THE SECURITY OF THE BELIEVER
©2008 John H Mattox
This doctrine is often presented in a summarized form
as Once Saved, Always Saved. This statement of the doctrine,
while posing no difficulty to those who understand the full
scope of salvation, seems to evoke a militant opposition from
those who do not have such an understanding. To such
individuals, the statement once saved, always saved, appears to
imply that being saved amounts to acquiring a sin-license; so
that a person, once he is saved, may thereafter sin with
impunity. The fact that salvation involves regeneration,
resulting in a new nature being implanted in the believer, seems
to be unknown to those who oppose the doctrine.
However, since there is so much possibility for misunderstanding the doctrine when it is presented from this viewpoint, the writer has always preferred to refer to it as The Security of the Believer or as The Preservation of the Saints. The doctrine, while taught in many passages of both Testaments, is given rather elaborate treatment by the Apostle Paul in the eighth chapter of his Epistle to the Romans, verses 28 through 39. At least five different lines of argument are employed by the Apostle to prove that a believer in Christ can never lose his salvation. These five arguments, for want of better terminology, may be called The General Argument, The Theological Argument, The Practical Argument, The Legal Argument, and The Devotional Argument. Let us consider each of these arguments in detail.
Paul's general argument proving the security of the saved is stated in verse 28:
"For we know that all things work together for good to them that love God; to them who are the called according to his purpose."
Had Paul referred in this argument only to those who love God,
it conceivably could be argued that the effectiveness of such a
wonderful promise would depend upon the fervor of our love
for God. Since we are all aware that our love for God is not
what it should be, we might, therefore, find little consolation in
this passage. However, Paul further identifies those who love
God, as those who are the called according to his purpose. This
makes the promise an objective, rather than a subjective, one;
it does not depend upon the degree of our love for God, but
rather rests upon the fact that he has called us unto salvation.
Granted, then, that the subjects of this remarkable assurance include all who have been effectually called of God, what is the actual import of the statement? Simply this: If it is true that all things work together for good to those who are saved (called of God), then they cannot lose their salvation; for to do so would certainly not be for their good. It is impossible to concede the truth of this passage and yet argue with any semblance of logic that these to whom all things work together for good, could, nevertheless, be lost! The same assurance, although stated in negative terms, is found in the Old Testament, Proverbs 12:21:
"There shall no evil happen to the just."
If it were possible for the just to lose their salvation, that would
be an evil happening indeed!
This line of argument is sufficient to convince the believer of his eternal security, but God not only comforts the hearts of his children through his Word, but also stops the mouths of unbelievers. Thus, Paul is not content merely with stating a general argument as to the believer's security; he passes on to what may be termed the theological argument. This argument is based on the known facts of God's dealings with the saved. They were first foreknown, then predestined to be conformed to the image of God's Son; they were then called, then justified, then glorified. While all five of these acts are spoken of in the past tense, it is obvious that glorification (as far as our experience is concerned) is yet in the future. However, Paul is stating the facts from the viewpoint of God, who "calleth the things that be not, as though they were." Thus our final salvation depends upon a five-link chain, whose links were forged by God, himself, stretching from eternity past to etemity future. Who can break such a chain as that? From eternity past, when God foreknew his elect, to eternity future, when he shall glorify those same elect ones, every step in our salvation is the work of God. Having first purposed to save us, and then having carried out that purpose and having actually saved us, would he then, because of wrong doing on our part, cast us out? We did not have to do good to be saved; why then should we have to do good to remain saved?
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The Security Of The Believer (cont)
This argument is likewise sufficient in itself to reassure the believer; but Paul is not content to stop here. He continues to pile assurance upon assurance. Passing from the theological argument, he takes up another line of proof in verses 31 and 32 which we have called the practical argument:
"What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us who can be against us? He that spared not his own son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him freely give us all things?"
The practical argument which Paul here summarizes is too
often ignored by both sides of the controversy. It requires a
curious type of mentality indeed to believe that God, having
delivered up his beloved Son to shameful suffering and death
in order to save guilty sinners, would then cast aside those
saved sinners, merely because they proved themselves, though
saved, to be still sinners! Such dealings would be most
impractical on the part of a God who knew from the beginning
that salvation would not make men sinless. Paul's point is this:
Having given us (or on our behalf) the dearest possession he
had, will God then withhold from us those things which, though
exceedingly precious, are yet of far less value than the Son of
God? Would God devote his Son to suffering and death in our
stead, and then deny us that salvation which Christ died to secure?
Paul then in verse 33 considers the believer's legal status before the judgement bar of God:
"Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect?"
The expression lay to the charge of is the Greek word enkaleo which means to accuse, or to bring charges against. In its technical sense, the word appears to refer primarily to the original charges because of which a person is called into court. (The word literally denotes to call in.) Note its usage in the following passages:
"Therefore, if Demetrius, and the craftsman which are with
him, have against any man, the law is open, and there are
deputies: let them implead one another."
"For we are in danger to be called into question for this day's uproar."
"And when I would have known the cause wherefore they accused him, I brought him forth into their council: Whom I perceived to be accused of questions of their law."
It seems obvious from these illustrations that the word
in question refers to the original charges which result in the
accused being brought before a tribunal for judgement. The
accusations made in the course of the trial, whether by a
prosecutor, or by witnesses, are denoted by the word kategoreo,
to accuse. It therefore appears that Paul's dialogue with himself
in verses 33 and 34 signifies the following: "Who has the
authority to call one of God's elect before the bar of judgment?
Only God, himself, the very one (vs.30) who has previously
justified them." In our system of jurisprudence, the person who
officially summons a citizen to court to be judged is the public
prosecutor, variously called district attorney, state attorney,
prosecuting attorney, etc. In the court of heavenly justice, God,
himself, is the prosecuting attorney-the adversary with whom
men are advised to agree quickly, lest he deliver them to the
judge. See Matthew 5:25. The word adversary here refers to a
legal, not a personal enemy. Paul then inquires, "Who is the
one who pronounces judgment?" He answers: "Christ, who
died, yea rather that is risen again, who is even at the right
hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us." "Who is the
judge?" "It is Christ, the very one who died to save us from
judgment; He who also rose and now sits at the right hand of
God, interceding for us." Thus the believer's legal position is
incredibly unassailable. He finds himself (legally) in the
position of having for a prosecuting attorney, one who has, on
unimpeachable grounds already declared him to be righteous
before the claims of the law. Furthermore, he finds sitting on
the bench as judge, the one who took his place under the
sentence of the law as his substitute, and who bore all of the
punishment he deserved in his stead. Moreover, this same
Person who sits as judge is the believer's own defense attorney,
who even now represents him before the heavenly bar of justice.
Can anyone ask for a more impregnable legal position than
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The Security Of The Believer (cont)
It will be remembered that in Rev. 12:10, Satan is called
the accuser of the brethren, and it is asserted that he accuses
them before God day and night. How does Satan's position as
accuser of the brethren fit in with what has been said above?
In the passage cited, the word kategoreo is used, rather than the
word enkaleo. As stated previously, the word kategoreo is used
primarily to refer to giving testimony, or making accusations, in
court. It is often used in a non-legal sense with the simply
meaning of to accuse. In a legal setting it refers to making
accusations against the accused, whether by a prosecutor, or by
witnesses. Note Acts 24:2, 8, & 18, where the word accuse
stands for kategoreo; also verse 19, where the Greek word is
translated object. Thus, by the use of this term, Satan is
depicted as making accusations, or giving testimony, against the
brethren, before the throne of God. However, since only God
has the authority to call his elect into court, which he
obviously will not do (since he has already pronounced them
to be righteous), Satan is in the position of attempting to give
testimony against persons who have not been indicted, or called
into court! No wonder he is finally ejected from the heavenly
premises and his place is no more found in heaven!
Having pointed out by four different lines of proof the believer's perfect security, Paul then proceeds to the fifth and last argument, which we may call the devotional argument. The Apostle has shown that our eternal security is the result of the various positions which are ours by the marvelous grace of God. Our general position is such that all things work together for our eventual welfare. Our theological position is that of having been foreknown by God and predestinated to be made like his Son. Our practical position is that God gave his dearest possession to effect our salvation. Our legal position is that only he who justified us can initiate legal charges against us; furthermore, even if we could be brought into court, the judge is the very one who became our substitute to save us from judgment. Moreover, that same person is our defense attorney, or, advocate.
Paul now shows that our eternal security is unquestionable because of our emotional position. We are the objects of Christ's devotional love (agape). If this be true, how can we ever be separated from his love? In the strongest terms possible, Paul asserts that we cannot be separated from the love of Christ. He runs the entire gamut of things that might be supposed to have the power to do so; then he rules out any unmentioned possibilities by saying, "nor any other creature (created being) shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." It is unthinkable that anyone who is the object of such unchangeable love could ever find that he has been cast aside because he did not measure up to the expectations of God.
The following poem was found written on the wall of a room in an insane asylum. The writer had apparently been adjudged insane by ungodly men. Would God that we all suffered from his form of insanity!
Could we with ink the oceans fill,
And were the skies of parchment made;
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God, above,
Would drain the oceans dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.