In this series we’re taking a look at the most important issues relating to our relationship with our Creator. In each case we begin from the perspective that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, and as such cannot be self-contradictory. So if we think we see a contradiction, the problem is with our understanding, not God’s Word. Our topic in this study is the durability of our salvation. What does the Bible say about our security in Christ? Is it conditional based on our post salvation behavior, or is it guaranteed from the beginning. And could we give it back even if we wanted to?
What School Did You Attend?
Among those Christians who even consider the issue (tragically many don’t, but just accept what they’ve been taught) there are essentially two schools of thought, commonly called Election and Agency.
The Doctrine of Election holds that you can’t choose God; if you are saved it’s because He chose you. Since you can’t choose to be saved, you can’t refuse or reject your salvation (it’s called irresistible grace). God chose you and He chose you forever.
The Doctrine of Agency holds that anyone can choose to be saved, but since you can choose to receive it, you can later lose or reject it by word or deed. Some proponents of this view also contend that if you ever do lose or reject your salvation, you can never get it back.
These positions are both right in what they assert; Election says we’re saved forever; and Agency says it’s our choice. But they’re both wrong in what they deny; Election denies that it’s our choice; and Agency denies that we’re saved forever. As we’ll show, the Bible says it’s our choice to be saved and once we choose we’re saved forever.
First, a little historical background. In all God’s prior attempts at relating to His creation, none was successful. This was due to the basic flaw caused by man’s fall in the Garden; his inherent sinfulness. Because of this, man is simply not able to meet the behavioral standards that God’s righteousness requires for us to dwell with Him. God loves us so much He can’t let us be hopelessly lost, and yet because He is just, He can’t ignore our violations of His laws to save us. Deut. 32:4 tells us, “He is the Rock, His works are perfect, and all His ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is He.”
From our perspective, it seems like an impossible situation. Because He loves us, He wants to save us all (2 Peter 3:9), but because He is Just, He can’t overlook our sins (Romans 3:23). In order to be a Father to His children, God had to find a way to eliminate the sin problem that is neither contingent upon our behavior nor contrary to His law. And He had do it once and for all. The brutal fact is that if He had saved us subject to our subsequent thoughts or deeds, everyone who came to Him for salvation would soon have been irretrievably lost again, because it is simply impossible for us to stop sinning.
How Did He Do That?
Our security is based on two important conditions that are part of God’s perspective. The first is explained in 2 Cor. 5:17.
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
From God’s perspective, when you became a believer you became a new creation. The old you ceased to exist and a new you came to be. Notice the verbs in this verse are in the past perfect tense. The old has gone, the new has come. That means this change is in the past and is complete. It’s not something that will happen or even something that is happening. It’s something that has already happened.
God can have this perspective of us because He can see the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10), and after He agreed to save us He chose to see us as we will be when He perfects us at the rapture/resurrection. Ephesians 2:6 tells us He has already seen us seated with Christ in the heavenly realms. And fromRomans 3:23-24 we learn that even though we’ve all sinned and fall short of the glory of God, He has justified us freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. The Greek word translated “justified” in this passage means “to render righteous; innocent, faultless, guiltless”. This righteousness from God comes to us through our faith in what the Lord accomplished for us on the cross. In other words, we’ve been made righteous, not because of our behavior, but because of His grace. Therefore, through a combination of our faith and His ability to see the end from the beginning, it’s as if we’ve never sinned.
(From 2 Ptr 3:8 we learn that God is not just someone who has a lot of time. To Him, time is so different from what it is to us that in one instance a day for Him might be equal to 1,000 years for us, while in another instance 1,000 years for Him might only require 1 of our days to pass. This was Peter’s way of saying that God is outside of time altogether.)
The second condition comes from Romans 7:18-20 and confirms that God sees as if we don’t sin.
For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
Paul also confirmed what we all know, that in the here and now we still sin. But because God has chosen to only see us as a new creation, He can separate us from our behavior, and attributes our sins to the sinful nature that still dwells in us and will continue to dwell in us as long as we remain in our natural state. In other words, He no longer counts our sins against us, but against our sin nature.
King David saw this coming 3,000 years ago when he wrote, “Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against him” (Psalm 32:2).
What Does The Bible Say About Our Security?
These two conditions are what allow the Lord to make the following promises where our salvation is concerned.
For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day (John 6:38-39).
Believers belong to God and are often called the sheep of His pasture (Psalm 100:3). The Lord Jesus is the Good shepherd (John 10:11). As such He is in charge of keeping His Father’s flock, and has promised to never lose any of those the Father has given Him. Notice the phrase, “I will lose none”.
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one” (John 10:27-30)
Continuing with the shepherd / sheep analogy, not only will the Lord not lose any of us, but He promised that no one can take us away from either Him or His Father. Note the dual use of the phrase “no one can snatch them out.”
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39).
This is certainly an all inclusive statement covering everything possible. In effect, Paul was saying, “Nothing can separate us from the love of God.”
And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory(Ephesians 1:13-14).
Here are the four things that came together to save you forever. 1) You heard the gospel and, 2) you believed it. 3) God marked you with a seal and, 4) He guaranteed your inheritance. These things happened at the moment you believed, before you had done anything, good or bad, as a believer. Note the phrase “guaranteeing our inheritance.” Our inheritance is eternal life with Him (John 5:24).
The word translated “deposit” is a legal term. Today we would say “earnest money”. It’s a down payment that constitutes a legal obligation to follow through with the purchase. If you’ve ever bought any real estate, you’re familiar with the term. If not, here’s another example. It’s like we’ve been put on “lay away.” The price has been paid and we’ve been taken off the display shelf until the one who has purchased us returns to claim us. In the mean time we cannot be bought by anyone else, because we legally belong to the one who has paid the deposit. “You are not your own,” we’re told. “You were bought with a price” (1 Cor. 6:19-20). And that price is the blood of Jesus (1 Peter 1:18-19).
Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come (2 Cor. 1:21-22).
Who makes us stand firm in Christ? God does. Who anointed us? God did. Who set His seal of ownership on us? God did. Who put His Spirit in our hearts? God did. Who is responsible for keeping us saved? God is.
And notice the Greek word translated “deposit”again. It’s the same one that appears in Ephesians 1:13-14 above, and this time it becomes even more obvious. God has set His seal of ownership on us. He has “branded” us as if He was a rancher marking his cattle to provide proof of ownership.
In John 6:38-39 Jesus promised He wouldn’t lose us. In John 10:27-30 He said no one can take us out of his hands. In Romans 8:38-39 Paul said nothing in all of creation can separate us from the Love of God, and from Ephes. 1:13-14 and2 Cor. 1:21-22 we learn that we can’t walk away because we’ve been purchased and marked with God’s proof of ownership. We’ve been bought with the blood of Jesus, and even if God was willing to sell us, there’s no currency in the universe we could use to buy ourselves back.
These are the Bible’s clearest verses on the subject of our security in Christ, and the rules of interpretation require that we use clear verses to establish God’s promises and to help us interpret verses that aren’t so clear. But there are absolutely no verses in the New Testament that rescind these promises or identify exclusions or modifications to them. Once we are saved, we are saved forever. By the way, don’t let anyone use quotes from the Old Testament to challenge these promises. Eternal Security is a blessing given only to the Church.)
In summary, if you’ve asked Him to be your Savior He has said, “Yes” (Matt. 7:7-8) . There is no sin you can commit in your lifetime that will cause Him to revoke your salvation, because there is no sin you can commit that He didn’t already know about when He saved you. That means there is no sin you can commit that He hasn’t already paid for with His life (Colossians 2:13-14). As He died, He said, “It is finished” (John 19:30). He was talking about the work of saving you. And since He has saved you He will also keep you, because no matter how many promises God has made, they are “yes” in Christ (2 Cor. 1:20).
I’ve been writing about this subject for a number of years now, and every time I do I get questions from people asking about this or that verse, as if the Bible could contradict itself or contains “fine print” that negates the clear promises you’ve just read. I’ve researched and responded to these questions to the point where the site now contains 139 postings related to this subject. You can access these postings by going to any page on the site and typing OSAS in the search box in the upper right hand corner in the grey border at the very top of the page. I encourage you to do so.
I’m sure some of you are asking, “If God knows we can’t stop sinning, and if He’s already forgiven us for all our sins, then why does our behavior matter to Him?” We’ll address that issue next time. See you then.