationship with the shepherd. Of the first group, those who are truly his sheep Jesus goes on to say:
Vs '...and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.'
Question: When do you receive eternal life and how long does it last?
Eternal life is Gods life, whose nature is eternal. That's why the bible declares that 'God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life.' 1John 5:11-12
Notice the past tense in 'has given us'. You receive eternal life when you receive Jesus Christ because all things are in Him. And of course it never ends. It is eternal, as God is eternal. So to say that a true believer could lose his salvation would be to say that his eternal life has come to an end. Stupid. Jesus himself, who is our life, has promised us that he will 'never leave us or forsake us.' This is his promise to his true sheep. Likewise to say that a true believer could lose his salvation would be the same as saying that one of Jesus' sheep has perished. But he has promised that his true sheep 'will never perish'.
Vs 29 'My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Fathers hand.'
Question: Even though no one can snatch a true believer out of Gods hand, they can choose to walk away right?
No. In terms of your salvation, you are not holding onto him; He is holding onto you. He holds you like you would hold someone hanging off a cliff. If their strength gives way and they can hold no longer, you still have them firmly in your grasp. And he would hold you like this even while you go through your period of insanity, wanting to walk away from him.
A lot of the problems that people have in accepting eternal security come from the fact that they don't understand how fully Jesus dealt with the whole sin issue on the cross. They still have an Old Testament view of forgiveness. Hebrews 10 was written to show how 'much better' it is for those under the New Covenant.
Vs 1-3 'The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming, not the reality themselves. For this reason it can never by the same sacrifices repeated year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. If it could, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshippers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins.
Question: From the above scripture what is the consequence of being made 'perfect'?
If someone could have been made perfect then they would have one cleansing that was for all time. It would take all sins into account, past present and future. The person having been made perfect would no longer have to go around guilty (or conscious as the NASB puts it) of their sins.
Question: Could living under the law do this?
No, because the sacrifices only dealt with sins previously committed but could in no way help sins that were to be committed in the future. Thus they had to be repeated endlessly year after year.
Vs 4 'But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.'
The people living under this system were never free because the very next day after the annual sacrifice they would sin again and straight away need another sacrifice. They were constantly guilty and aware of their sins. This also describes the condition of a believer who hasn't come to realise the extent of Gods provision and grace in the sacrifice of His Son.
Question: Has anybody ever been 'made perfect'?
Vs 14 'For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.'
When a sinner is born again all sin is dealt with once and for all. It is not just the sins he has committed that are forgiven. It is all the sins he will ever commit that have been forgiven! When Jesus died on the cross all of our sins were in the future and He paid for them all. So much so that the Bible can now say that a believer has been (notice the past tense) made perfect, which, from verse 2 means that he has been cleansed once for all sin and no longer has to go around with a sense of guilt for them. And notice how long this position of the believer is said to last for - 'made perfect forever'. Forever means eternally secure! Oh the grace of God!
Vs 17-18 'And their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more. Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin.'
Question: Why is there no longer any sacrifice for sin?
Because there is no sin left to forgive. Simple. It has been dealt with once and for all. Notice the lengths that the writer of Hebrews goes to, to stress this point. (Ch 7:27, 9:12, 25-26, 28, 10:1-2, 10, 12, 14).
Question: Does sin then affect our relationship with God?
Sin in the believer's life can affect their daily relationship with God if it is not recognised as such and confessed to God (1 John 1.9). But in no way does this annul their position in God as being justified and declared perfect in his sight. This is where so many Christians get the cart before the horse thinking that their works give them a greater position in God.
Sanctification does not lead to justification! Justification leads on to sanctification!
Saying it another way, for a born again believer our practice does not alter our position in Christ. We are justified (a position where God declares you righteous in his sight) and sanctification (becoming more like Christ in our life) follows that. As outward example is in John 13:3-10. Peter was completely clean (vs 10) which speaks of justification, but as he walks in the world he needed to clean his feet as they would get dirty. As believers we are 'completely clean' as the Lord said, or 'made perfect forever' as Hebrews declares. As we walk in the world there is the need to clean our feet by coming to God and acknowledging our wrong ways.
Reactions when so-called followers walked away.
The bible presents cases where people have turned away from the Lord and abandoned the faith. How should we view such people? Still saved, never saved or not saved anymore? We will look at the reaction of Jesus, John, and Paul.
John 6 (Jesus)
Vs 41 'Therefore the Jews were grumbling about Him, because He said 'I am the bread that came down out of heaven'
Vs 60 'Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this said. 'This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?' But Jesus, conscious that His disciples grumbled at this...'
Vs 66 'As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore.'
In John chapter 6 we have a progression of opposition to what Jesus was saying. Firstly the Jews in general opposed Him. Then those who were said to be His disciples grumbled, and finally they 'withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore.'
Question: How did Jesus react to His own disciples leaving Him?
This is crucial. When His own disciples turned away from Him did he treat them as still saved, never saved, or no longer saved?
Vs 63 'It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh counts for nothing; the words I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.'
Vs 65 'For this reason I have said to you, that nobody can come to me unless it has been granted him from the Father.'
Jesus confirmed three things:
1) The Spirit is the one who imparts true spiritual life and without this people will not accept Jesus revelation concerning Himself. But the one who has received life will accept Jesus' teaching because His words are spirit and are life.
2) That people may follow after Him for all sorts of fleshly reasons but in the end it counts for nothing. They are not saved and will fall away when hardship or persecution begins.
3) That for a person to be truly saved the Father himself must call him to His Son and that the people who were turning from Him showed that they had never been called or saved to begin with.
Jesus didn't freak out by this opposition because He knew those that truly believed and of them declared that he would lose none! We are in a less fortunate position of not really knowing who has and who hasn't been saved but the word is still true that those who are saved are eternally secure.
1 John 2:18-19 (John)
'Children it is the last hour; and just as you have heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us.'
Here we have the reaction of John when people left the faith. They had been with them but had left. Did John react by saying that they had now lost their salvation? No. Johns reaction to this is to declare that they could not have been saved to begin with else they would not have left the faith.
2 Tim 2:17-19 (Paul)
'...and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, men who have gone astray from the truth saying that the resurrection has already taken place and they upset the faith of some. Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, 'The Lord knows those who are His', and, 'Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness..'
Paul's reaction when these two characters had gone astray from the truth affirms how we are to look at salvation. He says that the foundation of God (or salvation) has this seal -
'The Lord knows those that are His.' This is how God views salvation and affirms eternal security. Jesus said he knows his sheep and they shall never perish. From Gods point of view, all of his children are safe and are eternally secure because he knows them and will never let them completely fall. The problem only comes with us because we cannot see the heart of a person or how true their faith is.
'Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness.' This is mans view of salvation. This is what we should be able to see. We may not be able to see a person's heart but we can see a changed life and the evidence of a true salvation will be a turning away from sin. If a person confesses Jesus Christ as Lord but has no fruit or evidence of that salvation in their life then what confidence is there that they are actually saved? None. (1John 3:10-11)
Other Verses Confirming Eternal Security
Apart from the verses already discussed, here are some other reasons why true sons of God are eternally secure:
1. They are already seated in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus confirming that their salvation is finished and secure, and also that they are perfect in Christ already. (Eph 1:3, 2:6)
2. The Holy Spirit seals them as a mark of ownership and security until the day of redemption. Even grieving the Holy Spirit doesn't cause Him to leave (Eph 1:13-14, 4:30)
3. The promise of God is that He would never leave or forsake his children. Likewise the Holy Spirit is promised to be with true believers forever. (Heb 13:5, John 14:16)
4. The penalty for all sin has been forever settled through the perfect and finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ. (Rom 3:23-26, 4:23-5:2, 5:6-9)
5. They have been born again and they cannot be unborn, nor can the new creation perish because they have been born from imperishable seed. (! Pet 1:23)
6. The new creation is totally secure because it has been hid with Christ in God until Jesus comes in glory and his sons are revealed. (Col 3:1-4)
7. If a Christian's life and work are completely burnt up at the judgement seat of Christ (that is, there was nothing that he did that was based upon the foundation of Jesus Christ) he himself is still saved yet with no rewards.(1 Cor 3: 15)
8. God who began the good work in them has promised that he will carry it on until the day when Jesus returns. They are called to 'work out', not 'work for' their salvation. (Phil 1:6, 2:12-13)
9. They stand before God clothed in the righteousness of Christ, not in their own righteousness. (2 Cor 5:21,Rom 5:19-21)
10. God, knowing everything that would happen, chose them before the foundation of the world and as such they are holy and blameless before Him. (Eph 1:4)
11. They are kept by the power of God through faith, and not through the efforts or the works of the one who is saved. (1 Pet 1:5)
12. Their inheritance is assured and is imperishable, kept in heaven for them. (1 Pet 1:2-4)
13. Jesus is able to save them completely because He lives to make intercession for them and He cannot die. (Heb 7:24-25)
14. Even though all their righteousness is as filthy rags, they have been saved (past tense, completed event) by grace (the unmerited favor of God) and not by their own works, so that even in the ages to come they may marvel at the surpassing riches of his grace! (Eph 2:6-9)
15. They are God the Father's irrevocable gift to the Son and he never changes his mind about His gifts and callings. (John 17:6-7, Rom 11:29)
16. God has promised to keep them from falling and to present them faultless before Himself. (Jude 24, 1 Thes 5:23-24, 1 Cor 1:8-9 Note: Even though Paul had much to say about the gross sins that were happening in the Corinthian church, he still gave them the promise that God is faithful and would present them blameless on the day of Christ Jesus!)
Let me just end with another quote from Charles Spurgeon because I believe, as he did, that a knowledge of eternal security produces within the believer a love, amazement, and gratitude towards God that no fear of falling away could ever do.
'No doctrine is so calculated to preserve a man from sin as the doctrine of the grace of God. Those who have called it 'a licentious doctrine' did not know anything at all about it. If they knew the grace of God in truth, they would soon see that there was no preservative from lying like knowledge that we are the elect of God from the foundation of the world. There is nothing like a belief in my eternal perseverance, and the immutability of my Father's affection, which can keep me near to Him from a motive of simple gratitude... Of all men, those have the most disinterested piety, the sublimest reverence, the most ardent devotion, who believe that they are saved by grace, without works, through faith, and that not of themselves, it is the gift of God. '