We have been examining reasons for the security of the believer – that persons who are genuinely saved are saved forever. We have seen two reasons in previous articles why the Bible teaches that we cannot lose our salvation: (1) because salvation is not ours to lose since God provides it, not we ourselves, and (2) because it is based upon a life-changing salvation experience with God. In this third article of the series is the most compelling reason why we believe that we cannot lose our salvation – because eternal salvation is a Scriptural promise.
Continuing our in-depth study of Ephesians 1, the Apostle Paul (in reference to his own salvation and the salvation of the Christians in Ephesus) spoke of being “sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise” (Eph. 1:13b, see also Eph. 4:30). What does being “sealed” mean? In the first century as Paul wrote these words, seals were a very important tool in communicating messages. Important instructions from a king to his army commander would usually be sent on a scroll and delivered by a messenger or courier. Two challenges came with this method of communication.
First, it was possible that someone else might counterfeit a message and send the commander the wrong instructions. Second, the enemy might intercept the message, open the scroll, and read its secret contents. How could these problems be avoided? The king would put wax on the scroll to seal it, and then would imprint his signet ring on the soft wax. The commander could then know that the message was authentic and from the king because it had his sign upon it. And since the seal had not been broken, the commander could be sure that the message had not been compromised by the enemy.
For the Holy Spirit to be the “seal” of our salvation, then, means that He is the mark of authentication that identifies us as truly being children of the King. When doubts come, the Holy Spirit assures us in our own spirit that we are genuinely children of God (Rom. 8:14-17, 1 John 3:24, 4:13). As the seal of our salvation, the Holy Spirit also protects and secures our salvation. Just as seals in ancient times guaranteed the authenticity and protected the security of messages, the Holy Spirit guarantees the authenticity of our salvation and secures our salvation from the enemy.
Not only are we sealed by the Spirit, but the good news is that we are doubly sealed by Jesus the Son and triply sealed by God the Father. As Jesus taught in the gospel of John,
“My sheep hear my voice, and they follow Me, and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand” (John 10:28-29, NKJV).
A Christian’s salvation, then, is securely sealed by all three members of the Trinity -- by the Holy Spirit of promise (Eph. 1:13b, 4:30), by the loving hand of Jesus the Son (John 10:27), and by the mighty hand of God the Father (John 10:28). Nobody could break through that triple seal of protection – not by us ourselves, not by any principality or power, and not even by Satan himself!
Not only that, but the Scripture promises that the Holy Spirit is also the “earnest” (Eph. 1:14, KJV) or “guarantee” (NKJV) of our salvation. When we pay “earnest” money toward a large purchase such as a house, we are making a down payment. We are putting down thousands of dollars as a guarantee that we will come through with the rest of the money we owe. And if we don’t come through with the rest of the money, we lose the earnest money. Nobody puts down earnest money lightly. We don’t want to lose it!
Likewise, God does not give us the Holy Spirit as the earnest of our salvation lightly. The Holy Spirit is the “guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory” (Eph. 1:14, NKJV). The Holy Spirit comes into our lives upon our profession of faith in him (justification), He produces the fruit of the Spirit in us as we grow in grace (sanctification), and He is getting us ready for the completion of our salvation in heaven (glorification). As Paul said to the believers at Philippi, “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6, NKJV).
These are not the only verses in Scripture which make it clear that God secures the genuine believer’s salvation forever. Toward the end of the little letter of Jude, the inspired author was praising God by saying,
“Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to God our Savior, Who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen” (Jude 24-25, NKJV).
Note that our matchless God is able to “keep you from stumbling,” or as other translations word it, to “keep you from falling” (KJV, NIV). It is not up to us to preserve our salvation. That is a job only God can do.
Another affirmation of the security of the believer is in 1 Peter 1:3-5:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Pet. 1:3-5, NASB).
Several affirmations about this important teaching stand out in this Scripture. First, it is God who “caused us to be born again” (v. 3). We did not earn or deserve our salvation. It is God who provides and protects our salvation. Second, this living hope is described as “imperishable” and “undefiled,” a treasure that “will not fade away” (v. 4). Our salvation is permanent, not perishable. Third, we will not be disappointed when we get to heaven, because we have reservations! Our salvation is “reserved in heaven” (v. 4) for us. Our names are written down in the Lamb’s Book of Life (Rev. 21:27).
Finally, we can be sure about our salvation because it is “protected by the power of God” (v. 5). If salvation were put in our fallible human hands, we would inevitably lose it, for we are sinful by nature. But we can join with Peter in praising God that it is His omnipotent hand that protects our salvation. And no one can take away that which God holds and protects! Believing that we cannot lose our salvation is in no way confidence in ourselves or our own righteousness. It is based only in our confidence in God!
Dr. Steve Lemke is Provost and Professor of Philosophy and Ethics at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. This is the third of six articles in the "Theological Thought" column in the [Louisiana] Baptist Message on this subject [vol. 125, no. 12 (June 10, 2010), 14].