Eternal Security/Part 3
|By: Dr. John Ankerberg and Dr. John Weldon; ©2001|
|Is it the eternal purpose of God to save those who have believed in His Son? Does the Scripture teach that salvation is from God and not man? Has God chosen the believer for salvation? These are the questions answered in this article.|
Eternal Security—Part Three
Is it the eternal purpose of God to save those who have believed in His Son?
One reason for a rejection of the doctrine of eternal security is that it is evaluated from the perspective of time and not eternity. In other words, if it has been God’s eternal purpose to save the believer in Christ, can the believer ever be lost in time? Put another way, if, as Ephesians 1:4 declares, God chose the believer in Christ from before the foundation of the world, at what point did the believer lose his/her salvation?: “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world… in love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself according to the kind intention of His will…. We have obtained an inheritance having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will” (Eph. 1:4-5, 11).
Some argue that when believers lose their salvation, it is because of their rebellion against God and/or the sins they have committed against Him. But God knew for all eternity everything believers would ever do, good and bad. Yet God still chose them to eternal life, “Who has saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity” (2 Tim. 1:9). So how could there be anything that exists in believers’ lives now, in time, that could turn God against them when their relationship to God was already eternal? God chose a believer knowing beforehand every sin and failure that would be his. God knew the times of rebellion, all the sin, unbelief, lack of faith, etc., and yet the Scripture still teaches that the believer was chosen before the world was ever created because God had, quite literally, loved them forever. As God told Jeremiah, “…I have loved you with an everlasting love, therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness” (Jer. 31:3). All this is why, “Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come you who are blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Mt. 25:34).
God looks at His plan and His Church through the eyes of an eternal plan that to us in many ways remains a puzzle. None of us can presently know what plans or necessities were formulated in the council of God in all eternity before there ever was a creation.
One of the things that God apparently decided in eternity was that salvation was ultimately going to be His decision, not ours, something we will discuss in the next two questions. This would seem to be a necessity, for were salvation up to us, it is, by definition, insecure, indeed, eternally insecure. Why? No creature could ever guarantee his/her salvation for all eternity apart from the saving power of God. If even a third of the once innocent angels fell (those remaining being termed “elect angels” (1 Tim. 5:21), which Christian thinks that, as a sinner, he or she could do a better job?
Does the Scripture teach that salvation is from God and not man?
When we examine the possibility of loss of salvation, one way to help resolve the issue is by determining the final cause of salvation. How much of our salvation is dependent on us and how much on God? The following Scriptures and our next question show that in its ultimate sense salvation originates and finishes 100% in God. It never originates in a wholly independent decision of man:
- Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith…. (Heb. 12:2)
- Salvation is from the Lord. (Jonah 2:9)
- Salvation belongs to the Lord. (Ps. 3:8)
- In the exercise of his will he brought us forth…. (Jas. 1:18)
- A man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven. (Jn. 3:27) No one can come to me, unless it has been granted him from the Father. (Jn. 6:65) And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed. (Acts 13:48)
- Yet to all who received him to those who believed in his name, he gave the right
- to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human
- decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. (Jn. 1:12-13)
- For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God. (Eph. 2:8)
- It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. (Rom. 9:16)
If salvation is an act accomplished by God, one would assume it must endure by definition because “I know that everything that God does will remain forever; there is nothing to add to it and there is nothing to take from it…” (Ecc. 3:14).
In fact, the Scriptures teach that every component of salvation is of God: regeneration (Jn. 6:63); repentance (2 Tim. 2:25; Acts 11:18); faith (Acts 16:14; 18:27; Rom. 12:3; Heb. 12:2); justification (Rom. 8:33; Titus 3:7); union with Christ (1 Cor. 1:30); grace (Rom. 12:3, 6; 1 Cor.1:4; Eph. 4:7); atonement (Acts 20:28); sanctification (Eph. 5:25-26; Heb. 2:11; Jude 1); bodily resurrection (Phil. 3:21); reconciliation and redemption (1 Cor. 1:30; 2 Cor. 5:18; Col. 1:21-22; Eph. 1:7), etc.
This shows that God has removed every form of human effort or merit as a means of salvation. Theologian Lewis Sperry Chafer discusses this point as follows:
- Through the divine decree, as has been seen, every human merit has been set aside in order that pure grace might reign unchallenged and uncomplicated. That salvation might be by grace alone, God has removed every possible conflicting issue which might arise because of human merit. The whole human family is now “under sin”; for only thus are they objects of pure grace. Such grace can be exercised only toward the meritless. Salvation is based on the loving goodness of God and never on the supposed worthiness of the sinner. In like manner, God is now equally free to continue the exercise of His boundless grace toward the Christian without reference to the Christian’s merit. All that the love of God may prompt him to do in grace, he is free to do. His unconditional covenant of eternal blessings is the guarantee of his abiding purpose…. The great covenant promises of salvation are not limited to the moment when the sinner accepts the saving grace that is in Christ Jesus; they all reach on and guarantee every step of the way from the first moment of faith till the last moment of fruition. Even the word salvation, in its largest biblical meaning, covers all that is past, all that is present, and all that is future, in the outworking of the grace of God for the one who believes…. In the great promises of grace there is not measurement as to time, not any human condition imposed other than believing.
If salvation is from the Lord, then it isn’t from the believer or what the believer does or does not do in the course of his or her Christian life.
Has God chosen the believer for salvation?
Although the subject of election is a mystery and must not be pressed beyond the bounds of clear scriptural statements, no one can logically deny that the Scripture teaches that the believer was chosen by God. If the believer has been chosen by God for salvation before the believer was even born, then nothing in that believer’s life later can thwart the purpose that God in love had eternally covenanted and established to accomplish. The following Scriptures prove the doctrine of election:
- In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons…. (Eph. 1:5)
- You did not choose me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain…. (Jn. 15:16)
- For the promises for you and your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself. (Acts 2:39)
- And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved,… (Col. 3:12) Knowing, brethren beloved by God, his choice of you. (1 Thess. 1:4)
- All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. (Mt. 11:27)
- For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thess. 5:9)
- But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation…. (2 Thess. 2:13)
- For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory. (2 Tim. 2:10)
- But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession…. (1 Pet. 2:9)
- Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies. (Rom. 8:33)
- In the same way then there has also come to be at the present time a remnant [of believers] according to God’s gracious choice. But if by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace. (Rom. 11:5-6)
- But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong…. (1 Cor. 1:27)
- For the faith of those chosen of God. (Titus 1:1)
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those… who are chosen… (1 Pet. 1:1)
For though the twins were not yet born, and had not done anything good or bad, in order that God’s purpose according to His choice might stand, not because of works, but because of him who calls…. And he did so in order that he might make known the riches of his glory upon vessels of mercy, which he prepared beforehand for glory, even us, whom he also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles. (Rom. 9:11, 23-24)
Could all these verses be clearer? The election of God is a mystery, but it does not undermine human responsibility and freedom nor is it inconsistent with the love, mercy, and goodness of God. Regardless, if the believer is chosen by God for salvation, and especially if this has been an eternal choice, on what basis can a believer logically conclude that God will not fulfill His purposes? Rather than argue over such a doctrine or dispute it, true believers should rejoice and give thanks to God for their election to eternal salvation.
- Lewis Sperry Chafer, Grace (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1972), pp. 63-65.