“In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:11–14)
Before us today is the doctrine of the eternal security of the true believer in Jesus Christ. This doctrine is much maligned, because it is either misunderstood or misused. It is the desire of this writer to present this doctrine in such a way as to clear up misunderstandings and glorify the God who saves us from our sins. In studying this doctrine we will consider the following: the new birth is unto eternal life, the Spirit indwells us and is our security, we are saved by grace and kept by grace, Jesus’ death is sufficient to cleanse us from all of our sins forever, Jesus conquered sin by rising from the dead, there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ, Christ promises to raise believers from the dead, Romans 8:29-30 assures us that we are secure in Christ, and we are kept by God’s power until Jesus returns to change us in the resurrection.
The New Birth
When a person trusts Jesus, he is born again (John 3:1-16). The Bible speaks of this new life as being eternal life. Why? Because we are born of God, who is eternal, and because we are begotten again by the Word of God, which lives and abides forever (1 Peter 1:21-25). The life that we receive is the life of God. It is life from the Word, and that Word is eternal. If God can die, then we can lose eternal life. If God’s Word can perish (Matthew 24:35), then God’s children can perish. We know, however, that God cannot die, and neither can His Word perish. We can conclude from this that God’s children shall never perish either (John 3:16).
The Indwelling Spirit
Our text tells us that we are indwelt by the Spirit of God when we trust Jesus. Jesus’ promise to His disciples is that His Spirit will dwell with us and in us forever (John 14:15-18). Not only so, but this text tells us that the Spirit is the Spirit of promise. The Spirit gives us promises because He is the earnest of our inheritance. An earnest is partial payment that is given as assurance that full payment will be forthcoming. The Spirit is a portion of our inheritance, which assures us that we will receive the full inheritance (Note: 1 Peter 1:1-5 teaches that the nature of our inheritance is eternal also.). Should a child of God be able to lose his salvation, this text would not and could not be true. The Spirit indwells us, however, promising us redemption in the resurrection (Romans 8:9-11,23). This indwelling is said to be the seal that shows we are genuinely God’s, and that the Spirit will be the earnest of our inheritance until we receive the fulness of our inheritance. This means that between now and the resurrection, the Spirit will remain with us and will not be leaving us.
We Are Under Grace
Scripture tells us that the believer is no longer under the dominion and power of sin, but under grace (Romans 6:9-14). We have been born again, given a new life, indwelt by the Spirit, promised an inheritance, and sin’s power to destroy us has been broken. Why? Because Jesus died for our sins and arose from the dead, thus conquering and breaking the power of sin (Romans 6:9-10;Colossians 2:13-15). Sin can no longer overcome us, because Christ has justified us. Notice the triumphant exclamation of the apostle in Romans 8:31-32, where he declares that no one can condemn us, because Christ has died, risen, and ascended to the Father.
Sin once reigned in the life of the believer and dominated him; but grace reigns through righteousness, and we have eternal life through Jesus Christ (Romans 5:20-21). We are told that Jesus’ righteousness becomes ours when we trust Him, and that we enter into grace and have our standing in grace (Romans 4:1-6;5:1-2). We are no longer dead in sins, but alive unto God. We are no longer slaves to sin but are free and have become the servants of righteousness (Romans 6:17). Where sin was abundant, grace is now super abundant (Romans 5:20-21). Where sin reigned unto death, grace now reigns unto eternal life. Where sin once dominated us and ruled in our passions (Romans 8:5-7;Ephesians 2:1-3), now we are in the Spirit and under grace’s power; and we are graciously led by the Spirit of God (Romans 8:12-15;Galatians 4:1-6;5:13-26). We have been removed from the power of Satan and have become citizens of the kingdom of God’s beloved Son (John 3:1-16;Colossians 1:13-14).
Scripture tells us that God is the God of all grace (1 Peter 5:10), and that grace and truth were brought to us by Christ Jesus (John 1:14-17). Grace is favor that is given to those who deserve wrath (Ephesians 2:1-9). Grace is not deserved and cannot be earned (Romans 4:1-6;11:5-6;Ephesians 2:8-9). When we believe Jesus, we enter into a standing in grace (Romans 5:1-2). If we do nothing to earn our salvation, surely we can do nothing to earn the ability to keep it. God’s grace is what rules, not our good works. God’s grace is what reigns, and not sin. The believer is saved by grace and kept by grace, because his standing is in grace.
The Eternal Sufficiency of Christ’s Sacrifice
The death of Jesus Christ is eternally sufficient for the sins of every man, and eternally redeems those who trust Jesus. Jesus promised eternal life to those who believe on Him, because God gave His Son for and to them (John 3:16-18). Jesus stated that He was sent so that believers would not perish, but have everlasting life. The giving of the Son is the giving of life (John 1:1-4;3:16-18;5:21-29), and that comes because Jesus died and rose again (Romans 8:32-34).
Scripture teaches that Jesus by Himself purges our sins (Hebrews 1:1-3), and that through death He destroyed Satan (Hebrews 2:14-15), thus breaking the power of sin over us. While the sacrifices made in the temple could never take away sins, Jesus came and offered one sacrifice for sins forever (Hebrews 10:11-14), and forever sanctifies His people by this sacrifice. Though man is appointed to die and be condemned, Christ died in our place (Hebrews 9:27-28), and He will come back for His people and deliver them from this earth and our sinful bodies (Philippians 3:20-21;Titus 2:11-15).
Hebrews 6:1-9 teaches us that there are those who profess Christ and walk away from their profession. It does not say that they were actually ever truly converted. In fact, we find that this apostasy is a terrible thing; because if one could truly lose his salvation, the text says he could never again be saved, since Jesus would need to die again to redeem him, and this would put Jesus to shame. Jesus will not honor anything that disrespects or devalues the value of His death for our sins. This terrible apostasy is spoken of as despising the Spirit of grace, counting the blood of Jesus as unholy, and walking over Jesus (Hebrews 10:24-31). We must recognize and respect the eternal value of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
The Power of The Resurrection of Christ
When Jesus died, it seemed that hope was gone; but Peter declares that we are born again unto a living hope by Jesus’ resurrection from the dead (1 Peter 1:3-5). Jesus died unto sin, and as a sin offering (2 Corinthians 5:17-21); but He arose and lives unto God, and the power of sin and death were broken (Romans 6:9-10).
God promised that the seed of the woman would come and bruise the head of the serpent. John said that Jesus came to destroy the work of the devil (1 John 3:7-10). This is exactly what happened when Jesus rose from the dead. He overcame Satan’s power by breaking the power of death, which is sin (Hebrews 2:14-15;1 Corinthians 15:50-58). Because of this we have access into the very presence of God, are given full assurance through faith, and rest in the faithfulness of God and His promises (Hebrews 10:19-23).
The resurrection and ascension of Christ assure the believer of his security in Christ. Paul states that no one is able to bring charges or condemn those who are in Christ, because He died, arose, and ascended (Romans 8:32-34). Jesus, having risen from the dead, now lives forever and is able to save us to the uttermost (Hebrews 7:25).
Though appointed to die and then be condemned, Christ was offered for us that we might be forgiven and taken into His presence forever (Hebrews 9:27-28). Jesus stated that He did not come into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world; and those who believe in Jesus are not condemned (John 3:16-18).
Jesus, having the power of life and death and the power to execute judgment, declared that those who believe are given eternal life and will never come into condemnation (John 5:24).
Paul also declared that Jesus fulfilled the law and was punished in our place, and that those who are in Christ are not condemned; because we are set free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:1-4).
These passages give the believer great assurance that his salvation is secure in the Lord Jesus Christ, because there is no condemnation that will ever come to the true believer.
The Promise of The Resurrection
As we saw earlier, the Spirit within us is the assurance of eternal life, because He is with us until the resurrection (Ephesians 1:13-14). Jesus promised that He would not lose any of His children, but would raise us up at the last day (John 6:37-44). We are promised that the Spirit of God which is in us shall give life to these mortal bodies (Romans 8:9-11). We are assured that we are kept by God’s power until we receive our eternal, imperishable inheritance (1 Peter 1:3-5). Jesus declared that He is the resurrection, and that those who believe in Him shall live again (John 11:25). This is the blessed hope of the saints of God (Titus 2:11-14).
We are taught that Jesus will return and receive His people unto Himself (John 14:1-6). And we are given comfort and assurance that the living saints will see their departed loved ones who are in Christ, when the Lord returns to raise us all and take us to ever be with Him (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). This is why Jesus died, that we would be raised up and live with Him, because we are not appointed unto wrath, but unto salvation (1 Thessalonians 5:9-10). The promise of the resurrection is given to us by God, and is a great comfort and assurance that the believer is truly saved forever in Christ.
The Golden Chain of Redemption
Romans 8:28-31 is often called the golden chain of redemption. It speaks to us of election in predestination to be made like Jesus (See Ephesians 1:11-14;Philippians 3:20-21), calling, justification, and glorification. Each step of the process is assured to the believer. If you know yourself to have been called of God, have believed the gospel and are justified, you are also assured that God will glorify you and make you like Jesus. Between justification and glorification there are none lost: “whom He justified, them He also glorified.” This gives us great assurance, because we know that God’s plan cannot be stopped (Deuteronomy 32:39-40;Isaiah 43:13;Daniel 4:34-37). Again, there is security for the believer in Christ.
Kept by The Power of God
Jesus stated that He gives eternal life to His sheep, and that they shall never perish. Not only does He promise that we shall never perish, but He also said that no one will remove us from His hand. No one can take us away from Christ. Jesus then said that we are also in the hand of the Father, and that no one is able to take us out of the Father’s hand. Then, to further strengthen our assurance, He said, “I and my Father are one.” (John 10:27-30) There is nothing and no one able to separate us from Christ. This is Paul’s triumphant declaration concerning the saints in Romans 8:35-39.
We also can read with great confidence God’s promise in 1 Peter 1:3-5, which tells us that we have an eternal inheritance reserved for us, and that we are kept by God’s power until He gives us this salvation in the last times. This salvation is when our bodies are changed to be perfected like Jesus (Romans 8:9-11,19-23;Philippians 3:20-21;1 John 3:1-3).
Can anyone overcome God’s power? No. Can anyone take Christ’s own away from Him? No. Can Satan lead us so far from Jesus that we lose our salvation? No. We are promised that the Spirit which is within us is greater than Satan. “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.” (1 John 4:4)
I Never Knew You
“But!” objects the one who refuses to believe in the eternal security of the believer, “a person cannot be saved and live in sin!” I agree, and so does God. Let us examine a few texts that tell us this same thing.
We read in James 2:14-26 that faith without works is dead. Does this mean that a person can believe and yet be lost? No. It tells us that the faith that does not work is not saving faith (James 2:14-17). This is the same sort of faith that the demons have: they believe God exists, and they tremble (James 2:19), but they are not saved. Scripture tells us that we are saved when we believe Jesus (John 3:16), and that faith works by love (Galatians 5:6). Notice this: faith works. Thus it is that we read of Abraham’s faith and Rahab’s faith being true, saving faith, because it produced works (James 2:21-25). The faith that produces no change and no works is not saving faith, but is dead (James 2:26). This is why, when we read about apostasy in Hebrews 6:1-9, that we find the apostle stating he expected from them the things which accompany salvation. When one believes he becomes a new creature (2 Corinthians 5:17), has the law of God and the Spirit of God within him (Romans 8:8-11;Ephesians 1:13-14;Colossians 3:9-10;Hebrews 8:10), and will produce the fruit of the Spirit to the glory of God (Ephesians 5:9;Galatians 5:22-26). The issue is not whether one can lose His salvation: he cannot. The issue is whether one truly believed in the first place.
We read in 1 John 3:7-10 that those who live righteously are righteous, even as Christ is righteous, while those who live in sin are of the devil. Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil. This is why we can distinguish those who are God’s children from those who are not: those who live in continual sin are the children of the devil, and those who seek to continually live righteously are the children of God. God’s children sin, yet we have an advocate with the Father (1 John 2:1-2), and our sins are forgiven so that they do not cut us off from God. God’s children are characterized by walking in the light and confessing their sins (1 John 1:7,9). Why is this so? It is because we have the seed, or nature of God within us because of the new birth (1 John 3:9). Far from a person being born again and then losing his salvation, the true child of God lives his life in obedience to God.
Finally, notice that there are some who are rejected by God in the judgment (Matthew 7:21-23). There are people who are religious people who will be cast away from God forever. Jesus said that these people would even argue with Him, declaring that they had done many great things for Him; yet they will be rejected. Why are they rejected? Because, despite their religious works, they did not obey God. They did not serve Him. Religious works do not save a person. Professing Christ does not save a person. These people are people who never came to know the Lord Jesus, and it is seen in that He will say to them, “I never knew you.” Jesus did not know them and then reject them. Jesus did not save them and then lose them. Jesus never knew them in the first place. True saving faith results in obedience, as Jesus taught in Matthew 7:24-27. Had people obeyed the Lord by believing Jesus (Romans 10:1-4,16-17), they would have been saved and would have obeyed Him; but they never did, and this is why they will finally be rejected by God and cast from His presence forever. True believers never lose their salvation, but those with a false faith (See John 2:23-24, where many believed in a fashion, but Jesus did not believe them.) will ultimately be rejected of God. To which group do you belong?