How Secure Is Salvation?

How Secure Is Salvation?

by Rolaant L. McKenzie

1. Introduction | 2. God's Preservation of Believers | 3. Sealed for Redemption |
4. Forgiven Completely | 5. A License to Sin? |
6. Common Objections to Eternal Security | 7. Conclusion

1. Introduction

Can a person saved by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ lose his salvation? What does the Bible teach regarding the nature of salvation? Is it held securely in God's hands, or is it conditional upon one's continual faithfulness? The answers to these questions are crucial in understanding the nature and extent of the human condition and salvation.

Scripture teaches that Jesus came to save those who are lost (Luke 19:10). Before anyone comes to Christ he is a lost sinner, separated from God and under His condemnation (John 3:36). The essential reason for this is our relationship to sin, which is any level of unconformity with the character and will of God. Are we sinners because we sin, or do we sin because we are sinners? Scripture affirms that both are true. The Bible says that we are all guilty of personal acts and attitudes of sin (Ezekiel 18:20; Romans 3:23; 3:10-18; Mark 7:20-23). It also indicates that we are guilty because we are born with a sinful nature (Psalm 51:5), ultimately inherited from our ancestral father, Adam (Romans 5:12).

The penalty that is the result of our sin is eternal death. According to the Bible, the consequences of sin are too serious to overlook. Although God is not our enemy, He is our judge. As judge He cannot ignore our failure to "hit the target" with our lives. In Romans 6:23 we learn that "the wages of sin is death." Whenever we sin, we earn the wage of death. Since, according to Romans 3:23, every person is guilty of sin, every person is subject to the consequences of physical death. This falls upon humankind as the result of Adam's sin (Romans 5:12-14); spiritual death, a condition transmitted to us from Adam through our ancestors (Ephesians 2:1, 5); and eternal death in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15).

To summarize at this point, Scripture describes our condition before believing in Jesus Christ as being under the wrath of God and destined for hell.

"So Jesus answered them and said, My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me. If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself." (John 7:16-17)

"And He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us." (Acts 17:26-27)

God does provide each person born into this world with an awareness of His existence and a genuine opportunity to exercise a choice with respect to Him (Romans 1:18-22; Acts 17:22-30). But can anyone choose Christ on his own? No, because we all are spiritually dead apart from God and unable and unwilling to choose Him (Romans 8:7-8; Ephesians 2:1). In fact, the unregenerate person naturally uses the genuine opportunity to exercise a choice with respect to God to run away from Him rather than to seek Him (Romans 3:10-18). Because of this no one of himself is willing to do the Father's will, to understand, to accept the truth about Jesus Christ. Such a person lacks the spiritual insight to do so (1 Corinthians 2:14). No one can take any credit for choosing Christ. This point is illustrated in Romans 9:16. It says, "So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy." John 1:12-13 also says, "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God."

The Holy Spirit must create the condition in a person so that he may be able to choose Christ. The result of this grace of God is the certain response by the elect to the inward call of the Holy Spirit, when the outward call is given by the evangelist or minister of the Word of God. Christ, Himself, teaches that all whom God has elected will come to a knowledge of Him (John 6:37). People come to Christ in salvation when the Father calls them (John 6:44), and the very Spirit of God leads His beloved to repentance (Romans 8:14). What a comfort it is to know that the gospel of Christ will penetrate our hard, sinful hearts and wondrously save us through the gracious inward call of the Holy Spirit
(1 Peter 5:10)!

God reaches out to the sinner rather than the other way around; and He alone enables the sinner to choose Him. If a sinner chooses Christ, who is responsible for saving him and keeping his salvation secure? Fortunately, God is! He gets all the credit for saving a person, causing him to be regenerated to so that he will come to Christ and bear good fruit, causing him to grow in grace, and keeping his salvation secure eternally.

Those who refuse to accept Jesus remain condemned and destined for eternal death in hell. They would have to face judgment for their sins since the blood of Christ would not cover them. How can they be held responsible for their sins and face the judgment of God? John 3:19-20 explains it well. It says, "This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed."

After one accepts Christ what does it mean to be saved? It means no longer being under the condemnation of God, and no longer being subject to His wrath (Romans 8:1). Those who accept Jesus Christ by faith receive eternal life (John 3:16, 36). Salvation is a gift wholly from God. Jonah 2:9 says, "Salvation is from the LORD". Salvation is granted by the grace of God through faith, apart from good works on our part.

"For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Being saved means being brought from a lost condition by Christ (Colossians 1:13) into a saved condition that provides the believer with great blessings the moment we trust Him. These blessings are very comprehensive, for our "salvation includes every divine undertaking for the believer from his deliverance out of the lost estate to his final presentation in glory conformed to the image of Christ" (L.S. Chafer, Systematic Theology [Dallas: Dallas Seminary Press, 1948], 3:6). Paul declares that God has already blessed us with all spiritual blessings in Christ (Ephesians 1:3).

Some of the principal blessings of salvation include first of all, regeneration, which is an immediate work of the Holy Spirit in originating a new nature in the believing sinner so as to transform the believer from a state of spiritual death to spiritual life (John 3:5; 10:10, 28; 1 John 5:11-12). Secondly, justification, by which God declares the believer righteous since clothed in the righteousness of Christ (Romans 3:21-26). A third blessing of salvation is freedom from the dominion of sin (Romans 6:2-14). A fourth blessing is being given as a gift from the Father to the Son (John 17:2-24). And a fifth blessing includes being a member in the spiritual body of Christ, the church (1 Corinthians 12:13). There are many other blessings associated with salvation, many more positive acts of God that transform the lost, unregenerate sinner into a vessel of the Holy Spirit--a person being conformed into the image of Christ.

But the question remains: Can a Christian lose his salvation? Can a person once saved, having received God's free gift of eternal life and having been born into the family of God, again return exactly and completely to the position of being a lost and guilty sinner in the eyes of God? Of course not! The very nature of the spiritual life that has been received is eternal, and God, the source of that life is more than strong and able to Himself "confirm, strengthen, and establish" the believer to salvation (1 Peter 5:10).

This Biblical doctrine that a person who has received Jesus Christ, been born into the family of God, and justified by faith, can never again be lost is sometimes called eternal security. Others speak of it as the perseverance of the saints. The latter expression might better be termed the perseverance of God in behalf of the saints, because the security of our salvation does not rest on us but on God. 1 Corinthians 1:8 says that it is Jesus Christ who confirms the believer to the end.

"For a believer to lose his salvation would demand a reversal and an undoing of all the preceding works of the Father, Son, and Spirit. The key issue in the discussion of the believer's security concerns the issue of who does the saving. If man is responsible for securing his salvation, then he can be lost; if God secures the person's salvation, then the person is forever secure" (Paul Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology [Chicago: Moody Press, 1989], p. 341).

Some important questions to consider would be the following. If one is truly saved by grace apart from works through faith in Christ, do good works allow one to "keep" his salvation? If so, where would the focus be? On Jesus, or on personal performance? Can one be assured of his salvation by looking at his personal performance? Scripture says one cannot!

"Nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified." (Galatians 2:16)

"Because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin." (Romans 3:20)

How many of our sins were nailed to the cross with the Lord Jesus? The answer is all! How many of our sins were future when the Lord Jesus died? The answer again is all! There are, however, those today who would agree to all of this, and yet teach that it is possible for a true born-again believer through sin, backsliding, or some other means, to lose his salvation. It is true that the Bible never uses the phrase "eternal security" as such. It does however use some better terms: "eternal redemption" (Hebrews 9:12), "eternal salvation" (Hebrews 5:9), and "eternal life" (John 3:16).

The next section will demonstrate from Scripture that believers are called, justified, and glorified; that believers are kept secure by the power of God; and that believers are sealed until the day of redemption, and have the absolute assurance that their sins are forgiven. The issue of sin and godly living will also be discussed.

1. Introduction | 2. God's Preservation of Believers | 3. Sealed for Redemption |
4. Forgiven Completely | 5. A License to Sin? |
6. Common Objections to Eternal Security | 7. Conclusion
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