Security of the Believer
One of the most common spiritual issues believers face is the security of salvation. Whether they are seeds of doubt creeping into a Christian life or the Spirit’s convicting about a person’s own lostness1, the nature of salvation is often a topic of theological questioning, counseling, matters of prayer, or struggles in the lives of those around us. God’s Word gives us clarity around the security of salvation. As Fellowship Bible Church, we believe that those who come into the faith are eternally secure in Christ and His finished work.
Our sinful, lost state is only redeemed and changed by Jesus Christ, who living the sinless life we could not, bore our sin upon the cross, died, and was resurrected on the third day. Now by grace through faith, mankind is able to receive the free gift of salvation by repenting of our sin and believing in Christ and His finished work2. The joy we then have as believers is not just that our sins are forgiven, but that we are in Christ for eternity. In Jesus’ prayer before he faced the cross 3, He rejoiced that God gave eternal, not temporal or conditional, life to believers and that no one will be able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand4.
Our security in salvation is the certainty that what God has begun in us will be brought to completion for the sake of His name, glory, and promise5. The believer’s salvation rests on the Who of our faith, not the quality of the faith or level of obedience. The act of justification is a one-time proclamation that sinners are imputed the righteousness of Christ on their behalf6 as a free gift of grace from the Father because of what Christ accomplished on the cross7. It is God that acts, God that imputes, God that saves, and God that sovereignly completes the salvation of the believer. Since it is His work, He will preserve those whom He calls.
The Role and Work of the Spirit
The Holy Spirit acts in the justification and security of the believer. Not only does the Spirit’s work of regeneration8 occur upon salvation, but He serves as a seal and earnest, or a down payment and guarantee9, to the believer. Seals in the Old and New Testament were used to protect a promised contract from tampering. The sealing of the Holy Spirit is the declaration of God’s claim upon us and gives us claim on Him10. The use of an earnest or down payment is a way to guarantee with a deposit to secure a future purchase. On the day of the believer’s death or return of Christ, the claim the Holy Spirit laid upon those redeemed will be made complete by the Spirit’s possession with the joy of eternity waiting.
The Work of Justification and Our Sanctification
While the process of sanctification through external fruit displays an internal change, this can’t be confused with acts of justification since it does not earn nor maintain salvation. Obedience doesn’t save anyone. But where there is a true Gospel response, there will always be obedience. This is the relationship in scripture between faith and good deeds11. A Christian’s security comes from Christ and not the amount or quality of obedience.
When it comes to the question of losing salvation, Christians must go back to how they were saved. As others have said, “If you could lose your salvation, you would.” If our salvation depended upon our works or our fervency of faith, we would certainly not gain salvation. In light of our sin, He still saves to the “uttermost”12. Praise God, once we come into the faith through His grace, we are sustained in the faith by His grace13.
Understanding the Scriptural Context
There are verses in the Bible that seem problematic to the security of believers. In examining those verses, it is important to remember the rule of interpretation of scripture. Context is key. A verse like Hebrews 6:4-8 is sandwiched between the supremacy of Christ, admonishment to go deeper into the teachings of Christ, and God’s promises being secured in Christ. A passage like Hebrews 6:4-8 teaches that those who were once “enlightened” cannot be restored if they have fallen away from the faith.
For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and to its end is to be burned. Hebrews 6:4-8 (ESV)
The author of Hebrews is not speaking of a backslidden or carnal Christian or even the capacity to lose one’s salvation. The context gives us a “what if” proposition that states salvation is only through the grace of Christ and the law cannot save if Christ be abandoned. If a believer who had once tasted the Gospel and somehow could walk away, there would be no sacrifice, nor law, left for that individual to receive forgiveness. The kind of person that can chase sin without repentance14, though they have participated in the life of the Body and even seen outwardly as being a believer, is actually an apostate and never was a believer15.
Security gives believers peace. Indeed, if you have Christ, you cannot lose Christ. We should have peace that the power to persevere is not in our best ability, but in the love of the Father, the finished work of Christ and the sealing of the Spirit.
Lastly, our security is for God’s glory. His promise of salvation to those He calls is for His eternal glory through the purchase of our Savior, Jesus Christ. “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling to present you blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” (Jude 24-25)
FOOTNOTES: 1 2 Corinthians 13:5 2 See Fellowship’s Confession of Faith, The Gospel 3 John 17:1-3 4 John 10:28-30 5 Philippians 1:6 6 2 Corinthians 5:21 7 Romans 3:25-26; 5:16 8 Titus 3:5 9 Ephesians 1:13-14; 2 Corinthians 1:22, 5:5 10 Clowney, Edmund, “The Holy Spirit as Seal and Pledge,” Ligonier.org May 1, 1992, https://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/the-holy-spirit-as-seal-and-pledge/ 11 James 2:14-26 12 Hebrews 7:25 13 John 10:28; 2 Peter 3:18 14 Hebrews 10:26 15 1 John 2:19