Notes on Eternal salvation
“MY SALVATION SHALL BE FOREVER,” declares the Lord (Isaiah 51:6b). Our great God and Savior has begun a work in His people and “will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6 NASB). The Lord Jesus has obtained eternal redemption for us (Hebrews 9:12). The life which is in God is eternal (John 1:4; 5:26; 1 John 1:2). It is that very life which is imparted to man in salvation (1 John 5:11-12). Eternal life is freely given to those who hear His Word (John 5:24), believe in the Son (John 3:15-16) and “eat His flesh and drink His blood” (meaning to appropriate the merit of His work on the cross, John 6:56). Eternal life is the gift of God (Romans 6:23; John 17:2). This gift was costly to God, requiring the sufferings and death of His Son. It cannot be earned by devotion or discipleship, for then it would not be a gift but the obligation of God to the deserving (Romans 4:4). Nothing in these Scriptures indicates that eternal life is a life in which a person temporarily shares, dependent upon his good behavior. There is no doctrine of “temporary” eternal life—a contradiction in terms.
[Isa 51:6 NKJV] 6 Lift up your eyes to the heavens, And look on the earth beneath. For the heavens will vanish away like smoke, The earth will grow old like a garment, And those who dwell in it will die in like manner; But My salvation will be forever, And My righteousness will not be abolished.
[Phl 1:6 NKJV] 6 being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete [it] until the day of Jesus Christ;
[Heb 9:12 NKJV] 12 Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.
[Jhn 1:4 NKJV] 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.
[Jhn 5:26 NKJV] 26 "For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself,
[1Jo 1:2 NKJV] 2 the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us--
[1Jo 5:11-12 NKJV] 11 And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.
[Jhn 5:24 NKJV] 24 "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.
[Jhn 3:15-16 NKJV] 15 "that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. 16 "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
[Jhn 6:56 NKJV] 56 "He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.
[Rom 6:23 NKJV] 23 For the wages of sin [is] death, but the gift of God [is] eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
[Jhn 17:2 NKJV] 2 "as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him.
[Rom 4:4 NKJV] 4 Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.
It is impressive to note the verses which speak of a believer’s salvation as an assured and uninterrupted continuity. We are born again “to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:4-5). Note the unbroken chain: “whom He did predestinate, them He also called: and whom He called, them He also justified: and whom He justified, them He also glorified” (Romans 8:30). Not even things present, or things to come, can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39). When we are given eternal life by the Lord Jesus, nothing can pluck us from the keeping hand of God (John 10:28-29). No condition is inserted such as “if the sheep follow” or “if they keep themselves in His hand.” No man has the right to add such conditions to this declaration of the Word of God. Keeping power rests with God and not man. He is able to keep (Jude 24). He is able to confirm to the end (1 Corinthians 1:8). He is able to guard (2 Timothy 1:12 NASB). He is able to save completely and forever (Hebrews 7:25 NASB). Salvation is forever because its completer and perfecter is our all-powerful God.
[Rom 8:38-39 NKJV] 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
[Jhn 10:28-29 NKJV] 28 "And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. 29 "My Father, who has given [them] to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch [them] out of My Father's hand.
[Jde 1:24 NKJV] 24 Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, And to present [you] faultless Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy,
[1Co 1:8 NKJV] 8 who will also confirm you to the end, [that you may be] blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
[2Ti 1:12 NKJV] 12 For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.
[Heb 7:25 NKJV] 25 Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.
Consider the saving work of Him who is “the author and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:2 NASB).
1. Perfect Birth. Salvation must be forever when we are born into the family of God. The Lord Jesus told Nicodemus that one must be “born again” to enter the kingdom of God (John 3:3-7). We are born again when we truly believe on the name of the Son of God (John 1:12-13). There is no teaching in Scripture which calls upon us to be born again and again in order to be a member of God’s family. As physical birth occurs only once, so also does spiritual birth.
2. Perfect Sacrifice. The book of Hebrews makes clear that in contrast to the many sacrifices of the Old Testament the work of the Lord Jesus on the cross forever settles the question of the believer’s sins. This work is perfect, forever and “once for all,” to which nothing can or should be added on our part. “We are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:10). “But this man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever sat down on the right hand of God” (Hebrews 10:12). “For by one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified” (Hebrews 10:14). There is nothing in these verses to indicate that the application of this perfect work to our souls is conditioned upon continuing good behavior. The believer rests upon Christ’s finished work, plus nothing.
3. Perfect Union. Salvation does not bring us into membership of a local church. It brings us spiritually into the very body of Christ, a union with the Son of God. The Holy Spirit baptizes us into Christ’s body (1 Corinthians 12:13) and makes us members of Him (1 Corinthians 12:27; Ephesians 5:30). So intimate is this union, that to persecute believers is to persecute Christ (Acts 9:4-5). Our identification with Him in God’s mind is such that we are made alive with Him, raised with Him and seated with Him now in the heavenlies (Ephesians 2:4-6). Our being joined to Christ is the spiritual pattern for the marriage bond (Romans 7:4; Ephesians 5:31-32). Nothing can separate us from His love and care (Romans 8:35-39). He says, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5).
4. Perfect Work Of The Spirit. The work of the Holy Spirit in Old Testament times and through the period of the gospels differed from His present work in the Body of Christ. The Spirit came upon and departed from men (1 Samuel 16:14). Removal of His Spirit was feared by David (Psalm 51:11). Praying for the giving of His Spirit was encouraged by the Lord Jesus (Luke 11:13). Yet the Lord made clear that a new and different work of the Spirit was to come after His departure. Before He was glorified, the Spirit “was not yet given” (John 7:39). The Spirit later would be given by the Lord Jesus to abide forever in the believer (John 14:16-17). This was realized upon the Day of Pentecost, the beginning of a new age (Acts 1:4-5; 2:1-18, 33). No true believer now can be without the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9b). When we truly believe the gospel message, we are sealed with the Holy Spirit, which is the earnest or guarantee of our redemption (Ephesians 1:13-14; 4:30; 2 Corinthians 1:22). This anointing of the Spirit remains in all true believers (1 John 2:27). Thus every believer is sealed by God and is guaranteed an eternal redemption and inheritance.
5. Perfect Advocate. There is no record of anyone in the Bible, apart from the Lord Jesus, who never sinned or failed. What happens when a true believer sins? Certainly he needs to confess and forsake his sin (Proverbs 28:13; 1 John 1:9). There is also a need for a representative before a holy God. The role of the Lord Jesus as our Great High Priest is to be before the Father as our Advocate (literally, “one alongside to help”). In this role He speaks to the Father in our defense (1 John 2:1). He is constantly at the right hand of God, making intercession for us (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 9:24). He is able to save forever (or completely) those for whom He intercedes (Hebrews 7:25-28). There is no mention of this advocacy being conditional upon our good behavior. How could we be lost in the courtroom of Heaven with such an Advocate as this?
6. Perfect Preservation. Any salvation which depended on the faithfulness of man would have the mark of doom upon it from the beginning. The weakness of the flesh is well known (Romans 6:19). That which was begun in the Spirit will not be made perfect by our flesh (Galatians 3:3). It is reassuring, therefore, to hear the words of our Savior. “This is the Father’s will which hath sent Me, that of all which He hath given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of Him that sent Me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on Him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:39-40). The Lord is the keeper of our souls. This is constantly stressed in the New Testament (John 10:27-30; 1 Corinthians 1:8; Philippians 1:6; Jude 24-25; 1 Peter 1:5). Not one of these verses indicate any dependence upon human faithfulness.
It is understandable that many devout believers have difficulty in accepting the doctrine of eternal salvation. Their objections fall under three general headings.
1. Failure Of “Converts.” Some people maintain that salvation must be conditional because some individuals who once professed to be Christians (including preachers) have failed morally, turned away from God and even ended by outright rejection of the Lord. If people turn back to the old life, or if they rebel, how can they hope for salvation? To answer this question one must first ask whether everyone who professes to be a Christian is indeed saved. The possibility of lifeless profession of Christ is evident in the New Testament. Jesus told the parable of the wheat and the tares growing together (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-42). The tares were never the children of God. To return to a sinful life after knowing “the way of righteousness” is likened to a dog returning to his vomit and a sow returning to wallowing in the mire (2 Peter 2:20-22). The dog and sow returned to natural habits because they never were turned into sheep of Christ by the Spirit of God. The Lord Jesus in a coming day will denounce those who come to Him pleading their deeds to claim a relationship with Him. He will say, “I never knew you. Depart from Me” (Matthew 7:23). It is significant that He will not say, “You once knew Me but went away from Me.” Saving faith differs from pseudo-faith. A childhood prayer, a raised hand, a walk forward at a church meeting, a baptism or an active role in a church does not assure one of salvation. It is not mere profession which is secure forever but genuine salvation! Habitual sins such as immorality, strife, anger, drunkenness and jealousy are warning signs. “They which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19-21). There are sure tests of the reality of saving faith in such verses as 1 John 2:3-6, 15; 3:6-10, 14; 5:2-4. If we are not subject to the Lord Jesus and His Word, if we practice sin, if we love the world and do not love the people of God, then we say in vain that we know Him. God says we are liars (1 John 1:6; 2:4). No regeneration has ever taken place.
2. “License To Sin.” Some reason that if people were sure of eternal salvation, they would be spiritually complacent. They would then be free to “sin all they want.” This is a serious misunderstanding and misrepresentation of this doctrine. A true sheep of Christ desires to follow the Master and not to take advantage of His love and grace. The child of God is taught in Scripture that God has ways of dealing with erring children. One way is the discipline or “chastening” of the Lord (Hebrews 12:5-11). Correction differs from being ejected from the family of God. God also deals with wandering children by allowing loss of joy, peace, testimony, power in prayer and fruitfulness in this life and loss of rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ in the next. No sheep of Christ should be complacent in a wayward condition.
3. Scriptures Which “Conflict” With Eternal Salvation. Some seek to refute the doctrine of eternal salvation by citing Scriptures that seem to contradict such a teaching. However, doctrine is properly founded upon the whole of Scripture and not the part. God’s Word will not be found to contradict itself when all verses are properly harmonized. Many verses must be examined which seem to teach that those who once identified with Christians later fell away and lost their salvation. We will look at the major passages which seem to conflict with the doctrine of eternal salvation.
a. “Falling Away.” Sometimes passages which speak of persons “falling away” are taken to mean that true believers can lose their salvation. However, “falling away” (apostasia) primarily is a defection from the faith by those who once professed to be Christians. In particular, it involves denying the deity of Christ and redemption that is solely through His shed blood on the cross. Such persons do not necessarily leave the church. Many remain and become teachers within its ranks.
Others defect. “They went out from us, but they were not of us” (1 John 2:19). The epistle of Jude describes such persons so well that it has been called “The Acts of the Apostates.” Such men creep in unawares. They are “ungodly” (v. 4), waterless clouds (v. 12) and “have not the Spirit” (v. 19). Plainly they are not true believers, although they may have a “form of godliness” (2 Timothy 3:5). Further description of such men is found in 1 Timothy 4:1-3; 2 Peter 2:1, 15-22; 1 John 2:18-22 and 2 John 7-9. A different word than apostasia is used when describing those who fall from grace (Galatians 5:4), fall from first love for Christ (Revelation 2:4-5) and fall from steadfastness (2 Peter 3:17). These involve a failure in believers, but not a “fall from salvation.”
b. Conditional Clauses. Several Scriptures speak of salvation with an “if” clause attached. The “if” is understood by some to mean that salvation is retained only if we continue to live in a certain way. More careful study will indicate that it rather means that the salvation is not genuine in the first place, being disproved by a life that is not in accord with Scriptural standards. The book of Hebrews contains many “conditional” verses which question whether salvation is genuine. The book is addressed to a group of Jewish people which consisted of both regenerate believers and non-regenerate, wavering followers. The latter were in danger of turning back to the temple sacrifices and away from sole reliance on the blood of Christ. Each of the various warnings is addressed to the waverers who were ready to depart from a dim hope in Jesus which had not resulted in regeneration (2:1-3; 3:6, 12, 14; 4:1;12:25). Other passages which speak of continued reliance on Christ are 1 Corinthians 15:1-2 and Colossians 1:22-23.
The section in Hebrews 6:4-6 has troubled many. The description might seem to be of Christians if it were not for two things. There is no mention of sealing or indwelling by the Spirit but a partaking in the Spirit’s ministry (v. 4), which can be true of one who goes along without being saved. Moreover, in verse 9 the writer says that he is persuaded “better things of you and things that accompany salvation,” indicating that the previous description is not applicable to true believers. If this passage proves that a sheep can be lost, then it proves too much, for then it would be impossible for people ever to be renewed to repentance if they have fallen away. The offense here is defection from dependence on the blood of Christ alone for salvation - not ordinary failures.
Another serious warning is in Hebrews 10:26-39, dealing with those who “sin willfully.” By comparing v. 26 with v. 39 we will see that the “we’s” differ. The willful sinner of v. 26 has turned from the only acceptable sacrifice and “trodden under foot the Son of God” (v. 29). The contrasting group is in v. 39. “We are not of them who draw back into perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.” Genuine believers do not draw back from the cross of Christ as their only hope. Saving faith is enduring.
c. Various Parables. Details of certain parables are sometimes used
to support the doctrine of probational salvation. However, proper Bible interpretation demands that the details of a parable be interpreted in light of the parable’s broader teaching. Four parables commonly used to teach probational salvation are examined below:
(1) The Sower (Luke 8:4-15). Problem: There are those who “for a while believe.” Explanation: It is also said that they had no root. What is it that they believe? Demons also believe, but they are not saved (James 2:19). The parable deals with the condition of the heart of those who hear God’s Word. Those who hear with an honest and good heart, and believe, are saved and bring forth fruit accordingly.
(2) The Steward (Luke 12:41-48). Problem: The faithless manager was not looking for the Lord’s coming and was “appointed his portion with the unbelievers.” Explanation: Every man is a steward of God concerning all that is given him. This is no indication that the faithless one was a believer who lost his salvation.
(3) The Law of Forgiveness (Matthew 18:23-35). Problem: It is said that if we do not forgive others, God will not forgive us. The wicked servant was delivered “to the tormentors.” Explanation: There is nothing to indicate that the unforgiving one was saved. The general lesson is fairness to others in light of God’s grace.
(4) The True Vine (John 15:1-7). Problem: “If a man abide not in Me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.” Explanation: The subject of the passage is fruit-bearing, which necessitates abiding fellowship with Christ. The burning of the fruitless branches by men, as often done in the fields, is not the fire of eternal judgment for the lost.
d. Miscellaneous Passages. Passages which speak of shipwrecked faith (1 Timothy 1:19-20), erring faith (1 Timothy 6:10, 21) and overthrown faith (2 Timothy 2:18) are often used to refute eternal salvation. However, these verses may be considered as involving erring believers or false professors. “The Lord knoweth them that are His” (2 Timothy 2:19). Often we cannot be sure of another’s salvation in the face of a confused life. We would not know that Lot was a saved man from the Genesis account, but we are told so in 2 Peter 2:7-9.
Believers may lose their reward by suffering loss at the Judgment Seat of Christ and still be saved, though their life work is “burned” (1 Corinthians 3:15). This doubtless was in the apostle’s mind when he spoke of the danger of being a “castaway” or disqualified (1 Corinthians 9:27). This did not mean that Paul feared losing his salvation. He was confident about his salvation (2 Timothy 1:12; 4:7-8).
The Scripture is clear that saving faith continues until life’s end and is not merely the act of a moment. Saving faith differs from superficial belief, mental assent to a doctrine, ritual prayer or various practices of salvation by formula. True faith will never repudiate Christ and His saving work as man’s sole hope. It will result in a good life and not a sinful one. It is not the person who merely says he has faith that is saved, but the one who demonstrates the reality of faith in his life (James 2:14-24). The one who professes faith without this reality cannot be assured of any “ticket to heaven.” Instead, he may face the Lord in a coming day and hear the dreadful words, “Depart from Me. I never knew you!” In contrast, the true sheep of Christ can say, “The Lord will deliver me from every evil deed, and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom” (2 Timothy 4:18a NASB).
On what is forgiveness of sins based (Ephesians 1:7)?
3. When and where were our sins put away (1 Peter 2:24)?
Did this involve all our sins, or just the sins we committed before we were saved (Hebrews 9:24-28; 10:10-14)?
4. What do we receive when we believe on the Son (John 5:24)? Is this something we receive
immediately, or only when we die? Explain.
Define the word “eternal” and describe its limits.
In “Safety, Certainty and Enjoyment” (Appendix A) how does George Cutting demonstrate from Scripture that out safety depends on God, not ourselves?
6. What is our relationship to God as Christians (1 John 3:1-2)?
How did we enter into that relationship (John 1:12-13)?
8. Paraphrase (rewrite in your own words) 2 Timothy 1:12b.
From this verse and 4:7-8, 18, what confidence did Paul have regarding his eternal salvation?
9. What does 1 John 5:11-13 indicate about our ability to know we have eternal salvation?
10. How would you respond to the following statements and what Scripture would you use?
“You can’t know you’re saved until you die.”
“I know my life doesn’t show it, but I know I’m saved because I prayed to receive Christ when I was eight years old.”
“If I can’t lose my salvation, I guess I can sin all I want.”
“This teaching of eternal salvation can’t be true because I know a preacher who ran off with the church organist.”