So Great a Salvation

From The Cripplegate

“I am a Christian.” “I am saved.” “I am a disciple of Jesus Christ.” 

I wonder if we grasp the fullness of what that means. Though we cannot know all the fullness of salvation until we are with the Lord, Scripture escorts us in to the beginnings of salvation’s glory. Truly, ours is a great salvation. 

The diagram above and list below briefly describes actual, historical expressions of God’s sovereign grace. Above is a historical timeline of God’s loving grace in the salvation of a Christian. We can kind of think of it like our biography, but it’s stuff God did for us, before we were born, after, and still after. These 16 aspects of salvation are 16 marks of God’s work in redemptive history. They are expressions of God’s love towards the Christian. They are each a river flowing from God’s sovereignty combining in the deluge of God’s grace to those in Jesus Christ.

The following is a brief description of our great salvation. As we consider our salvation, let us recall that, regardless of what we are going through, nothing can rob us of any of these aspects of God’s love in salvation.

In Eternity Past

Prior to creating all things, God architected his plan of salvation.

1. Election (Rom. 8:29-30, Eph. 1:3-6).

Before God made the universe by the power of his word, he chose for himself a people who would receive the gift of salvation. He did so, not motivated by any merit or action of the recipients (for they were not yet created and would only sin), but based solely upon his own will for his glory.

After Creation, at the Cross

Christ accomplished critical aspects of our salvation when he died on the cross.

2. Atonement (Eph. 1:7).

God the Father decided to redeem a sinful people and set his love upon elect sinners whom he had predestined for salvation before he made all things. Consequently, he sent his Son to quench his judicial wrath aroused by their sin. The punishment and penalty that the elect deserved was laid on Jesus Christ instead of them, so that in the cross both God’s holiness and love are manifested.

3. Propitiation (Rom. 3:26, 1 John 4:10).

Propitiation refers to the act where God’s righteous wrath is appeased or turned aside by the death of His Son on the cross. As such, it is a supreme act of love on the part of the Father and Son. If there is a God of justice who redeems a people who are imperfect, then salvation and forgiveness can thereby only occur through propitiation. All such systems which propose a theory of forgiveness and salvation, and yet do not feature an impeccable propitiatory sacrifice, break down and offer at best a fictitious salvation.

The Moment You Become a Christian

Many glorious things happen to us, in time, the moment that we become a Christian.

4. Effectual Call (John 6:44, Eph. 4:1).

The moment in time at which God applies his work of salvation. God will effectually call to salvation all whom he has predestined before creation for salvation. All whom God elects, he will effectually call to salvation such that they will be saved.

5. Regeneration (John 3:3-6, Titus 3:5).

Regeneration answers the question, “How can individuals dead in sin, unable and unwilling to please God, respond to the gospel?” Regeneration, or the new birth, is the work of God’s Holy Spirit in which He changes the spiritual nature of a person, bringing him from death to life. It is the beginning of all true heart change, as it is a change of nature. It results in a life of ongoing transformation (sanctification) and ends in the complete transformation of the believer into the image of Christ (glorification).

6. Faith (Eph. 1:13, 2:8-9).

Faith is the gift of God that enables the elect to believe what He says, to trust Him with our lives, and to live upon His Word. Apart from regeneration it is morally and spiritually impossible for someone to repent and put faith in Christ. Similarly, when God regenerates a person, it is impossible for that person not to repent and put faith in Christ. Regeneration is the act of God alone. But faith is technically not the act of God. The ability to believe is a gift of God in regeneration. But it is not God who puts faith in Christ. It is the regenerate sinner. Faith is the God-appointed means by which the benefits of God’s saving work are appropriated.

7. Repentance (Mark 1:15, Acts 11:18).

Repentance is the gift of God that enables the sinner to turn from sin and self in order to turn to God. It involves a real change of heart/mind that results in a change of life.

8. Justification (Rom. 3:24-28, 5:1).

Justification answers the question, “How can condemned, guilty sinners stand righteous before a holy God?” Appropriated by faith alone, it is the legal action by which God declares the believer to be freed from his guilt and made right before God’s law. Unlike regeneration, it does not change the nature of the believer. Justification alters the believer’s legal position before God, changing it from guilty to innocent. It is the outcome of atonement and the imputation of Jesus’ righteousness to the believer.

9. Imputation (Gen. 15:6, Rom. 5:19, 2 Cor. 5:21).

Imputation can be thought of as a subset of justification; of God’s justifying work on behalf of the sinner. It is God’s act of placing one person’s sin or righteousness upon another’s account in a manner which does not violate justice. Adam’s sin was imputed or transferred to all humanity. The believer’s sin was placed upon the account of Jesus when He was crucified. Christ’s righteousness is placed on the account of the believer. Thus, the believer’s sin was reckoned to Christ, and the Savior’s perfect obedience was reckoned to the believer.

10. Redemption (Col. 1:14).

Redemption is purchasing someone’s freedom. It speaks of a transfer of ownership by payment. The sinner is freed from his enslavement to sin and from the curse of God’s law by Jesus’ substitutionary atoning death on the cross. Christ does not redeem us from Satan, but from the just wrath of God. Upon regeneration, every elect sinner is freed from the slavery to sin and the penalty of the law.

11. Adoption (Eph. 1:5).

Adoption describes the new relationship the believer has to God by using a family-related term. God, subsequent to the new birth and justification, makes the believer His adopted child. The believer enters into all the responsibilities and joys of being in God’s family. Adoption is permanent. The elect, regenerate sinner will never be disowned from God’s family because his adoption depends on the irrevocable saving work of Jesus Christ—in his substitutionary atoning work on the cross. There is no more privileged place to be than all the universe than a child of God.

12. Reconciliation (Col. 1:22).

Reconciliation is the restoration of the relationship between God and man. It includes a change in man’s attitude toward God. Man is brought from being at enmity with God to friendship and sonship. God’s righteous anger is turned aside by the cross of Jesus, thereby removing the offense of sin and making it possible for God to bring man into fellowship with him.

13. Union with Christ (Rom. 6:5).

Union with Christ is the biblical description of the believer’s relationship to his Savior. By faith, the believer embraces Jesus as presented in the gospel. God unites the believer spiritually to Jesus as his Mediator. This personal connection to Jesus is the source of all the believer’s privileges. All that Christ accomplished for the believer is shared by virtue of this unbreakable union. The regenerate can no more be fractured from Christ than Christ himself can be split in two.

From Regeneration until Death/Presence with Christ

Two additional aspects of our salvation occur from regeneration until we are with Christ.

14. Sanctification (John 15:2, 2 Cor. 3:18, Phil. 2:12-13).

This is a glorious process where God transforms the regenerate into the most wonderful Person in the universe. Consequent of regeneration, the believer is daily conformed in thought, worship, motivation, and deed by the work of the Spirit, making the believer holy in his practice. As the regenerate engages in Scripture, prayer, the local church, and God’s providence, the Holy Spirit transforms him progressively into the image of Christ.

15. Perseverance (Phil. 1:6).

The regenerate will not fall away from his relationship to God. Rather, he will endure until the end and go to heaven. All who are elect will end up in heaven. Jesus will not lose even one of the Father’s elect. The golden-chain of salvation, as it is often coined, means that the elect are as good as glorified. God finishes what he begins. Those who appear not to persevere were never regenerate notwithstanding a previous appearance of belief.

From Death/Presence with Christ to Eternity Future

The final step of our salvation occurs once we enter the presence of Christ.

16. Glorification (Rom. 8:29-30, 1 John 3:2).

Glorification refers to the completion of all aspects of the believer’s salvation. It is the final step of his rescue that comes when, in heaven, he sees Christ face to face and is ultimately transformed into a sinless being. Upon death, the elect will be permanently rid of sin. The battle with sin will be over. Glorification will mean the inability to ever be contrary to God in motivation, thought, nature, desire, word, and deed. We will be unable to sin. We will only perfectly obey God’s law in fullness; perfectly loving the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and, perfectly considering others more important than ourselves. 

Conclusion

This is not all that could be said about our great salvation. But, these touch on the wonder of God’s sovereign love towards every single one of his children. Considering that all believers entered this world dead in sin, hostile towards God, and loving unrighteousness, this 16-fold grace of God teeters on the edge of blasphemy. It veers close to a shameful scandal that such wretched sinners would be the recipients such titanic love. Nevertheless, this is the case. A Christian is someone who can say, “By the grace of God, I am saved.”

Dear Christian, is our salvation not great?! Are these not reasons to lift our chin up? We are saved!

Is this not cause to keep going during our brief sojourning when it feels like we can go no farther? We are saved!

Are these not reasons to press forward in a dreadful world that pushes back? We are saved!

Is this not cause to walk in hope?! We are saved!

Glory to God! We are saved!

The Foreknowledge of God

Not long ago we wrote a blog post titled “The Most Precious Golden Chain?, the Golden Chain of Redemption, also called the ‘Ordo Salutis’, or ‘Order of salvation’, from Romans 8:29-30. Here are those passages with the links in that unbreakable Golden chain underlined:

29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” (Rom 8:29-30)

The ‘links’ in this chain are foreknowledge, predestination, calling, justification, and glorification, to use the noun forms of what we are told that ‘he’ (GOD) ‘did’ for each and every one of his remnant people (the ‘whom’ in the passages). Once you understand God’s foreknowledge the remaining links are easier to understand.

The topic of this post is the first link in the chain, God’s foreknowledge, perhaps one of the most contentious issues in Christendom, right up there with ‘election’ and ‘predestination’. The intent of this post is a bit like the Fox News motto, ‘We Report, You Decide. This is not about convincing anyone of a personal opinion – that’s God business. J

Having said that, let’s tackle the first link in our chain, ‘Foreknowledge’.

The Definition of Foreknowledge

The meaning of the term is simple – it literally means ‘before’, or ‘earlier’ knowledge’ (Gr. ‘prognōsis’). In our passage of scripture we are told that God, based on knowledge He had beforehand, God took actions on behalf of those whom he would save from their sins. (see Matt 1:21).

The two definitions of foreknowledge in view here is that 1) God simply knows everything, which for most of us is true, and/or 2) God knows ‘His people’ in a much more intimate way. The question for us is “What does the Bible tell us about God and His knowledge? We’ll report and you can decide.

By far, the most prevalent definition among Christians in our day is the first definition, meaning that God looked down the corridors of time, saw those who would freely choose Him, then chose them to be the recipients of the other actions in our Golden Chain (predestination, calling, justification, & glorification). Let’s look at foreknowledge in Scripture.

First of all, the term foreknowledge/foreknow does not appear in the Old Testament, but it does appear in the New Testament:

In reference to Christ:

“this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge (prognōsis) of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.” (Acts 2:23)

In reference to believers:

“ Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, elect according to the foreknowledge (prognosis) of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.  (1 Pet 1:1-2)

In reference to Christ again:

“He was foreknown (progonisko) before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you.” (1 Pet 1:20)

Note that the same term is used in 1 Peter, verses 2 & 20, in reference to both Jesus Christ and believers. That might be rather significant.

But our question remains, “What does “for those whom he foreknew” mean in Romans 8:29? Which definition of foreknowledge is at play? Is it definition1, definition 2, or BOTH? Since we know what ‘fore’ means’ let’s now take a look at the term know and how it is used in Scripture. Here are just a few examples from both the OT and the NT, Hebrew (yada) & Greek (ginosko):

  • “Now Adam knew (yada) Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.” (Gen 4:1)
  • “Before I formed you in the womb I knew (yada) you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” (Jer 1:5)
  • “You only have I known (yada) of all the families of the earth;” (Amos 3:2)
  • ”And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew (ginosko) you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” (Matt 7:23)
  • “But if anyone loves God, he is known (ginosko) by God” (1 Cor 8:3)

There are more examples, but these verses clearly tell us that God’s ‘knowing’ of His people is much more intimate than just knowing about them or what they will or will not do.

So again, does the ‘foreknowledge’ of God simply mean ‘know beforehand’, that God knows beforehand the actions of men and acts in light of that knowledge (by far, the prevailing view these days), or does it mean more?

How we answer that question has implications concerning evangelism:

If we believe God saves based on the foreseen faith/free will decision of men, we can be prone to appeal to that ‘free will’ and share Christ in such a manner that that is appealing to the lost man, who is by nature at enmity with God, who dwells in darkness, hates the light and loves sin. What that means is making the gospel that is offensive to those whose hearts have not been opened by God, actually appealing. So we leave out the bits that talk about sin (they love theirs) and the need for confession and repentance because of it, and instead talk about how much Jesus loves, loves, loves and wants to make their lives better. Everything we do, from personal discussions about Jesus to our church services needs to become attractive in order to elicit a free will decision to follow Christ.

If we believe that God saves based on His intimate foreknowledge and predetermined will we need only lovingly share the gospel that Christ died for the sins of his people.

Regardless of what we believe, it is our great privilege to share the gospel far and wide!___________________________

There is much more  that can be said about the foreknowledge of God, and I hope this short summary will stimulate your spiritual thinking.

And as always I like feedback:

1. Did I accomplish my goal of just presenting the facts? I’d love to hear your opinion.

2. What’s your belief concerning God’s foreknowledge and why? No answer necessary, just think about it.

In a future post, I’ll share some thoughts about what I believe and why. I believe it.

Thanks for stopping by!

100% Successful Evangelism

We tend to think that ‘successful’ evangelism means a sinner makes a decision for Christ after we share the gospel. If the decision is based on sincere repentance from sin and belief in Christ, it was. However, no all decisions are based on repentance and faith, but on other things, some of which represent material gain and some of which are based on all sorts of supernatural shenanigens we can experience.

On the other hand, I suggest that the Soverein reign of God over the salvation of sinners absolutely guarantees a 100% success rate for all of our human efforts at evangelism. Jesus WILL save all whom he came to save. The angel who spoke to Joseph in Matthew 1:21 told him, concerning the child in Mary’s womb, “. . . He WILL save his people from their sin, not that Jesus would only make salvation ‘possible’ for everyone who ‘makes a decision for Christ’.

Food for thought early on a Tuesday morning.

Confessing and Believing

Romans 10:9-10 & 13 are three of the most often used passages to encourage nonbelievers to confess Christ as Savior and Lord that we evangelicals use in our witnessing.

“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” – Rom 10:9-10, 13

These passages are found at the end of a witnessing method known as the Roman Road, offering the ultimate relief from the problem of our sin, that the preceding stops along the Road made abundantly clear (Rom 3:23, Rom 6:23, Rom 5:8).

Some of us might even ponder the order of ‘believing and confessing’, in a ‘chicken and egg’ manner. That might be because verse 9 speaks of ‘confessing then believing’, but verse 10 speaks of ’believing then confessing’.

I think the answer to that is found in verse 10, which begins with the preposition ‘for’ indicating that what follows further explains the preceding phrase. Therefore I suggest to you that ‘believing in one’s heart’ ought to precede ‘confessing with one’s mouth’. Also, note that when one someone believes, he/she is also justified. If being ‘justified’ equates to being saved, the confessing is a result of having believed. On a more down to earth note, don’t we tend to see it to believe it and believe it before broadcasting it on social media? Just a thought.

Having said all that, perhaps want is most important here is the ‘character’ of the ‘believing’ – ‘heart’ belief. It’s one thing to assent to something mentally, but something quite different to believe in your heart that something is true. In the case of salvation, it is one thing to merely assent to a historical fact about Jesus – that he was crucified on a Roman cross and that perhaps the reason was because of human sin. It is another thing to realize at the depths of my being that I should have been the one hanging on a tree that day because of MY sin – that Jesus died in MY place. And by MY sin, I don’t just mean the sinful things that do, but the condition I was in at birth – dead in trespasses and sin and by nature an object of God’s wrath (Eph 2).

The Apostle Paul gives us an example of what God does in the matter of ‘heart’ belief:

“On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message.” Acts 16:13-14

Several women were listening to Paul preach, but we are told quite clearly that God opened Lydia’s heart to ‘hear’ the words of Paul. Lydia believed with her heart Paul’s words and was saved.

If what I have said above is true, it leaves us with a question:

Why do we so often ask others if they have made a ‘confession’ of faith but rarely ask them if they ‘believed in their hearts’?

Something to think about. . .

“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” – Rom 10:9-10

Do You Believe Jesus?

What a silly question! Of course you do! What believer doesn’t?

Now that we’ve answered the silly question, consider the following words of Jesus:

“All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own 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 my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” “ – John 6:37-40

Without trying to explain away anything we find troubling in the above passage, what is Jesus saying?

1. There exists a group of people given by the Father to the Son.

2. All those given to the Son by the Father will come to the Son.

3. The Son will lose none of those who come to him, but will accomplish His mission on earth.

4. All who believe in the Son have eternal life and will be raised up on the last day.

Do you STILL believe Jesus?

Chosen to Salvation

by James Smith, 1859

"But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth." 2 Thessalonians 2:13

That God has chosen his people in Christ, is plainly asserted in his holy Word. That he chose them to salvation, is as clearly testified. It is not therefore for us to cavil at this doctrine — but believe it, improve it, and draw comfort and encouragement from it. All have sinned. Every sinner deserves to be punished with everlasting destruction. To prevent this, God chose some of the human race to be his own people. His choice of them, was an act of grace. He fixed salvation as the end — and chose them to that. He fixed on holiness as the medium — and chose them to that. He fixed on the sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth, as the means of salvation — and therefore he chose them to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth. Election therefore is the act of God, making choice of his people, and giving them to his Son, to be preserved in him, and saved by him.

Election is the fruit of divine love, and flows from the most free, sovereign, and eternal love of God. Election is eternal — the people were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world. Election was to the means as well as to the end, we are not only chosen to be saved — but chosen to believe, to be sanctified by the Spirit — and so saved. When we believe the gospel, and experience the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit within us — then we have proof and evidence, that God has chosen us to salvation.

For the election of the Thessalonians, Paul felt himself bound to give thanks unto God. And for the election of God’s people in general, and for our own election in particular, we ought to feel ourselves under the deepest obligation, to praise and bless the Lord. We are bound to bless God for every mercy — because we are totally undeserving of the least. But we are especially bound to bless him for spiritual mercies, and particularly for this of our election to salvation; because without it, there could be no salvation. For if God had not chosen us — we would never have chosen him. If he had not chosen to save us, and to make us willing to be saved by his grace — we never would have been saved.

And then, it is such a marvelous expression of his love. To choose us out from others. To choose us before time. To choose us in Christ, and to choose us to be the care, charge, and social companions of Christ. O wondrous love! O amazing grace!

More, it is such a merciful exercise of his sovereignty. Angels fell — and were all allowed to perish. Man fell — and some of the fallen race were chosen to salvation before they fell. If left to themselves — all must have perished. But sovereignty interfered, and many of the fallen human race are saved.

Besides this, election is a source of blessing to all, of injury to none. None are the worse for God choosing his people in Christ — but all are the better. For the elect’s sake, the days of earth’s tribulation are shortened. For the elect’s sake, innumerable mercies are showered down, and innumerable privileges are conferred on this poor fallen world.

Election does not prevent the salvation of one — but it secures the salvation of millions. It lays no stumbling block in the path, it puts no difficulty in the way of any. The fountain of salvation is open, and whoever will may come — come and obtain a full and free salvation. The door of mercy is open, and whoever will may enter in and be saved. But no one will come to Christ that they may have life. Therefore God in the exercise of his adorable sovereignty, determined to dispose his elect — to make them willing in the day of his power — so that they may believe and be saved.

But for election — all would be lost! Through election — countless myriads are saved! No man is lost, because he is not elected — but simply because of his sins, and inveterate enmity to God. But many are saved, who otherwise would have been lost — because they are chosen to salvation.

If any one disposed to cavil reads these lines, to him I say — you may be saved if you will — but if you will not, do not find fault with God, because he chooses to save myriads of others, and just leaves you to your liberty, and allows you to do as you like. He never decreed to damn you as a creature — but only threatened to damn you as a sinner; nor yet to damn you as a sinner, except you refused to repent, rejected the Savior, and chose death in the error of your way. Would you have God force you, treat you as if you were a horse or a mule? If he offers to save you, and you refuse to be saved — if he opens the way of escape, and you refuse to walk in it — if he allows you to use your own will, pursue your own course, and have your own choice; while he warns, invites, and threatens you — then on what ground, on what principle, can you find fault?

Do you say, "Others are saved." True — but you do not want to be. Do you say, "God wrought for others." True, and he offered to do so for you. But you preferred sin, preferred being the servant of Satan, preferred having your own way — and now at least you ought quietly and patiently to suffer the due desert of your deeds, the result of your own deliberate choice.

Believer, the doctrine of election should be preached by us; should be believed by you; and should be loved by all. It should engage our minds, win our affections, and draw out our gratitude to God. We should not cavil at it — but praise God for it, realizing that we are under obligation to do so.

We should trace our election through faith and holiness, for only those who believe in Jesus, are devoted to God, and are actively employed in the performance of good works — have any evidences of election. For God chose his people to save them from sin — not in sin; to make them holy on earth — in order to make them eternally happy in Heaven. If therefore people are unholy and unbelieving, there is no proof of their election, however confidently they may talk.

Paul knew that the Thessalonians were elected of God — but it was because the gospel came home to their hearts with power, and they turned from their idols, to serve the living God; and in the exercise of a working faith, laboring love, and a patient hope, he found them waiting for God’s Son from Heaven.

If the gospel thus comes home to us, turning us from sin — to holiness, from self — to Christ, from the world — to God; if in us appears the work of faith, the labor of love, and the patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ — if we become imitators of the Lord Jesus Christ — if our faith grows exceedingly, and if our love to all the saints abounds — then, then there is no doubt but that we are the beloved of the Lord, and that he has from the beginning chosen us to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth.

"We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you — because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit." 1 Thessalonians 1:3-6

Eternal Security

imageI don’t really like the phrase “eternal security” or its popular counterpart “once saved always saved” because both tend to come with a huge amount of unscriptural theological baggage. For many people, “eternal security” means that if a person makes some sort of profession of faith and then lives a lifestyle totally at odds with that profession, even renouncing Christianity altogether, they are still “saved” because “once saved, always saved.” I don’t believe that to be a scriptural concept in any way at all.

While it is true that a genuinely regenerated Christian can be secure in their salvation for all eternity, this is not because of a one time profession of faith so much as the possession of faith. All those who possess true faith will of course profess it, but a mere claim to faith is not enough. As James chapter 2 makes clear, faith without works is dead and a dead faith never saves anyone.

The Bible makes it clear that there is a false faith that is in no way the genuine article. Faith of the real kind will produce fruit – evidence of the Holy Spirit’s abiding presence in the person’s life. That is why we are told to examine ourselves to see whether we are in the faith (2 Cor 13:5). Rather than simply being told to recall a time in our past when we made a profession we are exhorted instead to examine ourselves to see if there is present day evidence that we are truly His. As J. C. Ryle once remarked, “A tree will always be known by its fruit, and a true Christian will always be discovered by their habits, tastes and affections.”

While I certainly do believe in the eternal security of the believer, I tend to avoid the two phrases mentioned above, preferring the theological term “perseverance of the saints” or even better “the preservation of the saints.” Those who are justified will be glorified (Romans 8:30). True believers will continue in the faith because their faith is a supernatural gift from God and by its very nature, is something that endures. The Apostle John recognized this when he wrote: “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.” (1 John 2:19). The true saint perseveres because God preserves him! The One who started the work will bring it to completion until the day of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:6).

Yet there is a big picture concept that we need to see involving the work of the Trinity in salvation. From the archives at http://www.aomin.org, in an article entitled “Eternal Security: Based on the Tri-Unity of God” Dr. James White writes:

 

I remember passing notes with a friend of mine in high school. We were debating that age old doctrine of eternal security. He didn’t believe in it, and I did. A few months ago, while cleaning out one of those old drawers that you haven’t opened in about ten years, I found one of those notes. I had to chuckle some as I read it. From a hopefully more mature position I could see that my friend was not realty talking about eternal security – he was pushing works-salvation. And I could also see that I was doing little more than quoting a verse here and a verse there – I never got into the basis for the belief. Maybe that’s why we never got anywhere in the discussion? And, probably, that’s why so many Christians today who engage in the same debate feel that they, too, never get anywhere.During the summer I translated the Gospel of John. While translating the sixth chapter of that wonderful book, I ran across Jesus’ clear presentation of the doctrines of election and eternal security in verses 37 through 46. My Greek professor has many times said that the best commentary on the New- Testament is the New-Testament in Greek – and he is right. One of the reasons is that you see things that you would not otherwise notice when reading an English translation. From this work of translation, I came to set how the eternal security of the believer is based upon the very nature of God. In John chapter six, this is represented by the functions of the Father and the Son in salvation. And in Ephesians 1:13-14, the Holy Spirit’s role is presented. We will look at both of these passages to see how our salvation is based upon the Tri-Une nature of God.

Secure in the Father and the Son

Jesus said, “Everyone whom the Father gives to Me shall come to Me, and the one coming to Me I will never cast out; because I have come from heaven not in order to do My will but the will of Him who sent Me; and this is the will of the one who sent Me: that of all which He has given Me from Him, I lose nothing but raise it up at the last day.” (John 6:37-39). Jesus presents the complete sovereignty of God in salvation. All that the Father gives to Jesus – everyone – will come to Him. The operative factor in answering the question of why some come and others, presented with the same opportunity, do not, is simply the nature of the Father’s choice. The Father “gives” persons to the Son – a gift of love, to be sure. When the Father gives to the Son a person, that person will come to Christ (as the one avenue to the Father). There is no question that if a person is so given to Christ (or, to use the terminology of verse 44, is so “drawn” by the Father) that he/she will come to Christ. This is the “Godward” side of salvation – absolute certainty and security. Yet, He says that they will “come to Me” which speaks of the human response – not that the human can change the decision of God – but that the response is there all the same. Man is not pictured simply as a “thing” that is bounced around like a ball, but rather a vastly important person who comes to Christ for salvation, all as the result of the gracious working of God in his/her life.

Jesus continues by stating that when one is so given to Him by the Father, and comes to Him, that one is secure in their relationship with Him – He will never cast them out. The aorist subjunctive of strong denial makes it clear that rejection of one who seeks refuge in Christ is a complete and total impossibility. What words to a sinners heart! Those who come to Christ will find Him a loving Lord who will never cast out those who trust in Him!

Why will the Lord never cast out those who come to Him? Verse 38 continues the thought with the explanation – the Son has come to do the will of the Father. And what is the will of the Father? That “of all which He has given Me from Him I lose nothing hut raise it up at the last day.” Can we doubt that Christ will do what He promises? Will the Lord Jesus ever fail to do the Father’s will? Here is eternal security beyond dispute. But note that again all is pre-eminently balanced – the security of the person is based on two things – the will of the Father that none he lost, and secondly, the fact that those who are not lost are those who are given to the Son by the Father Himself. So, in reality, there is security in the Father (He gives us to Christ) and security in the Son (He always does the Father’s will).

The realization of the co-operation and interaction of the Father and the Son in the salvation of each individual Christian is an awesome thing! It is self-evident why so many soteriological systems cannot deal with eternal security – it is based on the understanding that salvation is completely the work of God! Man is the object of salvation, the object of God’s sovereign grace. The gospel is the message of grace, and grace is something given totally on the basis of God’s desire to give it. Such is terribly damaging to man’s “self-esteem” and to any concept of our being able to save ourselves or even to “help God along” in our being made righteous. We must realize that we come to God wholly unworthy of His love and grace, totally incapable of effecting even the beginning of His work in our hearts.

Once we rest ourselves in God’s provision of salvation, however, we see that our position in Him is one that is based upon the sovereign act of the Father in giving us to the Son, and in the eternal obedience of the Son to the Father in effecting our salvation! Can we possibly picture a more secure situation than this? I think not! But wait, there is more…

Sealed by the Spirit

Paul wrote, “…by whom also, having believed, you were sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the down-payment of our inheritance, unto the redemption of His possession, unto the praise of His glory.” (Ephesians 1:13-14). In this signal passage that is found, rather significantly I think, on the heels of some of the loftiest teaching on the eternal predestination of God in verses 3 through 12, we find the fact that the Holy Spirit is described in two important ways relevant to our eternal security. First, we are said to he “sealed” by the Holy Spirit of promise. This term was used in secular documents to refer to the act of placing a seal upon one’s possessions to mark them as one’s own. In this case, the presence of the Holy Spirit in a person’s life is God’s way of sealing that person as His own. The believer is shown to he God’s “own property” – His possession.

Paralleled with this is the phrase “who is the down-payment of our inheritance..” Both phrases speak of the same fact. Here the Spirit is described by the Greek term arrabon – a term used in secular documents to refer to guarantee money. The giving of an arrabon contracted the giver to finish the process of payment. In our context, this would refer to the fact that the Holy Spirit in a believer’s life is the guarantee on the part of God the Father of completing the work which He has begun in that life (Philippians 1:6). Both phrases are then tied together by the paralleling of “promise” and “inheritance.” These terms are used by Paul of the completion of God’s work of salvation in our lives in the end time.

Hence, we see that the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives is God’s way of “this person is mine – I have begun of salvation in his/her life, and by placing My Spirit in this life. I am telling all that this person belongs to Me, and I will finish the work I have begun!”

We learn from other discussions of the role of the Spirit in the believer’s life [e.g., Romans 8] that the Spirit empowers and sanctifies the believer as well. So it is clear that each of the Divine Persons is vitally involved in the work of salvation. The Father sovereignly and unilaterally chooses us for salvation. He gives us to the Son, who, in obedience to the Father’s will, saves those who are joined to Him by the Father, and raises us up to eternal life. The Spirit of God is placed in our lives to empower and seal us as God’s own possession. Salvation, then, is of God – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Since salvation is of God, and is God’s work, its eternal character is simply the reflection of the nature of its author – God Himself. Each of the three Persons is intimately involved in bringing about the salvation of the elect, and that salvation is eternal and secure.

Posted by John Samson on June 2, 2012 11:22 AM