THEOLOGICAL STUDIES

The Eternal Security of the Believer

INTRODUCTION

The subject we are discussing today to a large degree is bogus. The reason that it is bogus is that nearly every conservative Christian regardless of their denomination believes that different types of people will experience the same kind of eternal destinies. For example, let’s take three different people. The first one we’ll name Peter; the second, Paul; and you guessed it, the third one, Mary.

Now Peter has never been to church, doesn’t care one whit about church, and never will care about a relationship with Jesus Christ. We will use Baptists as representatives of those who believe in once saved, always saved, and Nazarenes as representatives of those who believe you can lose your salvation. Well both the Baptists and the Nazarenes believe that Peter will spend an eternity separated from Jesus Christ in a place called hell. On the other hand, Paul one day darkens the doors of the church, hears a tremendous message about Jesus Christ and makes a public profession of faith. For the next several months and even maybe for a year, Paul is the most dynamic witness for Jesus. After a few months, his engines begin to cool and you start seeing less and less of Paul with other Christians. Finally, you notice Paul is never with other believers any more. You hear some substantiated rumors about Paul. He persists in this conduct for the rest of his life. Both Baptists and Nazarenes lamentably claim that he will spend eternity apart from Jesus Christ in a place called hell. Finally, there is Mary who also makes a public profession of faith in Jesus Christ. Mary for the most part lives a life of consistent witness for Jesus Christ. To be sure, she does mess up some times, sometimes even royally; however, overall her life witnesses to the reality of Jesus Christ. Both groups believe that she will spend eternity in heaven.

Notice the degree of agreement between the 2 groups. We seriously need to focus more on what unites us than what divides us. What we do differ about is what happened to Paul. We all agree that he made a public profession of faith and we all agree where he will spend eternity. What we do not agree on is whether he was saved and lost his salvation (Nazarenes) or he was never saved in the first place (Baptists). What we aim to discover is which interpretation best harmonizes with Scripture.


SECURITY FROM THE HUMAN SIDE

The Genuine Christian Remains True to the End (Prov. 24:16; 1 John 3:9; 2:19; Matt. 13:3-9, 18-23)

The General Principle (Prov. 24:16)

Solomon writes that the righteous man (the saved) stumbles 7 times and yet gets back up each time; however, the wicked stumbles once and never gets back up. Those who say a Christian can lose his/her salvation really zero in on the presence of sin in a person’s life. It’s almost as if they are teaching that the saved person can never sin. Well, Solomon writes that the saved person does stumble; he does sin. In fact he sins seven times. He does not mean that he sins only seven times. Seven stands for completion in the Bible. Jesus explains to us what the number seven means when Peter asks Him if forgiving a brother 7 times is enough. Jesus then interprets the number 7 to mean 7 times 70. In other words, as often as your brother sins against you, you are to forgive him. Applying this principle to this verse, Solomon is saying that the Christian sins a whole number of times. So what makes the Christian different from the non-Christian? The Christian always gets back up. The Christian may sin miserably. In fact, as we shall see, sometimes Christians sin sins worse than those committed by non-Christians; however, whereas the Christian does get back up on his feet, the non-Christian falls one time into destruction. The key characteristic of the Christian is not that he never sins but that once he does sin, he gets back up. He may not get up immediately, or the next day, or the next week; however, he does get back up!


The Spiritual Nature in the Christian Prevents Him from Remaining in Sin (1 John 3:9)

Why does the Chrsitian always get back up? John supplies the answer to this question in 1 John 3:9. The apostle John categorically states that the true believer in Jesus Christ does not remain in sin: “No one who is born of God practices sin because His seed abides in him; and he cannot continue in sin because he is born of God” (1 John 3:9). According to this verse, the Christian does not remain in sin because (1) God’s seed abides in him and (2) he is born of God. The 2 clauses “His seed abides in him” and “he is born of God” actually mean the same thing. They declare that the Christian is born again by virtue of the fact that at the point of salvation God’s Spirit comes into that person and produces a new person in him/her. John basically says the same thing in Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus: “Truly, truly I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).

Up until the point a person is saved, that person has only one nature operating in him/her—their human nature which they inherited from Adam. That nature has the bent to sin. It’s not that that nature is going to sin all the time, it’s just that that nature has been corrupted and tends to promote self and fall into sin. Every time that human nature has to choose between being selfish and self-less, he normally chooses to be selfish. Now every person is born with this nature. At the point of salvation though, God’s Spirit enters the person and gives birth to a new nature—a spiritual one created in the image of Jesus Christ which enables the Christian to experience God’s life. As a result, the Christian has 2 natures living in him/her—the old nature inherited from Adam and the new nature created by the Holy Spirit.

A Christian really experiences a struggle the non-Christian does not experience. Whenever a Christian is living in the new nature, he’s still got that old nature within him trying to pull him back into sin. That is why the Christian who is living for Jesus really feels torn at times. On the other hand, whenever the Christian falls into sin, he feels miserable because he has this new spiritual nature living in him convicting him of the sin in his life. John claims that ultimately that spiritual nature always wins out. You want to see somebody miserable? Look at a Christian rebelling against God. That person will not go to hell; however, that Christian feels like he is living there right now. It’s just that the Holy Spirit and spiritual nature are so strong that they will always convince the Christian to come out of sin and live for Jesus again.

Now note that the presence of the Spirit in a person’s life is not a temporary affair. According to Paul, God has sealed His people with His Spirit until the day when Jesus returns (Eph. 1:13-14). In order for a person to lose his salvation, God would have to break that seal and destroy the new spiritual nature He has placed within that Christian. That’s just not going to happen; especially since God said that He has sealed us until the second coming.

The Split at Ephesus (1 John 2:19)

John provides us with an example of this very principle in 1 John 2. In 1 John we discover that a large group of “professed Christians” have abandoned the church at Ephesus in order to follow teachers who are not following Christ. In fact the heresy that these teachers are promoting proved to be the greatest threat to Christianity in its history. Now what explanation does John give for these people leaving the true church of Jesus Christ for a church which is heretical? Does he claim that they have now lost their salvation as the Nazarenes claim or that they never were saved in the first place? 1 John 2:19 provides the answer:
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. But they went out in order that it might be shown that they all are not of us.

When these “professed Christians” leave the church of the apostles for the heretical teachers, John does not claim that they have lost their salvation. He claims that they never were saved in the first place. If they had been saved in the first place, then they would have never abandoned the church of the apostles, the church of Jesus Christ. The fact that they left the church of Christ proves that they never were Christians in the first place. According to John, a person’s acts don’t make him into something or someone; rather they reveal who he truly is.


The Parable of the Soils (Matt. 13:3-9, 18-23)

Well, what about that person who did confess Jesus as Savior and Lord and then fell away? What explanation does Jesus give for Paul who ran down the aisle, professed Jesus, and then fell away? Jesus gives a parable to explain the dynamic in that person’s life. He says that people are like 4 different types of soil—the hard path, the shallow soil, the thorny soil, and the good soil. The path is not the shallow soil, nor the shallow soil, the thorny soil, nor the thorny soil the good soil. Jesus says that all 4 soils hear God’s Word. In the case of the path, the ground is so hard that God’s Word cannot penetrate the soil, exposing it to Satan who snatches God’s Word away. The shallow soil receives God’s Word with much enthusiasm and joy; however, whenever the sun of persecution arises, the shallow soil falls away because it never had the depth to care for the roots. It never was good soil; even in the beginning. The thorny soil, on the other hand, again received the Word yet produced thorns which choked out the crops. Only the good soil received the Word properly and produced good fruit.

Whenever a person claims that a Christian has lost his salvation, he is ultimately claiming that that person was at first was the good soil. Yet that is not the interpretation Jesus gives. He claims that that person never was good soil; otherwise, s/he would have produced a good crop and never fallen away. The question is whether or not that person was ever good soil in the first place. The only way you can tell is by looking at that person’s overall life. Did s/he produce good crops? If so, that person was saved. If not, then that person was either shallow soil or thorny soil; that person never was saved in the first place.

Some Christians though state categorically that they know of people who were saved and then lost their salvation. They can point us to examples of people who were saved and later lost their salvation. That Christian may have seen that person confess Jesus as Lord and may have even seen that person live a Christ-like life for a while, but that doesn’t prove that that person ever was saved. If that person fell away and does not ultimately repent, then that person was either shallow soil or thorny soil. That person never was good soil. That person ultimately never had a life-transforming encounter with Jesus Christ.


SECURITY FROM THE DIVINE SIDE (John 6:37-39; 17:24; 10:27-30; Rom. 8:31-39)

The Love of the Son for the Father (John 6:37-39)

Everything we’ve shared so far has dealt with the dynamic operating at the human level? What about eternal security from God’s side? Ultimately our security is based upon the relationship between the Father and the Son. After Jesus tells the multitude that He is the Bread of Life, He continues by expounding on one of the results of feeding on Jesus, God’s true Bread. All that the Father gives Me shall 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. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing but raise it up on the last day (John 6:37-39).

A major characteristic of every son is that he wants to please his father. I know that when my father was alive, I always liked to show him movies that I thought he would really enjoy—movies he would never get by himself. If he selected all the movies we watched, we would watch only Charles Bronson and John Wayne movies. I will never forget the time after we came out of watching the Charles Bronson movie Death Wish that he said Charles Bronson was the greatest American actor living. Well, I liked to get him movies that would pleasantly surprise him. I took a risk when I showed him Sophie’s Choice starring Meryl Streep. I’ll never forget that evening. For over 2 hours he sat as still as possible in that armchair watching this tragic story. I don’t think he even moved at all during the whole time. I kept thinking: “Oh my gosh, he’s so bored, he’s fallen asleep,” but I didn’t say anything because I did not want to interrupt his train of thought if he was engrossed in the movie. At the very end of the movie though, after the movie had turned off, the room was so still that you could have cut the stillness with a knife. After a few moments he said, “Meryl Streep‘s the greatest actress I‘ve ever seen.” I was elated because I had pleased my dad.

Well, I think I was a good son. Nathan is a good son who likes to please his dad; he loves it when I show him approval. Well as good a son as I was to my father and as good a son as Nathan is to me, we don’t even begin to compare with Jesus in the Sonship department. If I loved to please my dad, how much more does Jesus love to please His Dad. What pleases His Father? By doing the will of His Father. What is the will of His Father? “That of all that He has given Me, I lose nothing but raise it up on the last day.” When Jesus decides to quit pleasing His Father, then my security is in danger. Well, that is never going to happen; until that day which will never occur, I am as safe as can be.


The Love of the Father for the Son (John 17:24)

Not only is our security based upon Jesus’ love for His Dad, it is also based upon the love of the Father for the Son. In John 17, John records Jesus’ prayer on the last night of His life on earth. The final moments are counting down to the time when He will hang on a cross. He has no time to waste words on trivial matters. Every moment from here on out is precious. In His prayer He asks that God glorify Him, that God keep His faithful 11 disciples safe, and that His subsequent followers would live in unity together. At the end of the prayer, He prays that God will see His followers through to the end, that He not abandon them but that they be able to see the glory of Jesus in heaven. Father, I desire that they also whom Thou hast given Me be with Me where I am in order that they may behold My glory which Thou hast given Me for Thou didst love Me before the foundation of the world (John 17:24).

The request is that we Christians behold Jesus’ glory in heaven. What does Jesus appeal to in order to make sure that His Father grants Him His request? Basically Jesus plays His trump card here. For most of us who play spades (or any other kind of game involving trumps), the Ace of Spades is the best card you can have out of the entire deck. Now you don’t just dump the Ace on any trick. For example, if the other 3 people play the 2, 3, and 4 of hearts, you don’t play the Ace when you’ve got the 5 of hearts. You play the 5 of hearts. You wait and use it at the strategic moment. Your opponent plays the jack of spades; your partner plays the queen of spades, and then your other opponent plays the king of Spades, and bam you play that Ace. You save the Ace for the best possible moment. You can only play it once; so you play it strategically.

Well that is what Jesus does here. It’s like Jesus says, “Father, if You love Me, you will honor this one request—that My followers behold Me in glory!” There will come a point in time in my relatioinship with Molly when she will ask for something that I don’t quite understand about. She will one day say, “Dad, I know you don’t understand why I need this, but I am asking you to trust me. If you love me, you will do this one thing for me.” Well, to a real degree this is what Jesus is doing. And look when He used it. He did not use it to avoid the cross; He did not use it to inherit the entire universe. He used it for you and me. “Dad, if you love Me, you will let Carey see Me in My glory.” Well, the Father loves the Son, and I don’t have to worry about seeing Jesus in His glory until the Father quits loving Him. That ain’t ever going to happen.


CONCLUSION

It is so sad that many Christians live in fear of losing their salvation. One of the saddest things I ever heard concerned John Wesley, the great founder of the Methodist church. God used this man in a dramatic way to lead a pagan America and England to Him. Because of his ministry, both England and the US escaped the horrors of the French Revolution. And yet his writings indicate that he never was sure until he died whether or not he would go to heaven. How sad. It would be like this past weekend when Nathan and Molly came home after being away with my family, and wondering if their dad was going to love then when they got back home. Was he going to throw them out or was he going to accept them in love? Well, they didn’t even think those thoughts? Why? Because they know that I love them. Well as good a dad as I try to be, I don’t even begin to measure up to my Father in the father department. If my children can come home with utter confidence in their dad’s love, how much more can I come home to my heavenly Father utterly confidently in His love?