V. The Certainty of Grace.
In this post, we’ve arrived at a another hotly-contested doctrine; eternal security. it’s known by various other names: “once saved, always saved” (OSAS), “the preservation of the saints,” “the perseverance of the saints.” Some who hold this last view believe that the saints will persevere. Others who hold this view do not believe in eternal security, but believe that the saints must persevere, and that a saint can be lost and saved…again, …and again, …and again…. There is a lot of confusion about this doctrine, and both sides look to the Scriptures to verify their beliefs.
So, are the saints “preserved,” or do they have to “persevere”? What does the Scripture say?
In this post, we’ll look at some verses which teach saints can never be lost.
1. John 10:22-31, Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon’s porch. Then the Jews surrounded Him and said to Him, “How long do you keep us in doubt? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me. But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I told you. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are one.”
This records our Lord’s own words. Every facet of the doctrine is touched on in this excerpt from His teaching. Note carefully what Jesus said about His audience, His sheep, His Father and Himself, and His Father.
a. His audience, vs. 25, 26.
He goes straight to the root of the problem: the Jews in His audience refused to listen to Him because they were not His sheep. He had already said this to others who were questioning Him: “He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God,” John 8:47. Cf. 8:39, 43. Scripture plainly teaches that there are some who are “sheep,” and there are some who are not.
b. His sheep, vs. 27-29.
1). they hear, in contrast to those to whom the Lord was talking.
2). He knows them, not just “about” them. Remember the duet mentioned earlier, how Jesus died for us without knowing our names. To the contrary, Jesus said He knows His sheep, all of them, each one of them. They are His and He knows them individually and personally.
c). they follow Him, “for they know His voice, yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers,” John 10:3, 4. I was out with a group of young people one evening. We had built a bonfire. Some distance away, there was a group of young men, pretty much under the influence and acting like it. In the darkness, one of them looked remarkably like one of the young men in our group. Someone remarked on this, but his fiancee immediately replied that she didn’t have any trouble telling them apart!
She had spent a lot of time with him. She knew him! Ah, what a lesson there is for us. There are many voices in the darkness of this world talking about Jesus. How well do we distinguish between the false and the true? Do we know Him? His sheep follow HIM, not just some preacher or “personality”.
c. Himself, v. 28.
1). “I give them eternal life.” There is some discussion about the significance of the word, “eternal.” Some believe that, well, yes, the life is eternal, but its possession can be lost. Our Lord refutes this in His next statement.
2). “They shall never perish.” How could He have said it any more clearly? Yet He continues:
3). “Neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.” Some have said to me, “Yes, but they can jump” (!) This would merely show that the one “jumping” wasn’t a sheep, after all. The verbs in vs. 27, 28 are present tense: hearing, knowing, following, giving. Salvation isn’t something that happened to us 30 years ago, and then nothing since. Salvation, though indeed coming to us at a point in time, is a present reality. It wasn’t just something which happened to us then; it is happening to us now. But the Lord continues.
d. The Father, v. 29.
“My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. We are pointed back to eternity, where the Father chose us and gave us to Christ to redeem. I can’t think of a stronger way for the Lord to have put it than the statement that His sheep will never perish, either by their own hand, by the hand of others, or by the hand of the Father. But He’s not done!
e. The Father and Himself, v. 30.
“I and the Father are one,” that is, they are one in purpose and will. It has nothing to do with the Son supposedly saying that He is really the Father, as some take it. No. No. He’s saying that He and the Father are united in their determination to save the sheep! Indeed, Jesus pictured this unity when He prayed that “they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us…,” John 17:21.
There are depths here into which no mere mortal can venture, but what the Lord is saying in effect is that only if the Trinity can be separated may one of the sheep be separated from Christ’s flock and be lost. And His sheep don’t switch back and forth between being sheep and being goats!
2. Romans 8:28-30, And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover, whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom he justified, these He also glorified.
We’ve already looked at length at the idea that God merely chose those whom He foresaw would choose Him. In these verses in Romans, Paul wrote of the completeness of the divine will. It began with our election in eternity past, Ephesians 1:4. It will end with our glorification, which is yet future. John put it like this, Beloved, now we are the children of God, and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is, 1 John 3:2.
This “golden chain of redemption” stretches from eternity past to eternity future. No link is weak. No link will be missing. No link can be broken. Those foreknown by means of the purpose and predestination of God will be called, justified and glorified.
According to our text above, we are yet to be, and will be, conformed to the image of His Son. “Not yet…but shall be.”
3. Ephesians 1:13, 14, In Him [Christ] you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.
In these posts, we’ve seen the divine unity and participation in the work of salvation. It began in eternity past with the Father’s choosing sinners to be saved (again, who would otherwise be lost). It continued with the Son at Calvary, redeeming those chosen by the Father and given to the Son before the events of Genesis 1. It continues with the Holy Spirit regenerating and calling these elect and redeemed sinners to repentance and faith, and “sealing” them until the entire process is complete. The Holy Spirit “guarantees” our ultimate possession of our “inheritance.” The KJV has it that the Spirit is the earnest, the “down payment” of our inheritance. We don’t have it all now, by any means. And we won’t get it all in this life, either. The work has begun, to be sure, but it will take the ages to come, Ephesians 2:7, to show us the riches of that inheritance.
4. Ephesians 2:10, For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
Philippians 1:6, Being confident of this very thing, that He Who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.
Philippians 2:13, For it is God Who works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.
1 Thessalonians 5:23, 24, Now may the God of peace sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He Who calls you is faithful, Who will also do it.
These five verses all talk about the workmanship and faithfulness of God. Most Christians believe that they are only partly God’s workmanship – they must still do “their” part. Perhaps you’re tired of the emphasis on this, but there are multitudes who, week after week, and month after month, and year after year, sit under ministries where that very thing is taught –
“God has done all He can do, and now it’s up to you.”
“God has no hands but our hands.”
“God had plan A for Adam, but when Adam fell, He had to go to plan B.”
If yours is a “plan B” God, read the verses above again. “Oops” isn’t in His vocabulary. His pencils have no erasers. I don’t know about you, but if God had to revise His plan every time I mess something up, He’d be way beyond “B”. Although I suppose in this computer age, where things are “updated” every few minutes, it would be “Plan A.712” or something. Same thing. God trying to scratch and scramble to stay ahead of His wayward creation. I can hardly write such blasphemy. Certainly don’t believe it!
Even though the verses above are in the order of their NT appearance, they could almost be read as two sentences, with the first three together as one. Try it. Believers are God’s creation and workmanship. Paul was certain that what God had begun, He would finish.
To those who are always saying, “Yes, but what about MY will?” there is Philippians 2:13: God works, “is operative” in us, BOTH TO WILL and TO DO of His good pleasure (emphasis added). I know that many find that impossible to believe, that God would, or even could, work like that, but that was why Paul was confident: God is at work, He gets the job done, and He is faithful.
5. John 3:14-17, And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
To this point, we’ve emphasized what might be called the divine side of salvation, that is, the purpose and work of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. But we can’t stop there. God doesn’t need to be “saved,” we do. So, what does all this mean to us, in the practical, everyday world in which we live?
John 3 is the classic teaching on this subject, although the rest of the NT says much more about the practical results and evidence of salvation. The verses we quoted above show the certainty and result of “faith:” eternal life to whoever believes in Him. This astounded Nicodemus, but it’s wonderful news to us. There are no barriers, no hindrances, to our being saved that we don’t put up ourselves. There’s nothing in Scripture to prevent the salvation of the worst sinner who ever lived. Paul said that of himself.
Don’t be led astray by the words, “should,” and “might.” They don’t express uncertainty, that is, that the believer should be saved, but might not be, after all. Or that he should not perish, but that he might, anyway. No, no, these words express purpose, God’s purpose, that those who believe will not perish, but will have eternal life. (Once again, I wish WordPress supported underlining words.)
Because of our fallen condition, as well as our finite understanding, it’s sometimes difficult for us to have a complete view of Scriptural teaching. On the one hand, some concentrate on those verses which speak of our believing, and so they emphasize “free will,” sometimes to the extent of denying or at least minimizing verses like Philippians 2:13. Some even go so far as to assert that God can’t work in us at all without our permission and cooperation.
On the other hand, some so emphasize sovereignty that they minimize or in effect deny those verses requiring us to believe. We’ve referred elsewhere to the brother who would only say, “I was caused to believe.” A more Biblical statement would have been, “I was enabled to believe.” Even that, though, is capable of being viewed as saying more than it really does.
God does not believe for us. We must believe, as surely as we must live, though that life must come from and be sustained by God. God doesn’t live for us. In the same way, although faith comes from God, it isn’t exercised for us by God. It isn’t enough simply to have the Savior “revealed” to us, though that is absolutely necessary. Having thus “seen” Him, we must also “receive” Him, John 1:11, 12. We believe, and we are saved, as John 3 tells us.
6. John 3:36, “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides [remains] on him.”
There are several things in this verse. The believer has everlasting life. John doesn’t say that he receives life, though that is the common teaching. He has life. Faith is an evidence of spiritual life, not it’s entrance. There are only two spiritual conditions: life or under the wrath of God. There is no third, “neutral,” condition. If there is no faith, there is no life. There is only the judgment and wrath of God. We are by nature children of wrath, Ephesians 2:3. Only in and through the Lord Jesus is there deliverance from sin, which is the cause of God’s wrath on us. However, in Christ, that life is eternal, not temporary or sporadic. Not “here today and gone tomorrow.” It is life…eternal.
1. What are the two viewpoints on this doctrine?
2. What are the five things Jesus says in John 10:22-31?
3. What assurance do we have that the “foreknown” will be glorified?
4. What “part” does each member of the Trinity play in our salvation?
5. Whose work is our salvation?
6. Is “the work of God” all that is necessary to our salvation?
7. What part does faith play in our salvation?
8. Where does faith come from?
9. Do we actually believe, or is it somehow just “the work of God” in us?
10. Is saving faith passive?
11. What is true of those without faith?