Eternal Security: Saved And Kept By Grace
Grace alone is the basis upon which God can righteously save and eternally secure the believer.
The doctrine of eternal security of a believer holds that no person truly saved through faith will ever be lost. The Bible clearly teaches that God accomplishes salvation by His sovereign grace. Not only does He save sinners by grace, but He also keeps them secure through grace. This safe-keeping or standing in grace is emphasized by these two verses: “We have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand” (Rom. 5:2 KJV); and “This is the true grace of God wherein ye stand” (1 Pet. 5:12).
The doctrine of eternal security builds on other doctrines such as the safe-keeping or perseverance of the saints. The expression “to stand in grace” has the thought of abiding unchanged in grace. The continued exercise of divine grace toward the believer is the only basis upon which he may hope to endure. Grace alone is the basis upon which God can righteously save and eternally secure the believer. Salvation is accomplished wholly by God’s power and grace, and there is no hope for continuance to be found in the flesh, or the resources of human strength. Human energy can neither attain nor maintain a right standing before God.
Two opposite views, the Calvinistic and Armenian, exist concerning the eternal security of the Christian. Generally speaking those who hold the Calvinistic view stress the eternal security of the saints. On the other hand, those who hold the Armenian view generally affirm that a saved person can be lost if he turns his back on God and lives in sin.
Probably the most important question on this subject is, “Who is a true believer?” Many who oppose eternal security do so on the ground that it is possible for a person to have intellectual faith without actually being saved. Adherents to eternal security agree that a person can experience superficial or outward conversion, become baptized and join a church, yet still fall short of real salvation in Christ. Many who deny eternal security say that superficial faith is not enough to save. Adherents to eternal security agree on this point.
Others are suspicious of professed believers, who feel free to live in sin because they can’t lose their salvation. We are suspicious of such so-called “believers” also. The Apostle Paul had a good answer for such an attitude: “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” (Rom. 6:1). Such an attitude is not characteristic of a true Christian.
Most passages of Scripture supporting the insecurity of the believer are in the form of warnings against superficial faith. In Hebrews 6:1-9 and 10:26-29, for example, Jews professing salvation in Christ are urged to see that they do not depart from the truth. Many so-called “believers” appear to us to be true believers. However, since we cannot examine their hearts as God does, we cannot be the final judge whether one is a true child of God. All we can go by is their outward actions. The writer of Hebrews warns those who have not taken that final step of faith in Christ and repentance not to turn away, for if they do, there is no hope.
A true believer may lose many things, but he will never lose his salvation. One truly saved and safe in Christ may lose his reward (1 Cor. 3:15) and be disapproved concerning his service for Christ (1 Cor. 9:27). A genuine Christian may lose his communion with God, but never his union with Christ because that is the basis of his eternal security. Because of sin, a true believer may lose: his fellowship with God, the filling of the Spirit, the enjoyment of the fruit of the Spirit, and the satisfaction of effective service for Christ (1 Jn. 1:6; Gal. 5:22-23).
Because of sin and waywardness, a true believer may be chastened, even to the point of losing his physical life (Jn. 15:2; 1 Cor. 11:29-32; Heb. 12). However, this discipline is not evidence of lack of salvation, but rather that he is a child of God chastened by his heavenly Father. Jesus says, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them and they follow Me: And I give unto them eternal life and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand. My Father, which gave them Me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of My hand” (Jn. 10:27-29).
No stronger passage in all the Bible can he found guaranteeing the absolute security of the believer. Note seven points further affirming this security. First, believers are Christ’s sheep, cared for by the divine Shepherd. To suggest that any of His sheep may be lost is to blaspheme the Shepherd Himself. Second, the sheep follow Christ here on earth, meaning they will reach heaven, for that is where the Shepherd is. Third, since the sheep have been given eternal life, to speak of it ending is a contradiction in terms. Fourth, eternal life is given to them: they did nothing to gain it and can do nothing to lose it. Fifth, the Lord Himself declares that His sheep “shall never perish.” Sixth, from the Shepherd’s hand none is able to pluck them, hence Satan is unable to destroy a single one. Seventh, above is the Father’s hand, hence they are absolutely secure between the hand of Christ beneath and the hand of the Father above them.
The security of a true Christian is based on four things: the nature of salvation, the work of the Father, the work of the Son, and the work of the Holy Spirit.
1. The Nature of Salvation – The truth of eternal security is inherent in the nature of salvation itself. Salvation is the work of God for man; it is not the work of man for God. If salvation is something man does for himself, it could be lost. If salvation is God’s work, then man cannot undo it. This is brought out in such passages as Romans 8:29-30, which says that all who are predestined will be conformed to the image of God’s Son, and will be called, justified and glorified. Their salvation is thus secure.
By its very nature, God’s salvation is eternal. To us salvation is instantaneous, taking place the moment we trust Christ as our personal Savior. However, God sees salvation as an eternal act stretching from eternity past to eternity future. In such salvation there can be no failure.
2. The Four-Part Work Of The Father – First, God the Father does the electing: “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4-5; 2 Tim. 1:9; Tit. 1:2). It is inconceivable that such an act can fail.
Second, the sovereign purpose of God is to provide eternal salvation to those who believe in His Son apart from any worthiness or work on their part. Obviously this purpose of God to achieve by grace the salvation of believers cannot be defeated. The Scriptures often present God’s purpose in the form of promises (Jn. 3:16; 5:24; 6:37). Obviously, what God promises, He is able to do, and the divine promises must be fulfilled.
Third, the infinite power of God is able to save and keep eternally. “Able” is the New Testament word used to indicate the omnipotent power of God: “Wherefore He (Christ) is able also to save them to the uttermost that come to God by Him” (Heb. 7:25). God clearly not only has the fidelity to keep His promise but also the power to accomplish daily what He wills.
Fourth, God’s infinite love supports the doctrine of eternal security. Paul affirms that nothing “shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:39). To think that one once saved could become lost is to negate the sovereignty, purpose, and love of God.
3. The Four-Part Work Of The Son – First, the substitutionary death of Jesus provided complete salvation and is the sufficient answer to the condemning power of sin: “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). Because Christ died, the Father is free to forgive righteously the sins of those who put their trust in His Son. The demand of a righteous God has been satisfied by the death of His Son.
Second, the resurrection of Christ provides two conclusive reasons for the believer’s security: the believer has partaken of the resurrection life, and is part of the new creation over which the resurrected Christ is the all-sufficient Head. If a believer partakes of resurrection life, it is clear that this cannot be lost anymore than God can lose His life.
Third, Christ’s work as our advocate in heaven also assures our eternal security (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 9:24). In His work as advocate, Christ pleads the sufficiency of His work on the cross as satisfaction of all God’s demands on the sinner as well as the sinner’s reconciliation to God through Christ. Since Christ’s work is perfect, the true believer can rest in the security of the perfection of Christ, the believer’s representative in heaven.
Fourth, the work of Christ as our intercessor, His present ministry in glory, has to do with practically reassuring those who are saved of their security. In this ministry, Christ not only prays for His own at every point in their need (Jn. 17:9, 15, 20; Rom. 8:34), but on the grounds of His own sufficiency, in His unchanging priesthood, He guarantees that they will be kept saved forever (Rom. 5:20; Heb. 7:25).
4. The Four-Part Work Of The Holy Spirit – First, the work of regeneration, in which the believer partakes of the divine nature, is an irreversible work of God. Just as there is no reversal of the physical birth process, there can be no reversing of the new birth. It continues forever, since it is accomplished by God not man and is based on grace.
Second, the Spirit’s indwelling is a permanent possession of the believer. The fact that the Spirit indwells every believer is repeatedly affirmed in Scripture, as is the fact that the Spirit abides forever in the Christian. Man may grieve and quench the Spirit, but He will never depart. With the Spirit indwelling, the eternal purposes of God in grace are sure.
Third, the baptism ministry of the Spirit is another evidence for security. By this ministry, the believer is joined to the body of Christ and is therefore said to be in Christ, a union which is both vital and abiding. Being accepted in the Beloved forever, the child of God is as secure as the One in whom he is and in whom he stands.
Fourth, the presence of the Spirit in the believer is said to be the seal of God which will endure until the day of redemption (the resurrection of the believer) (2 Cor. 1:22; Eph. 1:13; 4:30). This sealing is a work of God and signifies the security of the one thus sealed, until God completes His purpose to present the believer faultless in heaven.
Dear reader, we hope that these Scriptural proofs help to assure or reassure you of your eternal security in the Savior.
By Maurice Bassali
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA.