(Guest post by James Quiggle)
This post is the second 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. The first post presented 1) the foundation of eternal salvation and 2) the seal of eternal salvation. This post will present 3) the assurance of eternal salvation; 4) perseverance in eternal salvation; 5) the character of eternal salvation.
THE ASSURANCE OF ETERNAL SALVATION
A believer can know for certain that he/she is eternally saved. The apostle John stated “I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life,” 1 John 5:13. Jesus said he has given his saved people eternal life and 1) they shall never perish, and 2) no person or thing is able to take the believer out of Christ’s hand or the Father’s hand (John 10:27–29). The apostle Paul wrote that “there is no more condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus,” Romans 8:1, and that no person and no thing “shall separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord,” Romans 8:31–39. Because the believer is no longer subject to condemnation, and because nothing can separate the believer from Christ, a believer in Christ as his/her Savior cannot lose their salvation.
PERSEVERANCE IN ETERNAL SALVATION
God gives every genuine believer the grace to continue in the faith by faith, and the believer uses that grace to continue in faith, righteousness, and holiness. Jesus said, John 10:28 “I give them [his saved people] eternal life, and they shall never perish.” Paul wrote, Philippians 1:6 “He [God] who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Peter wrote, 1 Peter 1:5, that believers are “kept by the power of God through faith.”
There are times when a Christian seems to fail, but the apostle John said that Christians have sin, 1 John 1:8, and Christians will occasionally commit acts of sinning, 1 John 1:10, but that God has made a remedy to restore the sinning Christian to fellowship with himself, 1 John 1:9. The scriptures do tell the Christian to strive to live holy and righteous lives, which some have interpreted to mean salvation can be lost if one’s life is not always holy and righteous. But the verses telling the believer to strive depend on the ability to strive and succeed, which is God’s grace of perseverance. God never commands what he does not also give. If the commandment is to strive, then God’s mighty power works in the believer so he/she can strive and succeed, Colossians 1:29. God gives the grace of perseverance and the genuine believer uses the grace of perseverance. Because every genuine believer possesses the grace of perseverance, he/she will always overcome sin and the world by the grace of perseverance. The salvation of the believer is eternal.
THE CHARACTER OF ETERNAL SALVATION
The life of the saved person demonstrates certain characteristics that an unsaved person’s life does not. The saved person habitually lives a godly life. The unsaved person habitually lives a life of sinning. The saved person may sin occasionally, but the unsaved person sins habitually. The apostle John wrote, 1 John 3:6, that every person habitually abiding in Christ is not habitually sinning, and that every person habitually sinning does not know Christ. The characteristics of daily living testify a genuine believer has eternal salvation.
The saved person is like Christ: he/she is godly. Godliness, that is, a godly life, is when the believer’s thoughts, decisions, and actions conform to the moral, holy, and righteous standard set by God’s own character. Positively, a genuine believer loves the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; he/she enjoys associating with and worshiping with others sharing the same faith in Christ; a believer has a hunger and thirst to learn the Word of God, to read the Word, study the Word, hear the Word preached and taught; the person who is genuinely saved loves to hear about Christ the Savior. The genuine believer recognizes the truth of Scripture, 1 John 2:21; but the unbeliever does not continue in the truth, 1 John 2:19.
Negatively, the person who is genuinely saved is bothered by sin and sinning. He/she is embarrassed by sinning because Christ has been disappointed. The believer takes no lasting pleasure in sin and sinning—there may be a moment of pleasure when an old sin habit is indulged, but in a short time the pleasure fades. The genuine believer is saddened when Christ is dishonored. The genuine believer is righteously angry when the Scripture is twisted to say what it does not mean. The genuine believer holds the world and the things of the world loosely, lightly, knowing he/she is to be in the world, but not of the world. Death is not a terror to the genuine believer, because physical death is merely the way Christ brings his saved people to heaven to be with him forever. The characteristics of a genuine salvation testify to an eternal salvation.
There are times of failure in the Christian life, and times of doubt. There are some verses that seem to say salvation may be lost. But the scriptures give a clear and unambiguous witness that salvation cannot be lost. So by the testimony of five things—Christ’s limitless merit; sealing by the Holy Spirit; the Scripture’s word of assurance; perseverance in the faith by faith; and the characteristics of a genuine Christian—the believer has assurance that salvation is permanent.
Of these five the first is the most important. Jesus paid the full and complete debt for sins, completely satisfying God’s holiness and justice, such that no other action, work, or sacrifice is required. A genuine believer cannot lose his or her salvation; a genuine believer is permanently sealed into salvation; a genuine believer perseveres in the faith by faith; a genuine believer knows from Scripture they have eternal life and can never perish; a genuine believer habitually practices genuine Christianity.