Hip and Thigh: Smiting Theological Philistines with a Great Slaughter. Judges 15:8

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Assurance of Eternal Security (pt. 4)

I return to my study of the doctrine of eternal security. Those interested can see my previous three installments here:

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

I believe the doctrine of eternal security is a vitally important one. Primarily because having a proper understanding of what the scriptures teach on the subject is so key to the psychology of our spiritual well-being. There are many folks who struggle with the certainty of their salvation because they think they have engaged in some sin that has disqualified them from their inheritance of eternal life. Having a biblically based understanding of eternal security shapes our hope and motivation in our salvation.

I have been noting through out my studies that the doctrine of eternal security is the capstone of the doctrines of salvation. All of them point to the certainty of eternal security, and to deny eternal security wrecks havoc upon the entire superstructure of soteriology.

Eternal security, or the certainty of eternal life is threaded throughout the Bible, particularly the New Testament.

For example:

Eternal Life is founded in God's ordaining decree. Consider Acts 13:48 - Now when the gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.

Eternal Life is grounded in the Person and Work of Christ. Romans 5:21 - so that sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Eternal Life comes to us as a gift. Romans 6:23 - For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The truth of eternal life, and the certainty of our eternal security if we are recipients of eternal life, is so intertwined with the full manifestation of who God is and so clearly taught in scripture, to suggest or teach contrary to what God has revealed on the subject slanders God's character. In fact Paul says as much when he wrote Titus. In Titus 1:2, ...in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began. Thus, to claim eternal life is conditioned upon our "remaining in Christ" or our "continuing efforts to be obedient," and if we willfully stumble or rebel against these duties we then risk forfeiting that eternal life, in my opinion, suggests God has lied about the promise of eternal life.

Yet, as I have been noting in my previous studies, there are Christians who insist we can forfeit our eternal salvation by walking away from the Lord. By not abiding in Christ. It is my contention such notions are misguided and ultimately harmful to a theologically correct view of our relationship with God. My polemic against conditional security is argued around seven key points. I have looked at four of them in the previous three articles, I will consider the final three in this one.

V. Presents A Wrong Perspective of Adoption

One of the clear NT pictures of our relationship with God, that Paul in particular paints in his epistles, is one of being adopted. The concept of adoption, oiothesia in the Greek, is used 5 times in the NT all by Paul: Romans 8:15, 23; 9:4; Galatians 4:5; and Ephesians 1:5. He draws the concept from Roman law when a father adopted a son that is not his physical offspring. By this adoption, the son becomes the legal heir of the father. The son may not even look like the father, but by this legal adoption, he has all the rights and privileges of a natural born son. It would be like a Scottish family adopting a Korean son. Even though the Scottish family are red headed and ruddy complected, the Korean son has all the legal rights as if he were a native Highlander himself.

Ephesians 1:5 specifically highlights the doctrine of adoption as it pertains to our spiritual relationship with the Lord: ...having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will.

There are three things to note about this passage:

- Our adoption begins with the good pleasure of God's will. It was his delightful desire to adopt us as His children.

- Our adoption is according to His predestined plan. Meaning, our adoption was in His mind in eternity past (vs. 4). It was something He had determined to accomplish.

- Our adoption is secured by Christ's work on the Cross. Christ death legally secured our adoption on behalf of God the Father.

With these truths in mind, how then can we become unadopted? Our adoption is secured by Christ. If we can undo this adoption, doesn't that mean there is something inadequate with His death? Moreover, was God mistaken about the pleasure of His good will? In other words, our adoption, according to Paul, is determined by God's predetermined plan. If many who were adopted at salvation can willfully walk away from their salvation, being cut off as a branch by "not abiding" (John 15), was God mistaken about His plan to begin with? These are some serious ramifications for our understanding salvific adoption as outlined in the NT.

VI. Denies The Promise of Our Inheritance

Building off the last point on adoption, Ephesians 1:14 speaks to our inheritance, or what would be our down payment. Paul writes in 1:13, 14: In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise. Who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.

Paul's explains how Christians are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, and that sealing is the guarantee - our down payment - of our inheritance, or what would be our eternal life. Peter refers to this inheritance as being incorruptible, or imperishable, undefiled, and never fading away. Unlike human inheritances that can be stolen, or lost, or subject to the elements, or the ebb and flow of the economy, our eternal inheritance is just that, eternal. It will never change. Nothing can act upon it to change the terms.

Because we as Christians have the Holy Spirit, we can be certain of our eternal security. The idea of "sealing" is one of a person placing his signature on a legal document. The sealing speaks of ownership. God's ownership of His people is the sealing of the Holy Spirit given to them at their individual salvation. That "seal" gives us the promise of our eternal life. There is nothing that can undo that seal. To say a person can lose this eternal life denies the clear and explicit promise made by God as to the certainty of receiving our inheritance.

VII. Denies God's Power to Keep

And finally, expanding on the previous two points, the idea of conditional security denies God's power to keep His people from falling away. I would also add it denies God's desire to keep His people from falling away.

We have noted that our inheritance, our eternal life, is most certain because of the Holy Spirit's indwelling presence in our individual lives. Christians are considered "sealed," or more specifically, owned by God. The Holy Spirit's sealing is His mark upon His possession, the Christian. That "sealing" keeps the Christian secure, utterly preventing any one else from acquiring him as a special possession and preventing him from being lost.

Jude sums up the certainty of our "keeping" well in the closing verses of his little epistle. He writes in verse 24, 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... Jude says that God exercises the ability, or power, to keep us from stumbling. In the context of his epistle, which addresses apostasy, this is a marvelous promise. It means that God will most certainly exercise all the divine means necessary to prevent us from being lost, to be overcome with apostasy so that we abandon our faith. That is a glorious, and most certain hope, and one that cannot be denied.

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