I had the tremendous privilege of preaching this morning on the eternal security of the believer. My text was Romans 8:29-30. It is a passage filled with deep, rich truths regarding the doctrine of predestination and election. The debate over the security of the believer’s salvation has been debated throughout the history of the church. It is an issue which has split the whole of Christendom into two camps. One group believes that salvation is eternal and no true believer can lose his salvation, but the other side believes that salvation is not necessarily eternal, but can be forfeited by sin.
The truth is that this is an unnecessary debate because the Word of God is so abundantly clear on the matter of the believer’s security. In fact, Romans 8:28-30 presents the clearest and most powerful statement of security in all of Scripture. These verses guarantee without deviation, variation, or exception that all those who are genuinely saved will enter into final glory.
The purpose of God in our salvation, according to Romans 8:29-30 is to conform us to the image of His Son. God didn’t predestine His elect only to the beginning of our salvation but also to the end of it which is to be conformed to the image of His Son. When we’re finally in glory, we’ll be like Jesus Christ and so our predestination is to our eternal glory when we are completely conformed to His image. So God’s intent is to bring us all the way to glory. Believers aren’t saved just to help us temporarily in this life if we can hang on to it by our own power. We were saved in order that we might be finally brought into the surpassing riches and glory of His grace in the ages to come. And since it isn’t a matter of works to get saved, it’s not a matter of works to stay saved. It was grace that saved us, it is grace that keeps us, and it will be grace that brings us to glory.
I don’t mean to shock you too badly, but contrary to what most modern evangelism methods seem to teach, the purpose of salvation is not primarily for you. The purpose of salvation was not primarily to deliver you from hell and take you to heaven. That’s a wonderful benefit, but it is a secondary benefit. No, the purpose of your salvation was so that you could be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ.
What does that mean? It means that God’s plan in salvation was to make those He saved like His Son. Forgiveness of sin…that’s a wonderful benefit. Removal of guilt, the granting of peace and joy and love…all of those are a part of salvation, but the primary goal is to make you like Jesus Christ. Salvation cannot stop short of that, or it’s not the salvation God planned. It cannot just stop with calling; that is, that God just calls and then hopes. It cannot end with justification; that is, He justifies but then He just kind of hopes that those individuals get to glory.
No, the plan and purpose of God, the kind intention of His will, is that we will be “conformed to the image of His Son,” and that includes the glory that His Son now has. We have been saved in hope, and the hope in which we’ve been saved is that someday we’ll be like Christ.
And the passage in Romans 8:29-30 tells us that those whom God predetermined and foreordained to love eternally, He marked out (that is, predestined) to go all the way to glory and be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. And in time, He has been effectually calling those who God has predestined to salvation. And all those whom He has ordained, hear that call and believe.
And none of them are going to fall through the cracks between their calling and their eternal glory. The doctrine that you can lose your salvation is a frightening aberration of Scripture. God came, and He awakened those He has chosen from the dead, shone light into their darkness, and convicted them of sin and righteousness and judgment. They felt the weight of their sin and the pain of isolation and alienation from God. And that awakening came upon hearing and understanding the gospel.
They might hear it from a pastor, a teacher, a book, from the pages of Scripture, from the witness of a friend or family member, but the response of the heart with a conviction of sin, the desire for righteousness, a comprehension of the need for forgiveness, and an understanding of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, only comes about by the call of God.
As I studied these things in preparation for teaching, I thought about those who believe they can lose their salvation because of some sin in their life. My own grandmother went to her grave believing that all it took was to die with some unforgiven sin on her account and she would be condemned to an eternity in hell. As I thought about such people, I was struck by how paralyzing and frightening it must be to live with such a belief. To think that all it takes is one sin committed just prior to a fatal accident or heart attack and one would lose their salvation and be condemned to hell—how incredibly frightening that must be! How can one ever experience the joy of their salvation when they truly believe they can lose their salvation at any moment?
But I also realized that there is another consequence of believing that one can lose his or her salvation because of sin, and that is that in order to maintain any kind of sense of sanity and normalcy in one's life, he must reduce sin to a level in which it is far less of an offense against God than it actually is. After all, if those who believe that sin will cause them to lose their salvation truly understood the seriousness of sin as God portrays it in Scripture, they would know that it includes not only outward actions, but also inward motivations and attitudes. That was Jesus’ whole point throughout the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). He repeatedly stated that it wasn’t just an outward, external sin that offends God, but it was the internal attitude of the heart. But those who think sin can cause them to lose their salvation don't usually think so-called "minor" sins such as attitudes and motives can cause them to lose their salvation. They think only so-called "big" sins result in such a loss. Their view is strikingly similar to that of the Pharisees whom Jesus was confronting. But that was not our Lord's viewpoint on sin. He saw all sin, including internal attitudes and motives, as offending a holy God, thus requiring His grace in order to be forgiven. Because all of us are continuously battling against sin in our hearts and minds, we can only be assured of going to heaven when we die because God’s grace is being continuously poured out, guaranteeing the security of our salvation.
Another issue with believing that one can lose his or her salvation is that it leaves man in charge of his eternal salvation and makes God a lesser god; a diminished deity who sits in heaven wringing his hands, hoping that the people He created will exercise their will to choose Christ, incapable of guaranteeing their salvation apart from their own sovereign choice over the matter. My friends, that is not the God of the Bible!
So, God determined in eternity past to bring us to glory. And in that process, no one gets lost. It’s not our choice of God that matters, but rather God’s choice of us. It’s not our effectual faith, but His effectual call. It’s not our ability to persevere, but the fact that He has determined beforehand to persevere with us to the very end. And the only response we should have is continual praise to our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, because of His glorious grace.