Nothing, Nobody, Nohow
Copyright © 2004 Jeremy Myers
I subscribe to many different newsletters, and in the past two weeks since I began this study on eternal security, I received two different newsletters from two different Christian organizations, and both newsletters were about - can you guess? - eternal security!
One of them (http://www.christianchronicles.org/study7104.html) provides this partial list of Scriptures which clearly teach the eternal security of the believer.
John 3:14-21 -- Here, Jesus Himself speaks to a ruler of the Jews, explaining that the episode experienced by the Jews in the Wilderness was a foreshadowing of something which would later form the substance of the gospel. As the Jewish believers in the Wilderness were fully saved from the serpents (Num 21:8-9), never again to be tested in such a manner, so also will the believer be saved by the "lifting up" of the Messiah. Eternal life is the theme of the entire passage, with the only condition being the personal faith of the one who is saved. God Himself, speaking very plainly, is declaring His crucifixion and its results.
John 4:13-14 -- Water is used repeatedly in the Scriptures as a symbol, or type, of the Holy Spirit (cf Jn 7:37-39, where it is clearly stated to be so). Here we see that the well of water which Jesus gives to the believer becomes a well of life, springing up in him into everlasting life. The well is in Christ, and will never run dry.
John 4:36 -- The fruit that the Christian bears is "for eternal life," indicating that we cannot bear any fruit that is not already destined for eternal life. That which is eternal cannot be lost. It remains eternally.
John 5:19-24 -- This passage proves that the life which Jesus has given us is eternal, and that it is not a future hope, but a present possession.
John 5:39-47 -- Jesus informs the Jews that Moses and his writings, as well as the rest of the Scriptures, all testify of Him as the sole means of salvation, whereas the Law only condemns (Rom 3:19-20).
John 6:26-58 -- This is the great sign of the Bread from Heaven, and one of the wonderful "I AM" declarations of Christ. Herein, the Jews ask Jesus, What shall we do that we may work the works of God?" Jesus answers, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent." See esp. vv 35-40, 50-51, 58.
John 10:7-10 -- Another of the great "I AM" declarations; here Jesus is the door of the sheep, wherein we find life abundant.
John 10:25-30 -- God would have to be killed before a Christian could be lost; we are clutched tightly in His hand.
John 11:25-26 -- Faith is the only requirement for eternal life. Those who believe in Him will never die: Spoken by our Lord.
John 13: 34-35 -- Christís New Commandment (See 2 Jn 5). It is the goodness of God that leads man to repentance. It is love.
John 15:15-17 -- A reiteration of the fact that fruitfulness is our purpose, and that love is the method of fruitfulness. Salvation is already ours; now our task is to be fruitful.
John 16:27 -- The Father loves us because we have believed. We are not and never will be worthy of His love until eternity.
Rom 5:1-2 -- Justified by faith, we have peace with God, access into grace by faith, rejoicing in hope.
Rom 5:8-10 -- Justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath, and are reconciled to Him and saved by His life.
Rom 7:4-6 -- We have been delivered from the lawódead to the Law, reborn to fruitfulness, in newness of the Spirit.
Rom 7:15 - 8:9 -- All Christians remain sinners; sin dwells in our flesh; there is, therefore, now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus because He paid for our sins altogether at Calvary and our trust is in Him and not ourselves, the Spirit and not the flesh.
Rom 8:28-39 -- Nothing can separate us from the love of God.
Rom 9:30-33 -- Gentiles achieved righteousness, while the Jews, under law, could not. Law produces sin, not righteousness.
Rom 10:1-4 -- The Jews sought to establish their own righteousness; we seek the righteousness of God. Christ is the end of the Law.
Rom 11:6 -- If by grace, it is no longer by works; if by works, no longer by grace. Grace and works are antithetical; they do not mix.
2 Cor 1:9-10 -- We have been delivered from death, and will still be delivered by Him.
2 Cor 5:18-21 -- To us has been committed the word of reconciliation. We are to preach reconciliation, not condemnation.
Gal 1:6-9 -- The test of the Gospel is always grace and faith, not merit or works;
Gal 2:21 -- If righteousness comes by the law, then Christ died in vain. What did His death accomplish if not eternal life?
Gal 5:16-18 -- If you are led by the spirit, you are not under the law. Can you be condemned by that which you are not under?
Gal 6:12-14 -- They boast in your flesh who try to reform the flesh; we boast in the cross of Christ. We remain chief sinners.
Eph 1:3-14 -- In this sublime passage, Paul declares that he who believes in the sufficiency of Christís Blood, shed on the cross, has already been blessed, chosen, predestined, adopted, accepted, redeemed, enlightened, written into the will of God, and sealed by the Holy Spirit, so that our salvation does not depend on us, but upon the faithfulness of God Himself.
Eph 2:8-10 -- Inescapable evidence that works are no longer the issue.
Phil 1:3-7 -- It is God Himself who will complete in us that work which He began, and He will do it until the Day of rapture of the Church. This while we yet remain sinners. We shall be perfect after the rapture, however. What hope!
Phil 2:13 -- It is God who works in us both to will and to do for His good pleasure. We are ambassadors and ministers. If we work the works of God, we will not work the works of the devil.
Phil 3:3 -- We have no confidence in the flesh.
Phil 3:7-9 -- We seek to be found in Him, not having our own righteousness, but His. Our righteousnesses are as filthy rags (Isa 64:6).
Col 1:13-14 -- We have been delivered from darkness and conveyed into His Kingdom. Past tense.
Col 2:8 -- Beware the principles of the world! Let us not reason, but believe.
Col 2:20-23 -- Outward religion has no value against the indulgence of the flesh.
Col 2:11-17 -- He has wiped out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, nailing it to His cross.
1 Th 5:9-11 -- We are not appointed to wrath. Our sins have already been judged and punished at Calvary.
1 Th 5:23-24 -- We are sanctified and preserved blameless. Let us walk as if we believe it.
2 Th 2:13-17 -- We have been chosen for sanctification and belief, and called by God.
2 Th 3:3 -- It is Godís faithfulness that saves us, not our own righteousness.
1 Tim 1:15 -- I am chief of sinners. Yet a crown was laid up for Paul.
2 Tim 1:7 -- We have been given a spirit of love and of a sound mind, not a spirit of fear. Let us walk in love and not hatred.
2 Tim 1:12 -- God is able to keep what I have committed to Him against that Day.
2 Tim 4:18 -- The Lord will deliver me and preserve me. I surely cannot deliver myself.
Tit 1:1-2 -- God, who promised eternal life, cannot lie.
Tit 3:4-9 -- Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but by His grace He has saved us. Thus does He also keep us.
Heb 10:14-18 -- Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more. Of all who believe.
Heb 10:22 -- Let us draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith. We have no reason to be afraid of God.
1 Pet 1:3-5 -- We are kept saved by the power of God, through faith, and that, not of ourselves.
1 John 3:9 -- We are born of the seed of God. How then can we die?
1 John 5:13 -- I have written that you may know that you have eternal life.
Jude 24-25 -- A doxology
That is quite a list, and it is not even a complete. Nevertheless, in presenting the case for eternal security, we could easily spend twenty or thirty weeks studying every single one of those passages. But I think that most people do not struggle with the passages that teach security as much as they struggle with passages that seem to contradict eternal security. So we are going to spend most of our time over the next several weeks talking about several of those passages.
However, before we get to some of those "problem" passages, it would be wise to study at least two passages from the Bible which clearly teaches eternal security. The passage under consideration here is Romans 8:29-39. Almost every single verse in this passage has something to say about our security as believers in Christ, but I've divided it up into three sections. The first section, found in verses 29-30, contains the Salvation Chain.
1. The Salvation Chain (8:29-30)
29For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
If you can imagine each of these terms as links in a chain, you will get the picture. This is an amazing picture of God saving us. It goes from Him foreknowing us all the way to Him glorifying us. There is nothing in these two verses which we are responsible for.
God foreknew us. And those He foreknew, He predestined. And the things which God predestines always come to pass. And what is it that he predestined us to be? To be conformed to the image of His Son. God predestined, God decided, God planned, before any of us were ever born, before any of us were ever saved, that every person who would be saved, would become completely like Jesus Christ. Now tell me, if a person becomes saved, but then they lose their salvation, how does that person become conformed to the image of Jesus Christ? They don't. They can't. But God says here that every person that God foreknew, He predestined to become fully like Christ.
The word predestine means to decide from the very beginning. God decided from the very beginning, before He had created anything, that everyone who believed in Jesus for eternal life would become fully like Jesus. And since He knew it all beforehand, no sin of ours catches Him off guard. No sin of ours shocks Him into going back on what He predestined. He knew it all beforehand and that didn't stop him for deciding to make each and every Christian fully like Christ. And of course, this only happens once we are glorified in heaven, but that is what verse 30 teaches. Verse 29 reveals two links in the chain of salvation: Foreknowledge and predestination. Verse 30 reveals three more.
Those whom he predestined, he called. Those he called, he justified. And those he justified, He glorified. Do you see how this chain goes from eternity past to eternity future? It goes from foreknowledge in eternity past to glorification in eternity future. And there is no way to break this chain, because God does it all. There is not one single reference in this chain for something we have to do, or something we have to make sure we don't do in order to make sure the chain does not break.
This doesn't mean there is nothing at all we are supposed to do except just sit back and wait for heaven. No, absolutely not. Paul has already made this abundantly clear in Romans 5, 6 and 7, and he will impress upon his readers again in Romans 12-16 more things that we should be doing as Christians. But - and here is the key which he brings out in Romans 3, 4 and 5 - our sole part in becoming saved is accepting by faith the free gift of eternal life , and after that, it is completely up to God to keep us saved. We have a role in our sanctification also, and so that is why sanctification is not mentioned here in Romans 8:30. Romans 8:29-30 is simply to show that getting believers to heaven is God's responsibility, not ours. In fact, one other thing about all five links in this chain is that they are all in the past tense. Did you notice that? In the Greek, it's called an aorist tense which is even stronger than our past tense. An aorist tense verb is completed past action. It happened in the past and is done. Over. Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, writes verses 29-30 as if they had already happened. As if they were done. Complete. Finished.
And guess what? That's because from God's perspective, it is. If we have believed in Jesus for eternal life, when God looks at us, He doesn't see our sin, He doesn't see our unrighteousness. He sees Jesus Christ. He sees a completed work. He sees a perfect person. From God's perspective, you are already in heaven with Him. Why is this? Because God never lies. He never says one thing and then does something else. If He says that He will glorify those whom He has justified, He will do it, no matter what. You can think of yourself as already being in heaven, because that is how God thinks of you. It's hard for us to grasp, but that's the truth of Romans 8:30. Our salvation, from eternity past to eternity future, is all of God's grace.
Nevertheless, Paul knows that there are always some who cannot accept or understand such amazing grace. There are always grace critics. And so Paul goes on in verses 31-34 to silence the critics.
2. Silencing the Critics (8:31-34)
Critics of grace always like to ask questions like, "But can't Satan accuse us of sin before God? What about that really bad sin of murder and adultery? God can't just cover those by grace, can he? Won't Jesus be offended by certain sins I commit and remove Himself from me, so that God no longer sees Christ when He looks at me?" Well, these are all good questions, but to answer them, Paul has several questions of his own.
31What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
The first question is based on the sovereignty and greatness of God. Paul says that if God is for us, who can possibly be against us? Is God greater than Satan, or isn't he? Is God greater than the demons, or isn't he? I don't care how many enemies you have, with God on your side, they cannot win. Did you see the move The Lion King? The young cub, Simba(?) is being surround by hyenas (or jackals?), and he gets ready to defend himself, when his father jumps up behind Simba and roars. At that great roar, the hyenas scatter. Now, the truth is that sometimes, hyenas do gang up on and defeat adult male lions. But if every created being in the universe were to gang up on God, they still would not be able to defeat Him. With that kind of God for you, who can possibly be against you? Who or what do you have to fear? Nothing.
The next question of Paul is even more helpful though.
32He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?
Paul says that since God freely sent His Son to die for us so that we might be saved, won't He also give us everything else freely too? Of course He will. This is the same truth Paul already mentioned back in Romans 5:8-10. Which is harder? To save a wicked, rebellious, wayward, black with sin, wretched sinner, or to keep saved somebody who has been declared righteous by God, someone who has been identified with Jesus Christ in his death and resurrection, somebody who is in Christ? Well, neither is hard for God. But the point is that if God justifies us freely, it is no problem whatsoever for Him to glorify us freely, and freely give us everything else we need for life and Godliness (2 Pet. 1:3).
What about when we willfully sin? What about when we do something really bad. Well, look at verse 33.
33Who shall bring a charge against Godís elect? It is God who justifies.
Paul says, "So, you've sinned really bad. Who is going to charge you? The only person in the entire universe who possibly could is God Himself, and He's not going to do that, because He already justified you. When you sin, you sin ultimately against God, and so He is the only one who could charge you, but when you sin, God just says, "Yep, I saw that one from before the foundation of the world, and I put in on Jesus Christ on the cross. I won't charge you for that. Jesus paid for it." And if God doesn't charge you for the sin you commit against Him, nobody will.
What about Jesus though? He is God too, and He's the one who went to the cross for our sin. Won't he get tired of us sinning, and eventually just throw up His hands in disgust and say, "God, I'm sick of paying for that person's sin. I'm not going to pay for any more from him. Next one he commits, that's it."
Paul answers this too.
34Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.
Paul says that Christ won't condemn us either. He's the one who died for our sins, every single one of them, and as proof that His death was sufficient to cover all of our sins, as proof that his death was an acceptable sacrifice to God, He not only is risen from the dead, but is even at the right hand of God. And what is He doing there? Well, among other things, he makes intercession for us there. Christ isn't going to condemn us. He paid for every sin we would ever commit. If there is a sin he didn't pay for, or that his death wasn't sufficient to cover, then he never would have been raised from the dead, nor would He be sitting at the right hand of God. And furthermore, Jesus doesn't get sick of our sins, instead, He constantly intercedes for us. Oh sure, our sins upset Him, and make Him sad, but He is right there telling God, "Yes, I died for that sin. Yes, for that one too."
You know what it all comes down to? I believe that of all the doctrines of Christianity, there is none that the devil hates more than the doctrine of eternal security. Why? Because our security is based on the cross of Christ. And "it is ever and always the devil's aim to steal the luster of the cross, to darken our hope and diminish the brightness of the glory of God as revealed at Calvary."
It comes down to this: God would never have allowed mankind to crucify His Son if that death were not adequate to fully and eternally save all who would believe. What a monumental waste of Divine blood it would have been; for if one could lose his salvation, everyone would lose it. There has never been a Christian who did not continue to sin after he was saved, even until his last day on earth.
If one could lose his salvation, he most assuredly would lose it. None would be saved, and Christ would surely have died in vainÖNo other conclusion can be reached by the candid mind than that a loving God has forgiven and saved men and women who did not and do not deserve it.
God is greater than all. He has freely given us all things. No one can bring a charge against us except for God, and He won't because He has justified us. No one can condemn us except for Jesus, and He won't because the debt is already paid. To the contrary of Him condemning us, He is actually interceding for us at God's right hand. This is pure, unadulterated, amazing grace! Therefore, we have nothing to worry about. We do not need to worry that someone, or someone can somehow separate us from the love of Christ.
3. No Separation Anxiety (8:35-39)
35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?
Later in verse 39, this is called the love of God which is in Christ. The love here is the relationship love that God has for all of His children, and Christ has for all of His brethren that He has died for. The context demands this. Now, God loves all people. But there is a special kind of love relationship he has only with his family members. I love all of you, but I have a special kind of love for my wife and two girls. And I love all of you as brothers and sisters in Christ, but there is another kind of love that I have for the unsaved.
The love in verse 35 and 39 is the family kind of love. The context determines this, not the Greek word or anything special about the Greek grammar. Verse 39 is especially clear. It says that this is the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. This can refer to nothing other than the salvation relationship with we with God through Jesus Christ. The love Paul is referring to here is not the generic love God has for all the world, but is the special love which God has only for those who are in Christ Jesus. And nothing, says Paul, can separate us from this love in Christ. He goes on to give some specific examples of things that cannot separate us.
Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36As it is written:
"For Your sake we are killed all day long;
We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter."
37Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.
These are all things that happen to us, and they cannot separate us from God's love. The reason Paul includes these things here is that some people think that when bad things happen to them, God is judging them, or punishing them, or He has stopped loving them, or they have lost their salvation. When you are going through hard times, is that what you think? Don't let Satan whisper such lies in your mind. If you have believed in Jesus Christ for eternal life, nothing can separate you from the love of Christ. The reason bad things happen to us, according to verse 36, is for the sake of Christ. It is often because we are Christians that we face tribulation, persecution, famine, nakedness, or the sword. I won't get into the theology of suffering or persecution here, but the books of 1 and 2 Peter and James might help immensely to understand why bad things happen to you and to I if we are Christians.
The truth is that in these things, according to verse 37, we are more than conquerors. A conqueror is a victor, a winner. Paul says we are more than conquerors. You see, overcoming tribulation and persecution would be good enough, but we do more than just overcome it. In Christ, we benefit from it. It is truly amazing to learn of all the results that can come from persecution and tribulation - even from temptation and times of sin - if we handle them correctly. Again, James and 1 and 2 Peter teach us about some of these.
But then finally we get to verses 38-39. Paul's conclusion of the matter. What He, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is persuaded of.
38For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39nor 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.
Try to think of something in the entire universe that does not fit into one of these categories. Some people fear dying. That can't separate you from the love of God. Other people fear living. But nothing in life can separate you either.
He goes on to say that no spiritual power can separate us. He mentions angels, but also principalities and powers. This is Paul's way of referring to demons and evil spirits (Eph. 6). There is a strange teaching out there today that Satan can steal your salvation from you. How thankful we can be for Romans 8:38 which clearly says he can't.
Many people who reject eternal security say that if we are living in sin, or if we sin grievously in the future, we will lose our salvation. But Paul says that neither things present nor things to come. What current or future sin does not fall into that category? There is not and never will be a time when we can be separated from God's love in Christ.
Then Paul mentions that neither height nor depth can separate us. There is nowhere you can go in the entire universe where you can escape the love of God, or that His love does not reach.
Finally, Paul says that no other created thing can separate us either. You know what this means? Nothing and nobody can separate us from the love of God in Christ.
There are some who see in verse 39 an escape clause. They argue that while no other created thing can separate us from God's love, I can separate myself from his love by ceasing to believe or falling into some sort of serious sin. But Paul is not saying "no created thing other than ourselves." If that were true, what he said back in verses 38 would be false, for if we could remove ourselves from the love of Christ, then something to come could remove us, and Paul has already said that nothing to come could remove us. When Paul said that nothing in our present or future experience can separate us from God's love, that had to include the possibility of failure, even major failure, on our part. Nothing to come can separate us from His love. That includes anything that we as believers might do, think, or say. When Paul says "no other created thing" he is simply laying down a blanket statement to cover all of creation. Life and death are part of this world, but they can't separate us. Angels and demons are created beings, but they can't separate us. Past, present and future events are also part of the created order, but they can't separate us either.
And Paul summarizes by saying "nor any other created thing." Nothing in the entire universe can separate us. Paul didn't want us to leave any crack or loophole through which someone could misunderstand what he is saying. There is nothing in the entire universe, other than God, who is not created. Therefore, nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus.
You see what all of this points to? The truths of eternal security do not depend on us, but only and completely on the faithfulness of God and the finished work of Jesus Christ. So the question is not "Can I lose my salvation?" but rather, "Can God lose me?" The obvious answer from Romans 8:29-39 is an emphatic NO. He has shown us the unbroken chain of salvation, and it reveals that what he begins, He finishes. If he freely gives us salvation, He freely keeps us saved also. Works do not get us saved, and they do not keep us saved.
Again, the question is not, "Can I remain faithful enough to keep my salvation?" but rather, "Will Jesus ever fail in his faithfulness to me?" The answer, according to Romans 8:29-39 is again, an emphatic NO. Quite to the contrary, He died for you and now makes intercession for you at the right hand of God. So is there anything that can separate us from God? The answer from Romans 8:29-39 is NO.