God's Grace to Keep Us Saved
Secure in love
I want the people closest to me in this world to know that I love them. I don’t want my wife wondering whether or not my commitment to her will fade over time. I don’t want my kids growing up unsure as to where they stand with me. I don’t want my parents and my brothers questioning how dearly I hold those relationships.
In fact, I want my family so sure of my commitment to each of them that they never feel they have to impress me, serve me, win me, or convince me in order to earn or keep that love. My true desire for them is that they feel so secure in our relationship that they can enjoy the liberty of our fellowship in a way only secure people can.
It grieves me to know there are Christians who don’t think of God in similar terms and who live their lives uncertain as to where they stand with their Creator.
“Does he still love me?” “Am I still saved?” “Am I still part of the family?” “Did that last bout with sin exhaust his grace?”
Living with that level of uncertainty can be unsettling, scary, and burdensome. But, as we’ll see in God’s Word in a moment, also unnecessary.
Like a good parent, our God wants his children to know they are his now and forever. Every Christian is eternally secure because of God’s grace and not because of our obedience or performance. God saves us and he keeps us saved meaning, if you’re a Christian, you couldn’t lose your salvation if you tried.
I realize that’s a shocking statement and some of you reading this may have objections and exceptions racing through your mind right now, but let me give you three reasons why it’s true. (The goal in this post is not be to give an exhaustive biblical theology of the doctrine of eternal security, but rather lay a solid foundation on which we can all build our confidence in this gracious provision from God.)
The Father’s plan
For the first reason, let’s look at Ephesians 1. There we’ll see that the Father’s plan demands eternal security for the believer. In other words, our being kept for salvation is built in to the Father’s divine blueprint.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ [Notice who Paul’s talking about: the Father.], who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.“
Who’s been blessed here? Verse 1 tells us he’s writing “to the saints in Ephesus.” Paul’s calling for Christians to praise the Father who has blessed them because of their relationship with Jesus.
Verse 4: “For he [the Father] chose us [believers] in him [Jesus] before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” Here’s the Father’s plan: Before he ever said “let there be light,” God the Father decided to provide what was needed for a group of people to stand before him holy and blameless, without spot or wrinkle.
And who’s in that holy group? Those found “in Christ.” Those “in Christ” will stand before the Father holy and blameless. They will be acceptable and purified.
And how does one get “in Christ”? Look at verse 13: “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed … “
Okay, let’s summarize. Because of our sin, humanity is separated from a holy God. But the Father sent his Son to die for those sins that whosoever believes in the Son will be forgiven and reconciled to God. That’s the gospel of our salvation.
In Ephesians 1, Paul is saying that when you believe that message of truth, you “were included in Christ” instantly, meaning you identify with him—his sinlessness, sacrifice, and spoils. At that moment you were forgiven and brought into a right relationship with a God. By believing the gospel, you are brought in Christ.
But can I step “out of Christ”? That’s what we’re talking about. Is this a lasting condition?
Here’s where we need to go back to the Father’s plan in verse 4 and remind ourselves that all in Christ are destined: “to be holy and blameless in his sight.” The Father’s plan is the glorification of all who hear the gospel and, believing it, are in Christ.
It’s this same foolproof plan described in Romans 8.
For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things (vv. 29–32)?
Our all-powerful Father God has a plan that was established before the foundations of the world were laid, and that plan includes the glorification of all who believe in his Son.
If you have believed the gospel you are in Christ. If you are in Christ you have been declared righteous and will one day be just that before God. To step out of Christ would be to thwart the predetermined plan of the almighty God. I’m not that powerful, and neither are you.
The Son’s promise
But that’s not the only reason to believe in eternal security. The second is this: The Son’s promise includes it. Jesus pledged it to be so.
Turn to John 3. John is a unique book of the Bible in that it is explicitly evangelistic (see 20:31). John’s goal is to give unbelievers a reason to believe and, so, it’s a good place to go to understand the gospel, its scope, and its implications. Let’s begin in what may be the most well-known passage in the Bible.
“Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up” (v. 14). This is referencing back to Numbers 21 when, while wondering in the wilderness because of their sin, God’s people start to sin some more. So, God sends poisonous snakes among them. People are bit and start dying. Finally, the people admit their wrongdoing and God says to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live” (Num. 21:8). They’re dying, but if they trust God’s ability to heal them and look at the snake, they’ll live.
Jesus says that, in the same way, he must be lifted up, referring to the cross that awaited him, “that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:15–16).
Notice the Son’s promise being given to people dying because of the poison of sin: If they believe in him, they won’t die but, instead, be given eternal life.
Can you lose eternal life? No, or it’s not “eternal!” The promise is quite simple, really.
Let’s look at a handful of other passages in which Jesus makes the same promise.
“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (4:13–14).
“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life” (5:24).
“For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day” (6:40).
“I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will 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” (10:28–30).
No doubt these promises prompted Paul, again in Romans 8, to write the following:
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? … No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 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 (vv. 35, 37–39).
While the Father’s plan demands eternal security for the believer, the Son’s promise includes it.
If a believer can lose their salvation, then either Jesus’ promise was not kept, he was mistaken when he gave it, or he was knowingly deceiving people multiple times. None of those are valid options. The Son promises eternal life to those who have believed in him, and eternal life they shall receive.
The Spirit’s position
The third and final reason I want us to consider as to why we can believe in eternal security is that The Spirit’s position guarantees it. Because he is where he is, we’re going nowhere.
Flip back to Ephesians 1 and look again at verse 13.
“And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked [by the Father] in him [the Son] 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.”
Paul says, “having believed“ we were “marked with a seal.” Long ago, a written letter from the King was folded, wax was dripped over the fold, and a unique impression was pushed into the cooling wax. This seal ensured two things: First, the letter would get to its intended destination untampered with, and, second, the recipient would know from whom the letter came.
Similarly, the Holy Spirit guarantees the believer will arrive at the intended destination and is evidence that we belong to he to whom the seal belongs.
But, it gets better. Paul also calls the Holy Spirit a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance. What’s our inheritance? Heaven! Resurrection, glorification, life everlasting without pain, sickness, sin, or sadness!
I remember when my wife and I placed our downpayment on our first home. Once it was made, the house was ours. We weren’t yet living in the house, but we could genuinely claim it to be our possession.
The same is true with eternal life for the believer. The deposit has been made—not by us, mind you, but made nonetheless. We now get to enjoy claiming possession of something we look forward to one day experiencing. The Spirit’s position in us guarantees eternal security of the believer.
The bottom line
So here’s the reality of eternal security. Once someone has believed in Jesus Christ they are saved forevermore, not because of their obedience, fruitfulness, or anything else, but because the Father’s plan demands it, the Son’s promise includes it, and the Spirit’s position guarantees it. God wants us to know that we’re secure.
The question is, do you believe him? Not how much you serve the church, not if you think you’re growing in holiness and gaining victory over sin, and not how you feel when you worship. All of those are subjective.
The only question that really matters is, do you believe that you are a sinner in need of forgiveness and that Jesus Christ died on the cross to provide just that and rose bodily from the dead and in believing that you have eternal life?
Are you persuaded by that? Do you trust that? If so, you have crossed from death to life. You are “in Christ” and, according to the Father’s plan, you’re going to stand holy and blameless before him. In accordance with the Son’s promises, you have eternal life. And because of the Spirit’s position, your inheritance of heaven is a certainty.
So, along with the writers of the New Testament, and along with God himself, you and I are being invited to believe and be sure!
God wants you to live a life of certainty. He has gone to great lengths to communicate to us the eternality of our security in him. He invites us to live a life marked by peace, joy, and freedom because of that reality. Believe and be sure.
- christian living
- book review
- church fathers