The Gospel 7: Eternal Security
By: Deji Yesufu
There is perhaps no Christian meeting I attend where the question “Can a Christian loose his salvation?” does not come up. It is always a beautiful thing to watch ministers of the gospel labor to bring their listeners to comprehend this great gospel truth. But somehow when answering the question, many of these teachers seem to leave out the great truths of justification by faith. Indeed, the reason we have a secure salvation is that we are justified by the grace of God through faith in the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. And this salvation is eternally secure! Halleluyah!!
Here is the good news: the gospel. Justification of sinners by God is a one-time pardon that avails for all eternity. It must be understood that when an individual is justified by the grace of God through faith, that individual has all his sins forgiven—past, present and future. All his sins are wiped clean by God and sin can no longer damn such a person again. Some people find it difficult to accept this doctrine, saying that it opens the door to licentious living. This is true and there is a sense in it that the very act of God that saves in this manner brings us to a freedom that should be used carefully (Galatians 5:1). But there is no denying the fact that the saints have this freedom and it is theirs in Christ Jesus. Nonetheless when our Protestant fathers taught justification by faith, they also added with it a solid lifestyle and doctrine on sanctification. The lives of the Puritan of old is a testimony to this and can prove to the world that justification by faith, rather than lead to lawlessness, can lead to greater godliness.
Abraham and Justification
To understand eternal security, we would need to understand how God relates to our sins. And the best place to begin this examination is in the writings of Apostle Paul in the book of Romans. We simply continue our discussion from where we stopped in series 6:
“And to the one who does not work but believes on him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness…” (Romans 4:5)
A key phrase from this discussion on righteousness that comes through faith is that we are dealing with a God “who justifies the ungodly”. This is profound because we would think that the one that God should save is the godly. But this is again reaffirming Jesus’s words that he had come to save sinners and not the righteous (Luke 5:32). We should be thankful that it is the ungodly that God justifies, for only then do we have hope.
Another point of interest from this verse is that the person who will enjoy this justification must not work for it. It puts to question the religious phrase in churches today about wanting “to make heaven”. If heaven could be “made”, if we can achieve our salvation by our human effort, then Christ did not need to die. I fear that all those who seek to make heaven, if their trust is in their ability and not in Christ, would be lost to hell. We see that it is faith (alone, not works) that justifies the ungodly.
May the Lord give us this saving faith, in Jesus name (amen).
Then Paul describes the blessedness of righteousness without works. I think we should take our time and examine this Pauline claims carefully: “Are we saying that a person can have righteousness without working for it?” Yes. “Are we saying that justification by faith is not a measure of our sanctification?” Yes. “And that this kind of lifestyle is a blessed one?” Yes indeed. In fact, I think this is what the New Testament refers to as true blessedness (see Ephesians 1:3). “What then is this righteousness?” It is the righteousness of God imputed on sinners who simply believe on Christ. In his writing, Paul refers to David in describing this blessedness:
“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count sin.” (Romans 4:7-8)
Three things can be concluded from this verse: the man who God justifies enjoys these graces – his sins are forgiven; his sins are covered; and God would not count sin against him. The true blessedness of the Christian life is that sin can no longer damn a Christian! The reality of the Christian life is that the Christian will still sin but the grace we have found through the cross is that this sin, no matter how grave it is, can no longer take us to hell. We are heaven bound, not because we can make heaven; we are heaven bound because we have made heaven through the grace that is in Christ Jesus. Halleluyah! This is the gospel. This is the reality of the Christian life. This is the message that Christians ought to be taught daily in church. This is our heritage in Jesus Christ. How did these truths get lost in the churches? I refer us again to the story of Arminius Jacobus and the coming of Arminianism to the Protestant churches. Arminianism was further propagated by John Wesley and then brought to our shores in Nigeria. Unfortunately, Arminianism was repudiated by our Protestant fathers. Our fathers taught and lived by the doctrine of grace. They believed that sin is defeated through the cross of Christ; that sin can no longer damn the Christian; that ours sins are forgiven in Christ; that our sins are covered; and that God will not hold our sins against us. Our protestant fathers believed the doctrine of grace as taught by Paul; they believed that a Christian’s salvation is sure and secure – not by works but through the grace of God in Christ Jesus.
Permit a personal anecdote at this juncture:
It was 1998 or 1999. I was a new Christian but I committed a sin and the Holy Spirit brought great conviction to my heart. As I wallowed in my guilt, pleading that God would have mercy on me, I came across this song by Don Moen:
Be still my soul (2x)
Cease from the labor and the toil
Refreshing springs of peace awaits
To troubled minds and hearts that ache…
Be still my child, I know your ways
And I would guide for my namesake
Plunge in the rivers of my grace,
Rest in the arms of my embrace
I will forever be thankful to God for that song ministration because I do not know what I would have done under that weight of guilt. I rose from my fallen position and believed God’s word. I sinned but I have been forgiven. I am God’s child and it is incumbent on him to take me to his eternal kingdom. I ceased from my labors and entered into his eternal rest – even right here on earth. My salvation is secure: yes, I have eternal security. Following this experience, I went on to study the concept of a sure salvation and I saw that it was written all over scripture. If Christians could lose their salvation, Christ is not much of a Savior after all. But he is because he says so in his word:
“All that the Father gives me will come to me, whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of the Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes on him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:37-40)
For those who contend that Paul taught something other than what Jesus taught, you only need to look at those words of Christ above and you will see justification by faith and eternal election. In the next section, we would examine election as another consequence of the doctrine of justification by faith.
Assurance of Salvation
It is sufficient to say here that the Christian doctrine of an assured salvation or eternal security is firmly embedded in scriptures and woe to a generation who has thrown these great eternal truths outside the windows of the churches to pursue vain and ephemeral things.
Lastly, the doctrine of eternal security is not complete until it is firmly embedded in our hearts. It is one thing for us to learn of a biblical truth, it is another for it to be embedded on our hearts and thus warming our hearts towards greater devotion to Christ and love to the saints. If indeed we have been justified by faith, then we are saved. We are not seeking to make heaven; our heaven is made, right here and now. Amen.
These truths, however, need to go a little further. The Holy Spirit must take them and input them into our hearts. Thus the scriptures say:
“For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:15).
It is not enough that we know justification by faith as truth. It is not enough that we understand eternal security. These truths must translate to a heart affirmation. First, we must be rid of fear: scripture calls this the “spirit of slavery”. It is that fear that makes people never to be sure of their eternal state with God. Truth is that it is God that removes that fear and if you are still afraid that you will not go to heaven after your death, pray that the Lord gives you assurance of salvation. While the doctrine of justification by faith is an objective truth of God’s word, an assured faith is a subjective grace in the heart. But the Christian cannot do without both. Our head knowledge of God’s word must translate to a hearty grasp of it and a hearty confession of it. One of such confessions is the confidence to proclaim God as our Father: “Abba, Father”. Amen.
Assurance of salvation is a gift of faith that the Holy Spirit gives the saints. It usually follows an understanding of the doctrines of justification. But our assurance is further deepened as we know God and endeavor to live a life that is pleasing to him. Sin eats at the heart of assurance; this is why in this series, I must commit a whole section to sanctification and holiness. But if we would get anything out of the Christian life, it must be assurance of salvation. It is a hearty confidence that we are God’s and he is ours. It is a confidence that we have that if we were to die today, we would be entering the eternal kingdom of God. This confidence is a substance of our faith. Indeed, this is true faith in Jesus Christ.
The Christian salvation is sure and secure, not because the Christian is perfect but because Christ who redeemed us from sin, is able to preserve us to his eternal kingdom – Peter puts it this way: (we) “… are kept by the power of God…” (1 Peter 1:5). The means of preservation are varied. One of them is suffering. Christ will further sanctify the saints through suffering (Romans 5:3-5). But God disciplines us so that we can be partaker of his righteousness and with greater sanctification in our walk with our God comes greater assurance of our salvation. The Christian salvation is sure and secure. Amen.