Eternal Security/Part 5
|By: Dr. John Ankerberg and Dr. John Weldon; ©2001|
|In this article the authors present four doctrines related to salvation which prove, in their own way, the security of the believer: new birth, union with Christ, justification, and atonement.|
Eternal Security Part 5
Eternal security is only one of some eighteen sub doctrines relating to the doctrine of salvation. To our way of thinking, every single one of these sub doctrines, in its own way, proves the security of the believer. Below we present five examples.
1. The doctrine of the new birth
Theologians refer to this by the term regeneration. Regeneration is entirely the work of God (Jn. 3:3-8) and is linked to our union with Christ (Eph. 2:6). By its very nature it has eternal results irrespective of human merit or performance because, by its nature, it imparts eternal life (Jn. 6:47). Again, eternal life, by definition, cannot be destroyed or displaced.
God clearly knew the implications of using the concept of birth in describing what happens to a Christian at the moment of salvation. Regeneration, like birth, 1) gives life, 2) is unrepeatable, 3) has God as its ultimate author and 4) is decisive and permanent. For example, once a person is physically born, it is impossible for him to be unborn; this is also so with spiritual birth. Nowhere does Scripture speak of a person being saved twice. The reason for this is obvious: once saved, always saved.
Biblically, what regeneration accomplishes is two things: 1) the giving of life to a dead (i.e., dead or inactive toward God) human spirit (cf., 2 Cor. 5:17); and 2) the imparting of eternal life (Jn. 5:24). Consider the following analysis:
The work of regeneration is tremendous in its implications. A soul once dead has received the eternal life which characterizes the being of God. The effect of regeneration is summed up in the fact of possession of eternal life…. New life brings with it new capacity. A person who before regeneration was dead spiritually and blind to spiritual truth now becomes alive to a new world…. One of the many reasons for confusion in the doctrine of regeneration is the attempt to avoid the inevitable conclusion that a soul once genuinely regenerated is saved forever. The bestowal of eternal life cannot be revoked. It declares the unchangeable purpose of God to bring the regenerated person to glory. Never in the Scriptures do we find anyone regenerated a second time. While Christians may lose much of a normal spiritual experience through sin, and desperately need confession and restoration, the fact of regeneration does not change…. Regeneration will have its ultimate display when the person regenerated is completely sanctified and glorified. Our present experiences… are only a partial portrayal of the glories of the eternal life…. [Regeneration is] one of the greatest facts in the whole universe. Its full extent and value will be seen not on earth or in time, but in glory and for all eternity.
2. Union with Christ
The Bible clearly teaches that every believer is now a member of the spiritual body of Jesus Christ. It is a spiritual union. Every believer is inseparably bound up with his Lord. Thus, the believer is said to be “in Christ” dozens of times throughout the New Testament: “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 1:6). We are also said to be “in” the Father and “in” the Holy Spirit just as they are in us (Jn. 17:21-23; Jude 1; Rom. 8:9; Jn. 14:23). “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body…. Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it” (1 Cor. 12:13, 27). Thus, at salvation we “were included in Christ” (Eph. 1:13); “We are members of His body” (Eph. 5:30), and “We are in Him [God] who is true, [and] in His Son Jesus Christ.” (1 Jn. 5:20).
The Scriptures also teach that we are crucified with Christ (Gal. 2:20; Rom. 6:6), that we have died with Christ (Rom. 6:4), that we are co-resurrected with Christ (Eph. 2:6; Rom. 6:5) and that we are seated with Christ in the heavens (Eph. 1:3; 2:6; Col. 3:1-2).
Understanding the characteristics of our union with Christ enables us to see why the doctrine of security is true:
- A. It is a personal and very intimate union as demonstrated by the figures used to describe it:
- The head and the body (Eph. 4:15-16)
- The husband and the wife (Eph. 5:23-32; Rev. 19:7-9).
- The vine and the branches (Jn. 15:5)
- The foundation and the building (1 Pet. 2:4-5; Eph. 2:20-22)
In the parallel given of marriage, that of Christ and His bride, does marriage make the two into one? If we are one body with Christ, which of us can be lost? Christ is our husband. Will He who hates divorce forsake individual members of His body and bride, irrespective of their faithfulness? Who has perfect faith?
- B. It is an organic union.
- Christ and the believer form “one body” (Eph. 1:22-23; 5:29- 30; 1 Cor. 6:15-19). If so, can it be possible for Christ to lose parts of His body? Are bits and pieces of Christ to be missing in eternity? Why can’t we ever be separated from God’s love for us? One reason is our union with Christ. For God to abandon us, He would have to abandon Christ.
- C. It is a vital union.
- Christ is animating and dominating the whole body of believers. The very life of Christ indwells and animates believers so that “Christ is formed” in them (Gal. 4:19; 2:20; Rom. 8:10; 2 Cor. 13:3; Eph. 3:16; Col. 3:3-4).
- D. It is an indissoluble union.
- Only because our union with Christ can never be dissolved can we find such Scriptures as, “I am with you always even to the end of the world” (Mt. 28:20); that “they shall never perish” (Jn. 10:28); that nothing shall “separate us from the love of Christ” (Rom. 8:35), etc. The omnipresence of Jesus Christ makes it possible for Him to be united to and present in every believer as perfectly and fully as if that believer were the only one to have received Christ’s fullness. The great theologian Augustus H. Strong declares,
Such a union as this lacks every element of instability. Once formed, the union is indissoluble. Many of the ties of earth are rudely broken—not so with our union with Christ—that endures forever. Since there is now an unchangeable and divine element in us, our salvation depends no longer upon our unstable wills, but upon Christ’s purpose and power. By temporary dereliction of duty or by our careless unbelief, we may banish Christ to the barest and most remote room of the soul’s house; but He does not suffer us wholly to exclude Him: and when we are willing to unbar the doors, He is still there, ready to fill the whole mansion with His light and love.
The Bible teaches that any person who simply and truly believes in Jesus Christ as his or her personal Savior from sin is at that moment irrevocably and eternally justified. Justification is the final verdict of God whereby He not only forgives and pardons the sins of the believer, but He also declares the believer perfectly righteous by imputing the obedience and righteousness of Christ Himself to the believer through faith. It is on the basis of Christ’s life and atonement that God “pronounces believers to have fulfilled all the requirements of the law which pertain to them.”
Because justification is an eternal verdict pronounced by God, it is made final the moment a person believes on Christ. As a result, justification is not a lifelong process as Roman Catholicism teaches. It constitutes an instantaneous declaration of God that lasts forever.
Both the Old and New Testaments teach the Protestant view of legal (forensic) justification. Consider the following evidence for the Old Testament view of justification: Concerning the Old Testament word hitsdiq, usually rendered “justified,” more often than not it is “…used in a forensic or legal sense, as meaning, not ‘to make just or righteous,’ but ‘to declare judicially that one is in harmony with the law.’…. In the Old Testament, the concept of righteousness frequently appears in a forensic or juridical context. A righteous man is one who has been declared by a judge to be free from guilt.”
In his books Justification, even Catholic theologian Hans Kung argues for this view when he says, “According to the original biblical usage of the term, ‘justification’ must be defined as a declaring just by court order.” Even some other Catholic theologians have agreed with Kung.
The New Testament Scriptures agree with the Old, clearly showing that justification is 1) a crediting of righteousness on the basis of a person’s faith, 2) a completed act of God, and 3) something that occurs wholly apart from personal merit or good works:
…to the man who…trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness… [How blessed is] the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works. (Rom. 4:5,6)
Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”(Rom. 5:1)
…or we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. (Rom. 3:28)
Please also read Luke 18:1-14; Acts 13:38, 39; 15:10, 11; Galatians 2:16.
The weight of these Scriptures is formidable; it is indeed impossible to deny the biblical teaching of justification by faith alone. For someone to say that the Bible teaches that sinners “are justified by Christ and by good works” is simply wrong.
The doctrine of justification means that a believer has been legally declared righteous by God from the moment of faith. Indeed, the very righteousness of God Himself is credited to their account! The very obedience of Christ is credited to their account! If so, what conditions can exist to change these facts? God? God is immutable and His gifts are never taken back. Sin? Can any action of a creature reverse a legal declaration of God? “He forgave us all our sins” (Col. 2:13). “Those he justified, he also glorified” (Rom. 8:30). “If God is for us, who can be against us…. Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies” (Rom. 8:31, 33). As noted theologian J. I. Packer well observes:
This justification, though individually located at the point of time at which a man believes (Romans 4:2; 5:1), is an eschatological once-for-all divine act, the final judgment brought into the present. The justifying sentence, once passed, is irrevocable. “The wrath” will not touch the justified (Romans 5:9). Those accepted now are secure forever. Inquisition before Christ’s judgment seat (Romans 14:10-12; 2 Cor. 5:10) may deprive them of certain rewards (1 Cor. 3:15) but never of their justified status. Christ will not call into question God’s justifying verdict, only declare, endorse and implement it.
4. The doctrine of the atonement
Based on what the Bible teaches, we must conclude that the death of Christ forgave all our sins—past, present and future. Why? Because at the moment Christ died, all our sins were future. Thus, “He forgave us all our sins” (Col. 2:13). Therefore, our salvation is considered eternal, even though our sanctification is now gradual: “By one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy” (Heb. 10:14). If we are made perfect forever, when did we lose our salvation? Christ’s atonement reconciled us to God with a perfect reconciliation: “For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!” (Rom. 5:10).
If all the believer’s sin was paid for 2,000 years ago by the demands of infinite justice, then sin certainly cannot be the cause of anyone’s loss of salvation for God cannot, in justice, judge the believer’s sin twice. No one can deny that at times even believers sin deliberately or become rebellious. Sometimes believers are unbelieving or doubting. Rebellion and faithlessness are both sins. Are these paid for? If they are sin, they must have been paid for. “If we are faithless, he remains faithful for he cannot deny himself” (2 Tim. 2:13).
To say that any sin, no matter how bad, can cause the loss of salvation, is to deny the infinite value of the atoning death of Christ. Either that death paid the full divine penalty for all sin or it did not. Because it did, this is why Scripture emphasizes, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). What can possibly condemn a believer who has all his sins forgiven, past present and future? We stress once again, “He forgave us all our sin…” (Col. 2:13).
In conclusion, the above are only a few doctrines which indicate that the doctrine of eternal security is fully in accord with other doctrinal teachings of Scripture. If every one of the 18 doctrines relating to salvation implies, teaches or supports the doctrine of eternal security, and not one denies it, then those with a fuller knowledge of biblical doctrine will be more likely to accept a belief in eternal security. This is what we find historically and at present.
- Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology (Dallas: Dallas Theological Seminary, 1971), Vol. 6, pp. 120-121.
- Augustus H. Strong, Systematic Theology (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revelle, 1976), p. 801.
- As cited in Norman L. Geisler, prepublished manuscript on Roman Catholicism, p. 35.
- Geisler, p. 34, citing respectively Anthony A. Hoekema, Saved by Grace (1989), p. 154, and Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology (1987), 4th printing, p. 955.
- Hans Kung, Justification (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1964), p. 209; Geisler observes, “For an extended treatment of the Old Testament understandings of these terms and the difficulties inherent in translating from the Hebrew into Greek and Latin, see Alister E. McGrath, Lustitia Dei, vol. 2 (Cambridge University Press, 1986), pp. 4-16,” (from Geisler, ms.).
- E.g., Geisler, p. 29.
- Robert C. Broderick (ed.), The Catholic Encyclopedia, revised and updated (NY: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1978), p. 319.
- J. I. Packer, q.v., “Justification in Baker’s Dictionary of Theology (1976), p. 305.