The question one hears about this doctrine may be stated thus: If a soul is once saved by Jesus Christ, is that soul safe?
A man awakes at night to find his apartment on fire. He crawls to the window and climbs out to hang by his fingertips. Far below is the sidewalk. The man is saved. Is he safe? If he holds on to the end he is safe.
What saith the Scriptures? "The name of the Lord is a strong tower. The righteous man runneth into it, and is safe" (Prov. 18:10).
"Whoso putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe" (Prov. 29:25). The Hebrew word (sagab) means inaccessible (Strong's Heb. Lexicon). He is safe because he is "hid with Christ in God" (Col. 3:3), and is inaccessible to the Devil and every other foe seeking to pull him out and down to destruction. The true believer is not only saved, but safe.
This doctrine of the preservation of the saved is not always an easy one to accept by some theologians. Charles G. Finney wrote of it: "I would remark that I have felt greater hesitancy in forming and expressing my views upon this, than upon almost any other question in theology" (Systematic Theology, page 552). However, Finney added: "I could never find myself able to give a satisfactory reason for the rejection of the doctrine … and the more I examine the more unable I find myself to see how a denial of it can be reconciled with the Scriptures" (Ibid.).
As to the preservation of the saved: "They whom God hath accepted in His beloved, effectively called and sanctified by His Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace; but shall certainly persevere therein to the end and be eternally saved" (Con. Faith, Chap. xvii.; L. Cat., Question 79; A. A. Hodge, Outlines of Theology, page 542).
This implies the perseverance of the saved: "Perseverance may be defined as that continuous operation of the Holy Spirit in the believer, by which the work of divine grace that is begun in the heart, is continued and brought to completion (Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, page 546).
This is upheld by the Baptist New Hampshire Confession of Faith (also in the larger Philadelphia Confession): "Such only are real believers who endure to the end … Their persevering attachment to Jesus Christ is the grand mark which distinguishes them from superficial professors. That a special providence watches over their welfare, and that they are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation" (Article 11).
This is denied by the Roman Catholic Church: "If any one saith, that a man once justified can sin no more, nor lose grace, and that therefore he that falls and sins was never truly justified … let him be anathema" (Conc. Trident, Sess. 6, Canon 23; A. A. Hodge, Ibid., page 546).
Arguments against: Matthew 12:43-45 is used (may I say misused, as with the other Scriptures we shall consider under this heading) to teach that s saved soul may be lost again. "But notice that the unclean spirit is not driven out of the man but goes out himself. He says, 'I will return into my house.' The house still belongs to him; the man is unsaved. Notice, too, that he found the house empty, that is, Christ was not in it. This is a picture of a man who reforms without salvation. Notice in the last sentence of this Scripture that Jesus applies it to the ungodly Pharisees about whom He is talking (verse 38)" (Rice, Twelve Tremendous Themes, page 96).
Matthew 24:13 is used: "But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved." True, and all of the elect shall endure unto the end, for we (with Paul) are "confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in (them) will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:6; see also Psalm 89:29).
Romans 14:15 and 20 are used. "Destroy not him (or the work of God) … for whom Christ died." Since the Greek word for verse 15 (apolumi) is oftimes used for the destruction of the physical body (as in Matt. 2:13; 12:14; 21:41; 27:20; Mark 9:22; Luke 6:9; 9:56; John 18:14, where the word is translated die; in 1 Corinthians 8:11, where the word is translated perish, and which we showed in the chapter on The Limited Atonement often refers to physical death), we conclude the destruction here to be physical death to the blood bought one. It is not a saved soul being destroyed in Hell.
1 Corinthians 9:27 is used. Paul fears lest he become a castaway, or rejected (Heb. 6:8) or a reprobate (as the word, adokimos, is translated, Rom. 1:28; 2 Tim. 3:8; Tit. 1:16; Christ does not dwell in such; 2 Cor. 13:5. But Christ promises His own: "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee" (Heb. 13:5) which is equal to saying they will never become reprobates (2 Cor. 13:6). There are some who think Paul to mean a castaway in the sense of his service being rejected (in the light of the context, vss. 24-26).
Galatians 5:4 is used. Read the entire verse. "Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law, ye are fallen from grace." Actually a man cannot be justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ (Gal. 2:16), therefore a person cannot fall from grace. But the Galatians had falllen away from the teaching of salvation by grace to the teaching of salvation by the law. In this they had "fallen from grace." (See 1:6). Did this mean they were lost again? Then why did Paul call them "brethren" (1:11); why does he call them sons of God and possessors of the Holy Spirit? (4:6), and call them "spiritual"? (6:1).
1 Timothy 1:19 is used. Hymenaeus and Alexander (and others) had shipwrecked faith and conscience. However, this does not prove that they were ever saved. One can believe in Christ's name without Christ (see John 2:23-25) and can "believe in vain" (1 Cor. 15:2). "The devils also believe and tremble" (Jas. 2:19). One can believe "to the saving of the soul" (Heb. 10:39), which thus implies that there can be a superficial faith. Can an unsaved professor of religion have a "good conscience"? Was it a good conscience that caused the unsaved to drop their rocks of accusation in John 8:9? Surely it was not an evil conscience. Others have answered that to make shipwreck of faith is not necessarily to lose it outright. And their being delivered to Satan implies (serious as it is) no more than the fornicator in 1 Corinthians 5:5; destruction of the flesh that the spirit might be saved.
Hebrews 6:4-6 is used. From the outset, may it be realized that if this Scripture teaches that saved people can fall away and be lost again it also teaches that they can never be saved again! "It is impossible to renew them again unto repentance" (vss. 4 and 6). Impossible! Is the Holy Ghost speaking about saved people, or just professors of religion in this Scripture? Consider:
They were enlightened, or illuminated (same word, 10:32). They received light from Christ, who lighteth every man that cometh into the world (John 1:9). The rays of the Gospel shone upon them. Yet the Savior says that that very light (the root of the word enliightening in Hebrews, phos) can be darkness in the heart of the unsaved (Luke 11:35). Of no avail.
They tasted of the heavenly gift, and tasted the good Word of God and the powers of the world to come. They experienced all this (so the word means, geuomai) but only yin the sense of tasting. They did not eat. Compare John 6:48-58 where Christ says: You must eat My flesh, and drink My blood to have eternal life. "O taste and see that the Lord is good," but do not stop there. "Blessed is the man that trusteth in Him" (Psa. 34:8). Tasting has to do with the tongue and head, trusting with the heart! They were salvation samplers. Tasters, not trusters. They had tongue and head salvation, but not true heart salvation. That we are justified in making this difference see Matt. 27:34, where Christ tasted (same Greek word) the drink mixed with gall, but would not drink. Whatever the heavenly gift is, Christ or the Holy Spirit; whatever portion of the Word of God they tasted (contrast with Jeremiah 15:16); whatever the powers of the world to come, mean: this much is certain, these people merely experienced them by tasting.
They were made partakers of the Holy Ghost. In what sense? The word metochos is translated "partners" (Luke 5:7). The fishermen called to their partners to help them. Surely this does not mean that they were partakers of their very being, but were workers and companions with them, who could later forsake them. It is possible for an unsaved person to be admonished and refuted and be rebuked by the Holy Spirit, and yet be an unbeliever (John 16:7,11). In that sense the unsaved one partakes of the Holy Spirit. More than that, to be an apparent partner of the Holy Spirit in working mighty miracles in Christ's name, yet never be known of the Savior in salvation (Matthew 7:21-23).
If they shall fall away from enlightenment, from tasting the heavenly gift, the Word of God, and the powers of the age to come; and the partaking of the Holy Ghost; it is impossible to renew them again unto repentance. Repentance (metanoia) according to Strong and Young and others, means to have a new mind, or change of mind, to reverse a former decision, reformation. One can do all this and not be saved. Repentance is no good without faith in Christ. (Mark 1:15; Acts 20:21).
The Holy Spirit is writing to professing Christians; is He saying the words of our present text primarily to Christians or about some other people? Read the text again and see how the words: those, they and they are used. And see the change in verse 9, "But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you"; if the above attributes were salvation itself, what could be any better? "We are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation"! Therefore the former experiences are not necessarily akin to salvation. It is interesting that Alford, who argues with great dexterity that the regenerated (but not the elect) are meant in Hebrews 6:4-6, passes by verse 9 with little comment. To this Scripture should be added 10:38-39 "… If any man draw back, My soul shall have no pleasure in him. But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul." He who believes to salvation, then, shall never fall away! The elect are in the new and everlasting covenant, have God's fear placed in their hearts, and "they shall not depart from Me," saith Jehovah (Jeremiah 32:40).
Hebrews 10:26-29 is used. The unsaved Hebrews had a "knowledge" of Christ as the only sacrifice, and turning away from Christ there was nothing left but certain judgment. There was no other sacrifice to which they could turn. "But were they not sanctified by the blood of Christ?" someone asks. "Surely they were saved if they were also sanctified. Yet though sanctified they turned from Christ to much sorer punishment than the law of Moses could mete out." I answer that one can be sanctified and not be not be saved! Take the example of the unbelieving husband sanctified by the believing wife, and the unbelieving wife sanctified by the husband (1 Corinthians 7:14), but not saved! (v. 16). The Hebrew people were sanctified by the peculiar position they had, as expressed in Romans 9:4-5. Sanctified, but not saved, for they had trampled Christ underfoot and counted His blood worthless.
James 5:19-20 is used. Conversion, of course, is not necessarily the same as regeneration. We are regenerated once, converted many times. Conversion (epistrepho) means to turn about, revert. Let me illustrate the text from the life of Peter. To him Christ said: "Satan hath desired to have you … but I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not; and when thou art converted (turned back) strengthen thy brethren" (Luke 22:32). Had Peter gone right on (as Judas) would he have been an unsaved sinner in spiritual death? But the Lord turned him back and kept his soul from death. Christ kept Peter saved (John 17:12). The same is true when a Christian is turned back to the truth, his soul is being kept from death. Not that he was lost, but he would have been lost had not Christ's prayers prevailed for him as well as Peter, as indeed they do forever! (Hebrews 7:25).
2 Peter 2:1 is used. We have already examined this in the chapter on The Limited Atonement.
2 Peter 2:20-22 is used. The knowledge of the Lord and Savior here is a knowledge about Christ, not a personal, saving knowledge of Christ, for then they would be Christ's sheep (John 10:14); instead they are described as dogs and sows!
Revelation 3:5 is used. The overcomer will not have his name blotted out of the book of life. All true Christians are overcomers (Rom. 8:37; 2 Cor. 2:14-15), therefore shall not have their names removed from the said book.
Many of these warnings against falling away are fences to keep the sheep of Christ within the pasture. The fences do not mean that the sheep will be lost, rather the opposite. They are there to keep them from going astray. "A good illustration of this is found in Paul's experience in the storm on his way to Rome as a prisoner (Acts 27:14). In the midst of the storm Paul told the company on the ship that God had assured him that they would all, without the loss of a man, be saved (vss. 22-25). Yet later on when the sailors were about to escape in the boat, Paul told the soldiers that, if the sailors got out in the boat, they could not be saved (vss. 30-32). (W. T. Conner, Christian Doctrine, page 245).
Others, from the strong language of the Greek in many of the references we have been examining, would go further than we have and say that these Scriptures do imply that saved people "might, or are able to apostasize and be lost, yet as a matter of fact, they never will" (Chas. G. Finney, Ibid., page 570). John W. Haley (Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible, page 170) says John 10:28-30; Romans 8:28-30; 38-39, "does not teach the impossibility of falling from grace, but merely the certainty that this will not occur."
One of the strong adversaries of eternal security of the saved was John William Fletcher (1729-1785). Of his arguments Charles G. Finney wrote: "I have read over attentively several times the views of Mr. Fletcher, in his Scripture Scales, and the passages quoted by him to disprove this doctrine. His chief reliance is manifestly upon the numerous passages that imply the possibility and danger of falling, rather than on any passages that unequivocally teach that any have fallen, or will utterly fall" (Ibid., page 618). "The subjunctive can never annul the indicative mode. For example, God says in Psalm 125, 'They that trust in the Lord shall be as Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abideth forever.' In Psalm 11:3, we read, 'If the foundations be removed, what can the righteous do?' In one place it says the foundations cannot be removed, in another place 'if'. Now will any man be so absurd as to say that the 'if' in the second place shakes the foundations?
"An 'if' is nothing but an 'if'—a mere supposition employed as a caution or for some other wise purpose; but a mere supposition can never affect a certain and positive fact.
The Scripture says: 'If any man destroy the temple of God.' 'Lest I should be a castaway.' 'If they fall it is impossible,' etc. What are these but wise and reasonable barriers set along the way—beacons against presumption—helps, by the alarm they sound, to a proper avoidance of those things which if persisted in would ruin, but which by the very caution, are avoided, and the fact predicted thus secured" (George Sayles Bishop, The Doctrines of Grace, page 314).
Arguments for: Will my reader kindly take time to read John 10:27-30? In this portion note the people to whom this is addressed, their practice, their provision, the promise made to them and their protection.
I. The People
Jesus Christ calls them: "My sheep." They can say: "The Lord is my Shepherd" (Psalm 23:1); "We are His people, and the sheep of His pasture" (Psalm 100:3).
What about Judas Iscariot? In John 13:18 Judas is separated in the speech of the Savior from the other disciples (see also vs. 10). They were chosen by Christ. Judas was not, except outwardly as an "apostle" (John 6:67-71). In the latter reference see that Judas is called "a devil" (diabolos), as in 17:12 he is named "the son of perdition." In Acts 1:25 he is described as fallen from the "ministry and apostleship." Not from salvation.
Some may ask, "But does not the language of John 17:12 seem to say that Judas was also given by the Father to the Son?"
"Westcott remarks, that 'the excepting phrase does not, necessarily, imply that Judas is reckoned among those whom the Lord guarded. The exception may refer simply to the statement, not one perished. Compare Matthew 12:4; Luke 4:26-27; Galatians 1:19; 2:16; Revelation 21:27. Contrast 18:9.' Winer also says (Sect. 67, 1. E.): 'Of two parallel members of a sentence, the first is sometimes expressed in such terms as to appear to comprehend the second, though, from the nature of the case, that is impossible'; and he cites under this remark, Acts 27:22; Galatians 1:19; Revelation 21:27. If the words kept and guarded, describe what was done effectually by Jesus, and this seems to be the only natural interpretation of them, then, 'from the nature of the case it is impossible' that Judas was meant to be included, and this expression is, therefore in a grammatical respect, parallel to Luke 4:26-27, and Galatians 1:19" (Alvah Hovey, An American Commentary on the New Testament, John, p. 343).
We might paraphrase the verse (or this part of it) in this manner without damaging the meaning of it: "Those that Thou gavest me I have kept, and none of the apostles are lost, but the son of perdition."
It is always dangerous and useless to try to prove the point one way or the other by the lives of men in the Bible and in our own day, such as Demas (2 Timothy 4:10). Was he saved in the first place? If so, there is no evidence that he was lost, or did not later repent and return to Christ (as Peter). Who would have ever thought backslidden Lot was a saved man? Yet the Holy Spirit calls him "just Lot," and "that righteous man" vexing his "righteous soul" (2 Peter 2:7-8). Thus you see how impossible it is to prove anything by the lives of men.
II. Their Practice
Two things are said about the sheep. They "hear my voice," says the Son of God, "and they follow me" (vs. 27). Now look at this, and look at it well; here is perseverance! They will endure to the end (Matthew 24:13), they will not fall away, or draw back unto perdition (Hebrews 6:4-6; 10:38-39), they will not go back fully and willfully into sin (2 Peter 2:20-22); for they hear the voice of Christ and follow Him! "The real believer is like the stream that flows from a living fountain. The spurious believer is like the flow of water from an overturned cup" (O. C. S. Wallace, What Baptists Believe, p. 75).
That answers the argument: "If I believed that I'd live in sin, for I'd be saved anyway; once saved always saved."
"A preacher had been preaching that when we are saved we are always saved. One of his hearers said to him: 'If I believed like you preacher, I'd just go out and sin all I please.' The preacher replied, 'Brother Jones, don't you already sin all you want to?' After a moment of reflection, the brother replied, 'Yes sir, more than I want to'" (Buell H. Kazee, Faith is the Victory).
Ask the Christian who believes in eternal security if he lives as he pleases. "If you ask him if, after believing, he may live as he pleases, he will reply, 'Would God I could live as I please, for I desire to live altogether without sin. I would be perfect, even as my Father in Heaven is perfect'" (Charles H. Spurgeon, Expository Encyclopedia, Vol. 12, p. 315).
The Christian so perseveres because it is "God which worketh in him both to will and to do of His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13), and "whatsoever God doeth it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor anything taken from it" (Ecclesiastes 3:14). Christ lives in the believer (Galatians 2:20), and Christ is greater than all enemies of the soul (1 John 4:4). "He that perseveres in faith does so only through God's gracious preservation; the believer's perseverance is a work of divine grace and omnipotence" (F. Pieper, Christian Dogmatics, Vol. III, p. 89).
III. Their Provision
"And I give unto them eternal life."
It is a gift: "I give." "The gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:23). It is a free gift (ASV). That makes it by grace (Ephesians 2:8-9). "And if by grace, then is it no more of works; otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace; otherwise work is no more work" (Romans 11:6). We are not kept saved by living a good life, by keeping the law, by doing the best we can, any more than we were saved by such works in the start! It is by grace all the way through!
It is a present gift. "I give (am giving) unto them eternal life." The word is translated giveth in John 3:34; 6:32, "My Father giveth you the true bread;" and many other references in the present tense.
Christ gives eternal life this very moment to His sheep because He is their life (Colossians 3:4). Thus, "he that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life" (John 3:36).
It is an eternal gift: "Eternal life". Christ our life is eternal, therefore our life in Him is eternal. He lives for ever (Revelation 1:18), and because He lives, we who believe shall also live for ever! (John 14:19). He lives for ever (Hebrews 7:25), therefore we who believe are saved forever by His life (Romans 5:10), for we possess that life of Christ (1 John 5:12). "Can that end which had no beginning?" (W. H. Jellie, The Preacher's Homiletic Commentary, on Jeremiah 31:3). The Christian is a "partaker of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4), and that nature can never perish. But cannot God withdraw that nature from a saved person? Never. "The gifts and calling of God are without repentance" (Romans 11:29). That is, God will never repent of giving salvation to His own.
IV. The Promise
"They shall never perish." The Roman Catholic Douay Version renders it: "they shall not perish for ever!" And Berry's Interlinear Greek-English New Testament translates it: "and in no wise shall they perish for ever." The only way you can lose life is by death. How then can the saved one lose everlasting life when they shall never perish? Whosoever believeth in Jesus Christ shall not perish, because he has everlasting life (John 3:16). The same word for eternal (vs. 28) is used for the eternal blessedness of the saved in eternity, and the everlasting punishment (same word) of the lost in everlasting fire (Matthew 25:46); and of the everlasting God (Romans 16:26). Therefore you see the endless duration of this life in Christ.
"They shall never perish." "But suppose they sin?" someone asks. They do (Ecclesiastes 7:20). If we say that we (Christians) have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (1 John 1:8). Must I get saved again, when I sin? No. While there is no excuse for a Christian to sin, yet "if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous" (1 John 2:1). The word advocate (parakletos) means intercessor or consoler (Strong). Christ pleads on our behalf, as the propitiation for our sins (vs. 2). Propitiation carries the thought of the Old Testament mercy-seat (and is so translated, Hebrews 9:5), where the blood was shed and God and man met in reconciliation. That is how Christ effectually advocates for His own. For this reason we are "saved to the uttermost," or entirely, seeing Christ ever liveth to "make intercession" for us (Hebrews 7:25). No one can lay any charge to God's elect, God declares them righteous, Christ died instead of them, rose from death, and at God's right hand "maketh intercession" for them (Romans 8:33-34).
"But our sins committed after we are saved, do they not condemn us?" Nay, "Christ died for our sins" (1 Corinthians 15:3), and "the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin" (1 John 1:7). All of our sins! Past, present, future. God has forgotten about them (Hebrews 10:17).
Suppose I lose my faith? It is only he that believeth on the Son that hath everlasting life; I have it only as long as I keep believing." You will never lose your faith in Christ, if it be true faith. Christ prays for you no less than He prayed for Peter, that your faith fail not (Luke 22:31-32). He is ot only the Author but also the Finisher or Completer or Perfector of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).
"But suppose I do not let him?" You cannot stop Him (Daniel 4:35)! He prays that thy faith fail not, and it will not fail! He is the Finisher of that faith!
Besides this Christ prays that all believers be kept (John 17:11), kept from the evil, or evil one (ASV, verse 15), and that they might all be brought home to glory to behold Christ's richness (vs. 24). Will those prayers fail? Banish the thought. The Father always hears the Son and answers His prayers (John 11:41-42; 1 John 5:14-15).
By Christ's passion on the cross, prayers and power, every saved person is kept; "kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation" (1 Peter 1:5). To all such it is written, "The Lord is thy keeper" (Psalm 121:5). He is "able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy" (Jude 24). Confess with Paul the Apostle: "I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day" (2 Timothy 1:12). I have committed to Him my soul and body and spirit. He will keep it. "And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto His heavenly kingdom; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen." (2 Timothy 4:18).
"But suppose I should stray or wander away from Christ? What then?" Christ the Shepherd will go after the lost sheep "until He find it" (Luke 15:4). Indeed you cannot forsake Him for He will not forsake you. "He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee" (Hebrews 13:5). Never!
"Will He not grow weary of my waywardness?" He answers, "Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out" (John 6:37). It is the same Greek word, translated never in John 10:28. Christ will never cast you out. Never! The poorest believer in Jesus Christ "hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death into (ASV) life" (John 5:24). If he is ever cast out, if he ever is condemned and lost after he believed and was saved, God has failed to keep His Word and lied! Blasphemy!
Think you that Jesus Christ is more concerned about rolls and fish than He is about precious souls? He who after feeding the five thousand men, besides women and children, with loaves and fishes, said: "Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost" (John 6:12). The same Savior said: "And 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" (John 6:39). It is the Father's will to lose none of them. The Holy Spirit attests that every one of the foreknown, predestinated, called, and justified are glorified (Romans 8:29-30), for it is as good as accomplished! Christ suffered for sin on the cross to "bring us to God" (1 Peter 3:18). "He shall not fail" (Isaiah 42:4). Christ shall confirm us "unto the end … blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 1:8).
"Saints are compared … to Mount Zion that cannot be moved" (Psalm 125:1; and to a house built on a rock (Matthew 7:24). Though they fall, God raises them up (Psalm 37:24; Proverbs 24:16), (Christopher Ness, An Antidote Against Arminianism, p. 96).
"No wise man, who has an end in view, but will devise and make use of proper means; and will, if in his power, make those means effectual to attain the end, or he will not act a wise part. The end which God has in view, and has fixed, with respect to His people, is the salvation of them; and it can never be consistent with His wisdom to appoint insufficient menas, or not to make those means effectual, which it is in His power to do; which must be the case, if any of those He has appointed to salvation should perish … Where would be His wisdom to appoint men to salvation, and not save them at last? to send His Son to redeem them, and they be never the better for it? And to send His Spirit unto them, to begin a good work of grace, and not finish it?" (John Gill, Body of Divinity, pp. 564-565).
V. Their Protection
"Neither shall any ("man" is not in the Greek) pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all, and no (man) is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand" (vss. 28-29). The word for man means "not even one (man, woman or thing), i.e. none, nobody, nothing" (J. Strong's Concordance and Dictionary). Not only no man, but nobody (including Satan), nothing (circumstances, sin) can pull us out of the Omnipotent hand holding us! That includes you. You cannot will out or jump out.
Yet we read: "The good Shepherd loves His sheep; if the sheep deliberately squirms out of the arms of the Shepherd, jumps off the precipice and breaks its neck, the Shepherd's love is vain; but He loves the sheep nevertheless" (Theodore Hoyer, The Abiding Word, Vol. II, p. 227). The divine Shepherd is neither so ignorant of the moods and movements of the sheep (Psalm 103:14), so weak, that He cannot hold them firmly (Isaiah 40:11), nor so careless as to allow them to jump to destruction (Psalm 91:11). "Jesus paid too great a price for His jewels to be missing on that Day. If He came from Heaven to die for us when we hated Him, can He leave us to perish now that we love Him? (Romans 5:8-10). Luther boldly exclaimed, 'Let Him that died for my soul see to the salvation of it.' He does love us to the end (John 13:1). He sees to it that the first justification of the believing sinner becomes the continuing justification of the sinning believer. What He does is beyond recall (Romans 11:29). As He holds us in His hands, He says, 'They will never be lost, and no one will tear them out of my hand' (John 10:28). 'What would you think if, after all, you were to slip out of the hand of Christ?' someone asked. 'Oh I cannot,' the woman answered, 'I am His hand.' That is true: 'Don't you know that your bodies are members of Christ?' (1 Corinthians 6:15)." (W. F. Beck, Concordia Theological Monthly, p. 506, July 1952).
The tribal names of God's people were engraved upon the stones of the ephod (Exodus 28:6-14) and engraved upon the stones of the breastplate of the Old Testament High Priest (Exodus 28:15-29), and to be worn "before the Lord continually" (vss. 12 and 29). Later, Jehovah said to Israel: "I will not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands" (Isaiah 49:16). They are not just written on, easy to be rubbed off, but engraved!
Surely you have read enough to know that God's power and wisdom and love keeps the elect saved and brings every one safely into the haven of Heaven. If it now were possible for a saved person to become lost again, "why does God not take them out of the world while they are in the saved state? Surely no one will say that it is because He cannot, or that it is because He does not foresee their future apostasy. Why, then, does He leave these objects of His affection here to fall back into sin and perish? His gift of continued life to these Christians amounts to an infinite curse placed upon them. But who can really believe that the heavenly Father takes no better care of His children than that?" (L. Boettner, Ibid., p. 183).
With what great security has God guarded His redeemed, in that He has sealed them with the Holy Ghost "unto the day of redemption" (Eph. 4:30). It is the divine "time-lock" preserving the saved unto, or into the day of eternity. Banks have massive vault doors of solid cast steel weighing 20 tons. Once they are locked for the night none can open from the outside until the time clock releases the mechanism the next morning. Yet, if you know how, the door can be opened from the inside with a screwdriver. God seals His people with the Holy Ghost and there is no screwdriver to open the lock! And the lock has been sealed unto the end.
Does this not do away with the Christian's freedom? "No one denies that the redeemed in Heaven will be preserved in holiness. Yet if God is able to preserve His saints in Heaven without violating their free agency, may He not also preserve His saints on earth without violating their free agency?" (L. Boettner, Ibid., p. 184).
In conclusion: To those who still thing they must do their part to keep saved – "You will be damned within another second, unless grace keep you out of Hell" (Chas. H. Spurgeon, Expository Encyclopedia, Vol. 12, p. 312). "If Satan and Adam both fell away from perfect holiness, it is a million to one that, in a world full of temptations and with all appetites and habits against me, I shall fall away from imperfect holiness, unless God by His almighty power keep me" (S. R. Mason, quoted in A. H. Strong's Systematic Theology, p. 883).
If a saved soul can be lost then God's character can be lost! And God would lose more than any once saved soul could possibly lose. "If they should fall away and perish, every office, and work, and attribute of Christ would be stained in the mire. If any one child of God should perish, where were Christ's covenant engagements? What is He worth as a mediator of the covenant and the surety of it, if He hath not made the promises sure to all the seed? My brethren, Christ is made a leader and commander of the people, to bring many souls into glory; but if He doth not bring them into glory, where is the captain's honour? Where is the efficacy of the precious blood, if it does not effectually redeem? If it only redeemeth for a time and then suffereth us to perish, where is its value? If it only blots out sin for a few weeks, and then permits that sin to return and to remain upon us, where, I say, is the glory of Calvary, and where is the lustre of the wounds of Jesus? He lives, He lives to intercede, but how can I honour His intercession, if it be fruitless? Does He not pray, 'Father, I will that they also, whom Thou hast given me, be with me where I am;' and if they be not finally brought to be with Him where He is, where is the honour of His intercession? Hath not the Pleader failed, and the great Mediator been dismissed without success? Is He not at this day in union with His people? But what is the value of union to Christ, if that union does not insure salvation? Is He not today at the right hand of God, preparing a place for His saints; and will He prepare a place for them, and then lose them on the road? Oh! Can it be that He procures the harp and the crown and will not save souls to use them? My brethren, the perishing of one true child of God, would be such dishonour to Jesus, that I cannot think of it without considering it as blasphemy. One true believer in Hell! Oh! What laughter in the pit – what defiance, what unholy mirth! 'Ah! Prince of life and glory,' saith the prince of the pit, 'I have defeated Thee; I have snatched the prey from the mighty, and the lawful captive I have delivered; I have torn a jewel from Thy crown. See, here it is! Thou didst redeem this soul with blood, and yet it is in Hell.' Hear what Satan cries – 'Christ suffered for this soul, and yet God makes it suffer for itself. Where is the justice of God? Christ came from Heaven to earth to save this soul, and failed in the attempt, and I have Him here;' and as he plunges that soul into deeper waves of woe, the shout of triumph goes up more and more blasphemously – 'We have conquered Heaven! We have rent the eternal covenant; we have foiled the purposes of God; we have defeated His decree; we have triumphed over the power of the Mediator, and cast His blood to the ground!' Shall it ever be? Atrocious question! It can never be." (Chas. H. Spurgeon, Ibid., pp. 298-299).
The question may be asked: "What about infants? Are not all infants saved? If they should die would they not all go to Heaven? Then they are saved in infancy. When they come to the age of accountability and reject Christ they become lost, and lost until they turn to Christ. Thus we have many who have been saved at one time, then lost afterward."
The question may be answered in several ways. 1. Only the elect infants are saved, and only the elect infants die and go to Heaven. Those who grow up and live all their lives rejecting Christ were never saved. 2. If non-elect infants die, they are lost. There would be no injustice whatsoever. If the infant had lived and grown into manhood it would have still refused Christ and only heaped more sin and punishment upon it! God sees the whole man in the child. We do not. In the end what is the difference if the Christ rejecting soul go to Hell as an infant or an adult?
Can a saved soul ever be lost? Hear the Word of God, in closing: The Christian has a life that can never be forfeited (Rom. 8:31-39; Col. 3:3; Phil. 1:6); a relationship that can never be abrogated (Gal. 3:26; 1 John 3:1-2; Rom. 8:18); a righteousness that can never be tarnished (Rom. 3:25-26; 1 Cor. 1:30; 2 Cor. 5:21); an acceptance that can never be questioned (Eph. 1:6; Rom. 8:3-34); a judgment that can never be repeated (Rom. 8:1, RV.; Gal. 3:13; John 5:24, RV); a title that can never be clouded (2 Tim. 1:12; Eph. 1:13-14; 1 Pet. 1:3-5); a standing that can never be disputed (Rom. 8:29-34; 1 John 4:17; Rom. 5:12); a justification that can never be reversed (Rom. 8:30-34; Eph. 1:4-13; Phil. 3:10); a seal that can never be broken (Eph. 1:13; 4:30; 2 Tim. 2:19); an inheritance that can never fade away (1 Pet. 1:3-5; Eph. 1:11, 14, 18, 19; Col. 1:12); a resource that can never be diminished (2 Cor. 9:8; Col. 3:3; Eph. 3:20-21); a bank that can never be closed (Rom. 11:33; Phil. 4:19; Eph. 1:7); a peace that can never be disturbed (Rom. 5:1; Phil. 4:6-7; Isa. 26:3); a joy that can never be surpassed (Gal. 5:22; Rom. 5:1-3; Phil. 4:4; 1 Pet. 1:8); a power that can never be exhausted (Eph. 1:18-19; Phil. 4:13; Col 1:11); a salvation that can never be annulled (Rom. 8:1; Isa. 45:17; Heb. 5:9); a Bible that can never be destroyed (1 Pet. 1:23-25; Heb. 4:12; Matt. 24:35); an Intercessor who can never be disqualified (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25; Rom. 8:26); a glory that can never be dimmed (Col. 3:4; 2 Cor. 4:16-17; Rom. 8:18); a destiny that can never be changed (Rom 8:28-31; John 10:27-30; Jude 24). (I have copied this from a mimeographed sheet by Bert Atchison, Orlando, Fla.)
"One of the best proofs that God's love shall have no end is that it has no beginning" (L. Boettner, Ibid., pp. 198-199). See Jer. 31:3.
"For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."—Rom. 8:38-39. Amen!
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