Eternal Security/Part 7
|By: Dr. John Ankerberg and Dr. John Weldon; ©2001|
|In this article Drs. Ankerberg and Weldon explain the teachings about eternal security found in Romans 8:28-39, Romans 5:8-10 and John 4:16-18. Their conclusion is that if the security of the believer is finally established, then nothing in Scripture can finally conflict with it.|
What does Romans 8:28-39 teach about eternal security?
This passage reads as follows:
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 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 this? 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? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all 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.
This is one of the strongest passages in Scripture concerning the eternal security of the believer, and we would encourage readers to read it and study it carefully in many different translations. These verses are far too rich to discuss in full detail, but we may note the following:
1. The verbs of verses 29 and 30 are all in the aorist tense in the Greek. As far as God is concerned, these pronouncements have already happened. What this means is that as a believer you are already foreknown by God, and therefore you are already predestined. If predestined, then you are already called, and if called, then you are already justified. If you are justified, then you are already glorified. There is a logical, successive link extending from foreknowledge to glorification that leaves no room—no room whatsoever—for failure. Why? Because the completion depends on God, not upon us. It couldn’t be any other way. “If God is for us, who can be against us?”
2. In verses 31 and 32 the argument is as follows: If God did the very most He could do for us before we were saved (when we were even His enemies—Romans 5:10), then He certainly could not do less for us now that we are His own dear children. If He loved us enough to save us when we ignored and despised Him, will He not keep us saved once we become His own dear children?
3. In verses 33 and 34 God asks, Who can possibly condemn the one whom He loves and has died for? It is God who has justified the believer, and someone far greater than God would be needed to “unjustify” them. Further, the very One who died for us is the very One who intercedes for us.
4. In verses 35 to 39 we are told that literally nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. Notice that the verse does not speak of our love for Christ, but the love of Christ—i.e., Christ’s love for us. Even in the greatest tribulation we are said to be overwhelming conquerors. Certainly that victory doesn’t come from our own power or strength!
Neither death nor life (that is, from the moment of our conversion through our physical death), nor the mighty power of angels or demons, nor anything happening at present, nor anything to occur in the future, nor anything in the height and depth of the universe, nor any other created thing—which certainly includes us as individuals—can separate us from God’s love for us, which is in Christ Jesus.
By quoting parts of these verses in other translations, we again see the force of their power:
We are assured and know that [God being a partner in their labor] all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose. For those whom He foreknew [of whom He was aware and loved beforehand], He also destined from the beginning [foreordaining them] to be molded into the image of His Son…. And those whom He thus foreordained He also called; those whom He called He also justified (acquitted, made righteous…). And those whom He justified He also glorified…. If God is for us, who [can be] against us? (Romans 8:28-31 AMP).
What can we ever say to such wonderful things as these? If God is on our side, who can ever be against us? Since he did not spare even his own Son for us but gave him up for us all, won’t he also surely give everything else? Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? Will God? No! He is the one who has forgiven us and given us right standing with himself. Who then will condemn us? Will Christ? No! For he is the one who died for us and came back to life again for us (Romans 8:31-34 TLB).
The problem with the idea that a true believer can ever lose his salvation is that it flies in the face of Scriptures like these. If it is really possible for a believer to lose his salvation, how should we interpret verses like these and many others?
What does Romans 5:8-10 teach about eternal security?
In his letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul shows the strength of God’s love for His own children by again appealing to an argument from the lesser to the greater. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 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!”
These verses teach that if Christ died for us while we were yet sinful—when we were His very enemies, deserving only God’s wrath—how much more will we be saved from God’s wrath now that we have been justified, or declared righteous, by His precious blood? This is why The Living Bible renders this verse: “Since by his blood he did all this for us as sinners, how much more will he do for us now that he has declared us not guilty? Now he will save us from all of God’s wrath to come” (Romans 5:9).In essence, if Christ died for us while we were His enemies, while we were dead to Christ, and yet still we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, how much more will we now continue to be saved by Christ’s life?
Note the tenses in these verses. We have been justified! We have been saved from the wrath of God! Just as Paul writes elsewhere that Jesus will deliver us from the wrath to come because God has not destined us for wrath but for salvation (1 Thessalonians 1:10; 5:9), he now emphasizes that because of our justification we will be saved from God’s wrath by the life of Christ.
Thus in Romans 5:17 he stresses that Christians are much more assured of reigning in eternal life. “Could it be possible that God would so love an individual as to give His only Son to die for him and still love him to the extent of following him with the pleadings and drawings of His grace until He has won that soul into His own family and household and created him anew by the impartation of His own divine nature, and then be careless as to what becomes of the one He has thus given His all to procure?…The testimony of the Bible, then, is that the attitude of love and care of God for those whom He has saved will be much more than the attitude of love, surpassing knowledge, for enemies and sinners as it has been manifested in the cross….” Indeed: “The eternal purposes of God in grace can never fail since He has anticipated and provided for every emergency that could arise…. His power, which is supreme, is ceaselessly engaged in keeping of His own unto the realization of His eternal purpose…. Not only is God able to do according to His eternal purpose, but His love as a supreme motive will never fail…. ‘Much more’ than His love for the ‘enemies,’ which drew out the unspeakable gift of His Son, is His love for His own who are now ‘justified’ and reconciled.”
What does 1 John 4:16-18 teach about eternal security?
The apostle John emphasizes in his epistle that he wants every believer to “know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13). Because the apostle is certain of the believer’s final perseverance into glory he emphasizes that we can now have confidence in the day of judgment: “And we have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected with us, that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as he is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love” (NASB).
Assuming we can lose our salvation at some point in the future, how would it be possible that years before this we could have had such confidence concerning the day of judgment? It would not be possible. If the apostle John tells us that we do have such confidence now, as a present possession, this must imply that we cannot lose our salvation in the future. If we understand the infinite love of God for us, we will understand that God will never eternally punish us. Indeed, He can never punish us eternally because Jesus took all our punishment on the cross.
Consider how another translation renders these verses:
We know how much God loves us because we have felt his love and because we believe him when he tells us that he loves us dearly…. And as we live with Christ, our love grows more perfect and complete; so we will not be ashamed and embarrassed at the day of judgment, but can face him with confidence and joy, because he loves us and we love him too. We need have no fear of someone who loves us perfectly; his perfect love for us eliminates all dread of what he might do to us. If we are afraid, it is for fear of what he might do to us, and shows that we are not fully convinced that he really loves us” (1 John 4:16-18 TLB).
What these verses teach us is that those who still fear eternal punishment from the God who has loved them eternally don’t yet understand the magnitude of the love God has for them.
In conclusion, the verses we have been discussing are only a few of scores of verses which teach the eternal security of the true believer in Christ. We stress again that once this doctrine is established to be true, no other verse can be found to conflict with it. Let us emphasize that fact once more: If the security of the believer is conclusively established, then nothing in Scripture can conflict with it. In other words, once security is established, there really are no “problem passages.” There are only Scriptures to properly interpret in light of an already established doctrine.
As a result, we should not give undue weight to unclear or ambiguous passages. Should it really disturb us if there exist a few Scriptures that we cannot yet adequately explain to everyone’s satisfaction? No more so than any other situation where one truth is clearly established and yet problems remain solely due to a lack of sufficient information. The truth of the matter has been established. Now it is only a matter of personal belief in the truth, for if the eternal security of the believer in Christ is not proven by the above passages, language is meaningless.
- Lewis Sperry Chafer, Salvation, pp. 119-20.
- Chafer, Grace, pp. 66-68.