Will God allow His children, born from His own Spirit, adopted into His family in Christ, and indwelt by His Holy Spirit as a guarantee of our inheritance (Eph. 1:14)… to apostatize and lose their justified, beloved place in His sight?
Understand what is at stake: Many who love Christ, His Word, His promises, and His gospel nonetheless teach that the regeneration unto eternal life is revocable upon crossing certain boundary markers. Put another way, they teach us that Christ has no sure hold on His people – any one of us could apostatize, lose our justified standing before the Father, who disowns us, the Holy Spirit leaves us, and we are once again headed for hell.
This is detrimental to the Christian understanding of salvation.
What would Romans 8 (Paul’s magnum opus on Christian security in Christ) look like if God actually let His children lose their faith and die under His wrath? It would be ugly – check it out:
Am I Really His?
I have seen this question consume people, and I’ll bet you have too. Am I really saved? Do I believe enough in the Lord Jesus Christ, or is my belief just an illusion? Why is there still sin in my life if I am a Christian? Does my baptism really count if I walk away from the church? How much repentance do I have to have to know I’ve really repented? Am I really an adopted, regenerated, justified child of God, or am I a deluded enemy of Christ, being fattened for the slaughter? The Word of God has answers for you and me – we do not have to live in fear. Let’s dive into this question with confidence.
Blind Eyes in a Sunny Field
Picture the Christian life as a literal walk through a big field. The goal of reaching the presence of Jesus is on the far end of the field, and we begin many miles from it. Only now imagine if our eyes did not work, and yet we were to be led by the shining of the sun (Son) out in front of us. This is the walk of faith – it is our walk through this life, this world of shadows. We do not yet see Him – our eyes are closed! Yet He calls us to walk towards Him in repentance. As baby Christians we begin to totter and feel our way through the field, eyes closed but smiling – we know our Lord and best friend is shining on us from the other end of the field. We feel the warmth of the sun on our faces as we are facing Him, walking towards Him in repentant faith.
Yummy Remembrances of the Death we are Escaping
Sin is a lot like a distraction in this analogy. We are sidetracked by the smell of something tasty off to our left or right, so we deviate from the path that Christ calls us to walk. We sniff our way over into the bushes and begin to eat poison berries because they just taste so good. We know they are poison, but we figure we’ll have some anyways, because we’re hungry. While we’re in the berry bush, we fall asleep under the effects of the poison, and lie down in the shrubs and grass. What happens when we awaken? We’re disoriented, we feel around in the grass, and we immediately think of the sun – where is He? He is yet still in the same place He was when we went off course – shining down His warmth and love on us, but in our nap time we lost track of which direction we were going. Sin disorients us, and messes with our faith in Christ. Yet we get back up by His grace, feel the heat of the sun, and begin walking toward Him again. Many Christians begin to doubt they are in the field (the church) at this point. “How could I be so blind as to eat the berries?” How could I truly be facing the correct end of the field if I’m off the path eating poison? In His love for us, our Father allows us to make our sinful mistakes, to taste the bitterness when we have not trusted Him – and to feel the disorientation of being off of His path. All of the consequences of sin are used by the Father to discipline His children (Heb. 12:5-11), and to keep us from ultimate, eternal destruction. His promises given to us in our baptism are extended forever – there is nothing but grace for those who are His (Rom. 8:28-39)
We Cannot be Lost if we Are in His Field
This is the bottom line of the Christian gospel given to us in Christ Jesus. This is the sure foundation underneath all of our experience – that we receive warnings such as Hebrews 3:12-13 “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” as a part of the means that God uses to confirm His elect people in their salvation, as the next verse assures us “For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end” (Heb. 3:14 NKJV). May we not force a rationalistic reading of these texts wherein we negate the clear promises of God to preserve infallibly each of His regenerate, justified people. Allow the tension to stand: God gives dire warnings to His people who cannot be lost that they ought to hold fast to Christ so as not to be lost. Thank You, Father, for Your wisdom and love for us.
So Abide in Him
We’re in His field, walking toward the sun. We’re His beloved, chosen people. And right there in Hebrews 3:14, we see the completion of our analogy: We have truly begun walking toward the sun/Son if we continue walking toward Him. By converse, if one does not continue holding fast the confidence in Christ, he has not begun to trust Christ in the first place. So then, abide in Him my dear friends.
The Field of Salvation is a Globe
It turns out that from God’s perspective (in our analogy) – no matter what direction we are walking in His field, the sun will shine on our faces, drawing us to His warmth and love. The blessed mystery of the faith is that our Father in heaven has set us in a path which cannot but lead to eternal life. All of our stumbling and unbelief will have been part of the gracious means God uses to preserve His people, for Jesus promises “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out (John 6:37). By. No. Means. All who fall from grace, therefore, are falling away from a relationship to Christ that was never true, never really begun in the first place, though it would appear so to us (think wheat and tares). So as you walk, dear Christian, through this world of sorrows and darkness, know you are in a field that is a globe. You may walk 10,000 miles in a direction that is not perfect, but you have only circled the world of Christ’s keeping power – He is still right there in front of you. You cannot be lost. Meditate on this – Jesus will not lose even one of His weakest sheep. This is the joy-producing, love-emboldening, endurance-creating, and selflessness-promoting grace of God in Christ Jesus’ death and resurrection for you. He has set you in a broad path, one from which you cannot be lost and destroyed. Believe it, and rest assured in Him. Thanks for reading, -Adam
I have been meditating on Christ’s promises to His people that He will never leave us or forsake us (Matt. 28:20; Heb. 13:5-6).
In my decade long life in Christ, I have learned much and grown much in my knowledge of the Bible, but nothing has comforted me and created more joy in me than the promise that I cannot lose the grace of forgiveness that God has given me.
I want to hone in on Romans 8:28. In regarding this verse of Scripture, we can see that the clear testimony of the Holy Spirit is that those He has called are never lost, but will always remain the people of Christ. Let’s soak in this joy together.
Three excellent translations of the verse:
28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (NASB)
28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. (NKJV)
28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (ESV)
The NASB draws from a slightly different ancient manuscript tradition than the NKJV and ESV. Let’s look at it first before the latter two, treating the three as a harmony, and like a jewel being turned in the light.
“And we know that…” Paul/the Holy Spirit is giving us assurance of the knowledge of the information in this clause. For the Christian, there is no doubting what will be said hereafter.
“…God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God…” So then, for the Christian, we can always fall back on this sure knowledge: there is nothing outside of “all things” – and praise God, He “causes” everything that happens to “work together for good” for His people. Nothing is outside of God’s sovereign, gracious control. When there are calamities both within our lives and in the world at large, God is actively orchestrating and allowing these “all things” for the good of “those who love God,” which is another way of saying “Christians.” Continue reading
Continuing the theme I’ve picked up in the past week, it only seemed right to speak in more detail of the doctrines of grace, and the ever-comforting doctrine of the Preservation of the Saints.
It seems there are a million sources I could quote to deal with this profound truth, yet the actual words of Jesus Himself trump them all. Please look at what He prays here in John 17, just moments before He was arrested, carried off, and by the next day murdered by the Jewish leaders.
High Priest on our Behalf
This chapter is often labeled as the “High Priestly Prayer of Jesus,” and such it is. This is where He goes before the Father on behalf of His people, and prays a prayer of intercession for us. If you cannot see the comfort intended here, that we cannot lose our salvation, then you must begin again in your system of doctrine. This text is a clear seat of doctrine, able to interpret less clear texts.
I will make a few sparse comments here (in blue), but the point is to focus on Jesus’ words. Keep asking questions of the text as you read, especially, “Can His prayers go unanswered?”
17 Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, 2 even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life.
Jesus assumes that there are people “given” to Him by the Father. It is to these people that Jesus gives eternal life.
3 This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. 4 I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do.
5 Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.
Jesus is God.
6 “I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world; they were Yours and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. 7 Now they have come to know that everything You have given Me is from You; 8 for the words which You gave Me I have given to them; and they received them and truly understood that I came forth from You, and they believed that You sent Me.
9 I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom You have given Me; for they are Yours;10 and all things that are Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine; and I have been glorified in them.
This High Priestly prayer is an intercession only for those who will be saved. Jesus is praying for HIS PEOPLE, and no one else.
11 I am no longer in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are.
Will the Father not answer this prayer? Will He not keep His people?
12 While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name which You have given Me; and I guarded them and not one of them perished but the son of perdition, so that the Scripture would be fulfilled.
Judas was lost because he was not one of the people whom the Father had given Jesus, but everyone else is kept perfectly.
The Disciples in the World
13 But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves. 14 I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.17 Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. 18 As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. 19 For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth.
20 “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; 21 that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.
Their Future Glory
22 The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; 23 I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me. 24 Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.
Will this prayer fail? God forbid.
25 “O righteous Father, although the world has not known You, yet I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me;26 and I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them” (John 17 NASB).
Jesus’ prayers will not fail. He ever lives to make intercession for His people. Perhaps among the very clearest teachings in the Bible, the Calvinistic doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints is the greatest comfort I have ever known.
It drives me homeward in joy.
Thanks for reading,
I will be writing on the doctrines of grace as much as possible in coming days and months. This post will deal with the Perseverance of the Saints, as it is known in Reformed theology. This post is simply one facet of this glorious doctrine, I am not trying here to speak comprehensively of all the Bible says about it.
Salvation is of Yahweh (Jonah 2:9)
If salvation is something you can attain or earn, then it is definitely something you can lose and fall away from.
But if it is not your salvation in the first place, then it is an entirely different situation. Consider the Christian doctrine of the Preservation of the saints, seen through the eyes of an Old Testament sinner.
Sung to the Key of Grace
King David raped Uriah’s wife and then had him murdered to cover it up when she was pregnant. After being confronted by the prophet Nathan, David was broken for his terrible sins, and sought repentance. Among other wonderful lines in Psalm 51, he prayed like this:
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me away from Your presence,
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation,
And uphold me by Your generous Spirit. (NKJV)
Whose salvation did David have? The salvation of the God of Israel. Elsewhere, David praises God like this:
3 Iniquities prevail against me;
As for our transgressions,
You will provide atonement for them.
4 Blessed is the man You choose,
And cause to approach You,
That he may dwell in Your courts.
We shall be satisfied with the goodness of Your house,
Of Your holy temple.
Here we see a prophecy of the cross-work of Jesus (v. 3), a vocalization given to divine election (v. 4a), and the resultant preservation of the saints in fellowship with God (v. 4b).
And in another place, David rejoices in the nature of God’s forgiveness when he sings
1 Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven,
Whose sin is covered.
2 Blessed is the man to whom Yahweh does not impute iniquity…
Notice the “Blessed”s like in Psalm 65 above? Connect the dots of grace here. Blessed people are chosen, atoned for, transgressions forgiven, sin covered, and their iniquity is not counted (imputed) to them! God removes all of the enmity between Him and us in order to bring us to Himself.
Do you really think He would then leave the perseverance up to us after all He has done to make us His children?
He Keeps us SO THAT We Remain in Him
God’s work in saving people from the penalty of their sins is God’s work. The worker in salvation gets the glory, and the preserver in salvation gets the glory. It’s all of Him!
Often the question from Christians is “can I lose my salvation,” or, “can those who are truly born again fall away and end up in hell?” I’ve asked the question, and so have you if you are a believer.
My Lutheran brothers and sisters maintain that a truly regenerated believer in Christ can lose his salvation if he stops believing in Christ.
Similarly (but not the same doctrine as the Lutherans), many Arminians of all denominations teach that a Christian can lose their salvation, but with the added pressure of having to make the decision to be born again in the first place.
Not So, Friends
For the sake of brevity, I just want to say this: the eternal covenant of God to save His elect, the atoning work of Christ to purchase those the Father had given Him, and the sealing of the Holy Spirit for the day of redemption are bonds of love and power that only one Being is strong enough to break, and you ain’t Him.
I’ll leave off today with the reassuring words of Jesus concerning us, His people.
37 All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. 40 And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”
I praise You, Jesus my Lord.
Thanks for reading,
In late 2002 the Lord Jesus opened my heart to receive Him, and I was born again. In early 2007 the Lord Jesus opened my eyes to see that salvation is all God, and nothing of me.
Of course, I would have mouthed the credit to Him before that point, as grateful as I was, and as wretched as I was before I was saved, but I didn’t know what kind of salvation had really happened to me.
From monergism.com –
The Century Dictionary defines it as follows:
“In theology, the doctrine that the Holy Spirit is the only efficient agent in regeneration – that the human will possesses no inclination to holiness until regenerated, and therefore cannot cooperate in regeneration.”
I could not cooperate in my regeneration, I had no part in the choice to be saved, I take no credit for even not resisting the work of the Holy Spirit. There is one thing I take credit for in having become a true Christian: the wretched sinfulness and rebellion in my nature and actions that made my rescue necessary. That’s all I contributed.
The Holy Spirit Himself is the single, active agent in the moment of initial salvation for all who are redeemed. Our response to being born again is repentance of sin (imperfect as it is), and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (who He is and what He has done).
That’s monergism – and that’s pure, beautiful, joyous Christian truth.
Some Technical Definitions
I look forward to expressing on this site a strong love of God’s sovereign grace. To be precise, I am not a Calvinist, and I am not Reformed. To be one or both of those, one has to subscribe to the Reformed and Calvinistic confessions of faith such as the Heidelberg Catechism and the Westminster Confession of Faith.
As expressed in those dynamite confessions, Calvinism includes covenant theology and the baptism of infants. Without those elements and the ecclesiology of the Reformed confessions, one is not truly Reformed.
I myself am still working through the points of covenant theology (of which I am oh so close to agreement), and the resultant wet infants of the Reformed churches. With that said, this citizen of New Jerusalem is a hearty, happy Protestant, and this site will feature much more clear delineation of the doctrines of sovereign grace as the days go on.
I believe the doctrine Christ’s Church needs to be preaching in this hour of history is that solid old monergism that broke the stranglehold of Rome over the Church 500 years ago.
Be sure to subscribe to receive an e-mail when the Citizen posts, and help me develop my thinking as I grow with you in the grace and truth of our wonderful Savior Jesus the Messiah.
I’ll leave you with some gold for your pockets.
Thanks for reading,
“If our religion be of our own getting or making, it will perish; and the sooner it goes, the better; but if our religion is a matter of God’s giving, we know that He shall never take back what He gives, and that, if He has commenced to work in us by His grace, He will never leave it unfinished.”
” …the conversion of a sinner being not owing to a man’s self determination, but to God’s determination, and eternal election, which is absolute, and depending on the sovereign Will of God, and not on the free will of man; as is evident from what has been said : and it being very evident from the Scriptures, that the eternal election of saints to the faith and holiness, is also an election of them to eternal salvation; hence their appointment to salvation must also be absolute, and not depending on their contingent, self-determining Will.”
“For non-reformed theologies…”at the end of the day, the security of the believer finally rests with the believer. For those in the opposite camp [Reformed], the security of the believer finally rests with God — and that, I suggest, rightly taught, draws the believer back to God himself, to trust in God, to a renewed faith that is of a piece with trusting him in the first place.”
The Bible “locates unbelief in the total inability of sinners to effect their own liberation from the bondage of the will, and … locate faith in the unconditional election, redemption, and effectual calling of the triune God alone. God gives not only sufficient grace (that is, enough grace to enable sinners to respond positively to God if they choose to do so), but efficient grace (that is, regeneration as well as faith and repentance as gifts).”
– Michael Horton The Christian Faith, pg. 562