(Guest Post by James Quiggle ThM)
This post is the first of three on the eternal security of salvation and the personal assurance of salvation. These posts are from my book “Christian Living and Doctrine,” pp. 15–20, 45–46.
The New Testament presents five witnesses testifying salvation is eternal: 1) the foundation of eternal salvation; 2) the seal of eternal salvation; 3) the assurance of eternal salvation; 4) perseverance in eternal salvation; 5) the character of eternal salvation. This post presents witnesses 1 and 2.
THE FOUNDATION OF ETERNAL SALVATION
The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the foundation of eternal salvation. At 1 John 2:2 the apostle John wrote, Jesus “is the propitiation for our sins.” John does not set any limitations. “Our sins” refers to every sin a believer has or may commit, past, present, and future. When “God chose us in Christ,” Ephesians 1:4, it was “before the foundation of the world,” so God had in view all sins a believer would commit. John said Jesus “is the propitiation.” The word “propitiate” has the same meaning as the Old Testament “atone,” and the English word “expiate.” A good synonym is “satisfied.” God imputed our sins to Jesus on the cross, 2 Corinthians 5:21, and through his suffering on the cross Jesus fully satisfied God for every sin—all the sins you and I have committed or might yet commit.
At 2 Corinthians 5:21, Paul tells us God made Jesus Christ “to be sin for us.” God imputed the sins of the world to Jesus, 1 John 2:2, when Jesus was on the cross. Jesus suffered God’s wrath for our sins with the result Jesus made a full satisfaction to God for the crime of sin. The Bible names this satisfaction “propitiation,” Romans 3:25; Hebrews 2:17; 1 John 2:2; 4:10.
Propitiation is the complete satisfaction of God’s holiness and justice that Christ made to God by enduring spiritual and physical death on the cross for the crime of sin committed by human beings, suffering in their place and on their behalf. When by faith a sinner applies Christ’s propitiation to their sins, God is completely satisfied the debt for all his/her sins was paid, and forgives all those sins past, present, and future.
On the cross, to make the propitiation for sins, Christ endured the penalty for sin, which is spiritual and physical death. Christ endured spiritual death when he was separated from fellowship with God (“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46), and physical death when he separated his soul from his body (“Bowing his head, he gave up his spirit,” John 19:30).
We can understand that Christ paid the full debt for sins in three actions.
One, before his death he cried out, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit,” indicating he was no longer separated from God. He had paid in full the sin debt imputed to him.
Two, when the propitiation was completed Christ cried out “It is finished,” John 19:30. The word he used, teléō, was a cry of victory, in a verb tense (perfect) indicating his work of propitiation was brought to completion. No other work is needed to satisfy God for the crime of our sin.
Three, Christ resurrected from the dead. Each member of the Trinity participated in Christ’s resurrection (Romans 6:4; John 10:17; Romans 8:11), showing that Christ had made a complete satisfaction for sin. As Paul stated, 1 Corinthians 15:17, “If Christ is not risen, your faith is futile” (vain, empty).
Because the propitiation completely satisfied God for sins past, present, and future a believer’s salvation is eternally secure. “There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus . . . “Who is able to bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies . . . it is Christ who died . . . and is risen . . . and makes intercession for us,” Romans 8:1, 33–34. The Writer of Hebrews said Jesus “offered one sacrifice for sins forever,” and then “sat down at the right hand of God.” The God-man sat down because his work was completed. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, there is never again a need for any sacrifice for sin, forever, Hebrews 10:12, 18.
The writer of Hebrews says Jesus established a new covenant with God, 8:6, and through his death offered one sacrifice for sins, forever, 10:12. The result is that God has made a commitment with every person saved through faith in Christ: “their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more,” 10:17.
At John 10:27–30 Jesus said he knew who his saved people were (his “sheep”); that he gives his saved people eternal life; that his saved people will never perish (because they have eternal life); that no person and no thing or event can remove a genuinely saved person from Christ’s hand or the Father’s hand; compare Paul at 8:38–39, Peter at 1 Peter 1:5, and John at 1 John 5:11–13.
What Christ did on the cross fully satisfied God for the sins of every person who believes on Christ as Savior. In an illustration, the finite demerit of the believer’s sins—past, present, future—are like a teardrop in the ocean of Christ’s limitless merit. Once a person is saved, he/she cannot lose their salvation, because the infinite, limitless merit of Christ secures salvation for every person who believes on him as Savior. There is no sin a believer might commit that would cause loss of salvation, because Jesus propitiated God for every sin.
THE SEAL OF ETERNAL SALVATION
Sealing the believer in salvation is an act of God the Holy Spirit occurring the moment a sinner believes on Christ as personal savior. The apostle Paul wrote at Ephesians 1:13, “having believed, you were sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise.” The “promise” is a reference to the advent and indwelling of the Holy Spirit prophesied in the Old Testament (Jeremiah 31:33; Joel 2:28–32), announced by Christ (John 14:16–18, 26; 16:7, 13–15; Acts 1:4–5, 8) and fulfilled after his ascension (Acts 2:17–18; 8:17; 10:44).
“Sealing” is an allusion to the method used to secure ancient documents. When a document was completed, it would be rolled up (a scroll), and a blob of wax was used to affix the end of the scroll to the rolled up body. A mark or image was impressed into the wax before it cooled. The purpose of the seal was to secure the document against damage or tampering. The purpose of the image impressed into the wax was to certify the authenticity of the document. In today’s terms, the seal was the mark of a notary, or a witness, authenticating the document and its contents. Thus, sealing indicates a completed act and means security, authenticity, genuineness, identification, and ownership.
The sealing accomplished by the Holy Spirit is God’s witness that the believer is genuinely and eternally saved. The seal of the Spirit keeps the believer secure in his or her salvation, for no one can break God’s seal. The seal is impressed with God’s mark—the image of Christ the Savior—indicating the believer is God’s property. Sealing confirms the believer’s faith from the moment of salvation forward into eternity future.