It is not my desire, and it is not the approach of my work in When We Belong to Christ, simply to engage arguments. That is a legitimate thing to do. (In some measure I have already done it in the preceding paragraph.) We all need ways to state the issue clearly with reasons for our views. My chief method of facing whether we are secure in Christ eternally is to deal with passages that speak to the issue. We cannot know if our reason for believing anything is really sound unless we are certain of what God has said in His Word. I hope to hold your attention to these Scriptures. There are many others that could be used, but the ones I have chosen show that salvation in Christ is certain. None of these Scriptures give any comfort to the lie that we can live in sin and still make a truthful claim of possessing God’s salvation. That error is never taught in the Bible; it must be put down vigorously as the basis of a false hope. Just as a false hope is false, there is in God’s Word a true hope that all who genuinely trust in Christ are His now and forever.
The Lord Jesus often spoke of eternal life. Not all of these are mentioned in this section, but they ought to be reviewed by anyone who wants to know how secure we are in Christ. In John 5:24, Jesus emphasized with His famous “truly, truly,” that whoever believes is not coming to judgment, but has passed from death to life. [The grammar here is noteworthy. The verb passed is not spoken of as just an event that happened one time; the tense used means the believer has passed and remains one who has passed.] In this section I will cover only four passages, some of what Jesus said in John about how secure we are in Him.
The problem is that people do not want to come to Him. The ones who saw His miracle of feeding the five thousand in John 6:1-15 still did not believe (v.36) that He was the Bread of life. Their interest was to have more food (vv.26,30,31); they refused to believe He was the One Who came down from heaven (vv.41,42). Jesus said they were not able to come (v.44). Coming to Jesus is another way to say we believe in Him (v.35).
Jesus taught both things: 1) They had to come to have life, and 2) they could not come unless the Father drew them to come. He said that the ones hearing Him that day did not believe (v.36), but that everyone His Father had given Him would come (v.37). He would lose none of them. In a different Scripture, the Lord’s saving activity is stated as seeking (Luke 19:10) and finding (Luke 15:6, 8-10). Here in John 6, it is expressed as not losing. Jesus did not say He would not lose many, but He would not lose even one. John 6 teaches that if anyone believes, it is because they were drawn to Christ, and each one the Father draws will believe and will never be lost.
It is not just the will of God that sinners believe the gospel. It is not just that they are invited to come. The will of God is also a responsibility given to Jesus that not one of His should be lost. This is very different from God telling us not to stray away, because on our own, we could do that. The assignment given to Jesus by the Father is one in which He will not and cannot fail. The Father’s mission is that Jesus should lose none, not one. Thus the security of the Christian depends on Jesus doing His role as Savior, and that gives us great assurance.
The Lord Jesus will raise up each believer at the last day (v. 40). Giving life after death is part of Jesus’ promise of eternal life. It really is eternal! Death cannot take eternal life from believers. Those who have it never go hungry and never thirst (v. 35). They are eternally cared for. If we belong to Jesus and are given this kind of life, then it cannot be lost. Jesus did not promise a temporary possession of an eternal gift. Jesus was emphatic, “I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life,” (v. 47) and “If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever,” (v. 51). If we have eternal life only for a while, it is not eternal life.
Summary of John 6 A person believes in Christ because God has given him or her to Jesus. What God begins He is determined to finish, so the Father draws each one of them to come, i.e., to believe. Believers cannot be lost because God cannot fail to bring them to Christ, and Christ cannot fail to do His Father’s will, therefore He cannot lose even one but raise each one of them in the last day.
B. John 10:7-18, 25-30 John 10 pictures believing in Christ as listening and entering. Whoever “enters” shall be saved. The purpose of Jesus’ coming was to give full and complete life (v.10). The chief emphasis in these verses is to contrast Jesus’ saving ministry with what others do. Others abuse the sheep, or fail to care for the sheep, and some even seek to destroy them. All God’s enemies shall fail, because the Shepherd is Jesus. Christ brings life to and protects His own.
Jesus knows His sheep (all of them) and His sheep (all of them) know Him. For them He laid down His life. When Jesus said these things many of His sheep were Gentiles who had not heard the gospel. He will bring them in; they will listen, and there will be one flock (v.16). They will believe because they are His sheep; others will not believe because they are not His sheep! (v.26). This indicates the same kind of certainty expressed in John 6:37 when He said all the ones given Him by the Father will come. Here, it is Jesus as a Shepherd going to get them to bring them in; for this reason they will come. John 10 emphasizes Jesus’ determination. No one can stop Him. His death is to save His sheep. It is intentional; by it He will gather all His sheep. John 6 teaches He will lose none; John 10 teaches He will find them, so that not one will be missing (Jeremiah 23:3,4).
In John 10:27-30, Christ repeats that eternal life is His gift to His sheep, and adds that they shall never perish. Therefore, there is no circumstance in which a person can be one of His sheep and then lose that gift. Those with eternal life do not perish; no one can take them away from Christ or His Father. The Father gave all of them (v.29) to Christ. When the Father gives to His Son, He does not fail to deliver. “Your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost,” so He sent the Shepherd to go look for them (Matthew 18:12-14). If a person does not listen or believe, it is because that soul is not one of Christ’s sheep given to Him by the Father.
Summary of John 10 Jesus as the Good Shepherd brings His sheep into His fold; He gives them life they will possess eternally. He provides such effective care for them that none ever perish. No one can snatch them from Him. Our security depends on the ability of Jesus to protect us.
C. John 15:1-8 Jesus spoke of two kinds of branches. Both are related to Him in some way as branches “in Me” (v.2). This connection to Jesus is not spelled out precisely here, so we must remember the teaching of the Bible in other places. Judas was also one of Jesus’ disciples, and so were the ones who left Him in John 6:66. They were at one time identified as disciples of Jesus or “in” Him in that sense. These were men who left Him because they never truly belonged (1 John 2:19). They did not remain. No one but the Lord knew Judas was a devil (John 6:70). Romans 9:6-9 tells us there were believing and unbelieving Israelites; not all who were part of Israel were truly the people of God. It is still true today; many claim to be connected to Christ, but only those who remain in Him, with His Word within them, are fruitful. In this way they show themselves to be His disciples (v.8).
Some branches bear fruit; some do not. All the branches that do not are cut off and burned, but all the branches that bear fruit are pruned so they will bear more. This text shows us that if we are fruitless (which means we lack obedience to the Lord), we are in mortal danger and must repent and believe to be saved. These may be people who are recognized as part of the church. In some sense they are “in Him,” for a man may think he is a Christian, yet he needs to be saved. The absence of obedience means the living connection to Christ has not occurred.
The Father prunes all the branches that bear fruit, every one of them! He does this so they will be more fruitful. Not one of those branches is cut off, and not one will fail to bear even more fruit. None of them will be burned like the other branches. In this way, the Father is glorified by what He produces in us, as we bear fruit we otherwise could not. Jesus explained that the way we are fruitful is that we abide, or remain, in Him.
The analogy of the vine shows how we remain. Remaining expresses a faith that stays attached to the vine and sucks in life from Him that brings fruit and glory to God. This taking in of life is receptive. Fruitfulness is putting out, but abiding is taking in. Both sides are emphasized in these verses. What we take in is His word (vv.3 & 7). Feeding on Christ, as in John 6:43-59, is another way to say the same thing. We eat, drink, and feed on Christ by faith as He is given to us in the gospel. His words are spirit and life (John 6:63). Thus, remaining in Him is deriving the truth He feeds us, as His Word is received, believed, and obeyed.
The Lord Jesus teaches our responsibility of actively remaining in Him. For His part, Christ abides in every believer and the Father works in each believer to increase fruitfulness. There is no room in John 15 for any notion that believers will be cut off the way the dead branches are.
Summary of John 17 Christ was sent to bring eternal life, unity, protection, and holiness to His people. We will enjoy the glory of Christ forever. All this the Son secures for all the Father gave to Him. His intercessory petitions for us will be granted. The Father never says “No” to Jesus’ prayers.
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:1,2)
The language of Romans 5 changes from the earlier chapters. Suddenly it uses we, us, & our. Paul had been arguing for a truth, and he still is in chapter 5, but this first person language is very happy testimony. If we are justified by faith and only faith, then the burden of sin keeping us from the Lord is truly off our backs. This means:
Being justified by faith means we have assurance. Our forgiveness does not rest on our blood, only Christ’s; the righteousness that gains heaven for us is not ours but His; our resurrection from the dead is not by our power but His. We are totally dependent on the Lord Jesus, but we do not need anyone other than Him for our peace, our access and our rejoicing in hope. Thus the life of the believer in Jesus is one of assurance and solid hope guaranteed by the promises of God.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. Romans 8:28-30
In these words, the Apostle Paul was giving comfort in the face of trials. In Romans 8:18, he had mentioned their sufferings and the glory that would be revealed. Then in v.28, he wanted them to know that God works in all the things they face to accomplish His purpose. His working is for our good. To support this, Paul makes sweeping statements, and we must apply his words to every believer.
Much detail has been squeezed into the few words of Romans 8:28-30! It reaches from our present trouble in this world to the final goal of conformity to Christ. One of the chief things to consider in this text is whether Paul is always speaking of each and every believer. His point is clear: the ones called are the same people God foreknew, predestined, justified and glorified. Paul did not leave open the possibility that some of those called might not be glorified. He wanted people to think this way, “If I have been saved, God has always been determined to finish what He started in me.” (Note Philippians 1:6.)
God’s purpose is what He has always had in His heart to do. Ephesians 3:11 refers to it as His eternal purpose and it is a purpose that cannot change. The Lord works everything from His purpose (Ephesians 1:11) and never gives up doing what He plans for us.
The Apostle Paul reasons from a certain event in Christian experience; these believers had been called by God into the fellowship of His Son (1 Corinthians 1:9). They knew of His call (1 Corinthians 1:26-31) because it resulted in a great change when they were converted. This change is mentioned in 1 Thessalonians 1:9,10; 1 John 3:9,10; Acts 26:17,18; 1 Timothy 1:13,14; Titus 3:3-7. Paul teaches that that call was from God Who foreknew them and so predestined them to holiness (Ephesians 1:3-5). They were not predestined merely to a conversion experience but also to holiness. None of us are yet conformed to the likeness of Christ, yet the purpose of God is that all who are called will be. Each one who has been called will be glorified. The apostle is so certain of their future glorification that he uses the same past tense to speak of it.
Summary The link from God’s calling to eventual perfection in holiness is unbreakable. Nothing in this text adds in a condition we are to keep. The entire focus is on God’s purpose and His saving activity to bring it to completion. Since everyone who has been called is justified already, and all the justified ones will be glorified when Jesus returns, it is impossible for anyone who is a Christian to be lost. God cannot be frustrated in fulfilling His saving purpose. All the troubles of the present do not hinder His good plan; they are part of it! When we belong to Christ, God works good for us in all things. This salvation does not stop until it is complete.
What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Romans 8:31-34
The Father is for us. Paul not only teaches by making assertions, he shows how God is for us. (Often in the Old Testament, God reveals who He is and what He is like by what He has done, as in Psalm 105:1.) Because God the Father is for us, He gave up His Son. He did not spare Him. He loved the world and gave His Only Begotten Son (John 3:16). Now if God is going to give that much and that Person, will He hold back and deny us anything else we may need? Would a man give His friend all He owns and then deny him an orange? In sending Christ to be the sacrifice for us, God shows He will do everything for us, because He has already given the big gift. In these verses Paul does not mention what the other things are. What he does do is show that this is a package. If anyone has Christ, that person will have everything else in union with Christ. God is not a “half-giver”.
We must keep out of our minds that when we have Christ, God will give us only what we deserve. We did not deserve that the Father would give His Son to go to the cross. We do not deserve the rest of His gifts, so Paul makes it very clear: God will graciously give us all things. Surely “all things” includes the grace of perseverance. God deals with our sins in grace through Christ OR in justice directly on the sinner. For those to whom He shows His grace, He did not spare His Son but sent Him to endure in their place the justice of God on the cross. God’s justice was turned to Christ so that God’s grace might be shown to those who belong to Christ.
If God is for us, He will not charge us with our sin. When we believed in Christ, God justified us. That means He forgave all our sin because He had given our sin to Christ Who died for us. Justification also means that God declared us to be righteousness in His sight. He gave righteousness as a gift to us because Jesus represented us when He obeyed the law of God in our place. He died to suffer our penalty for breaking God’s law. If God has justified us, He will never do the opposite; He will not condemn us. Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? Some may try but will have no success. God does not forgive us and then accuse us. He forgives and then disciplines us as His children, but He never rejects those who are in Christ (Romans 8:1). He cannot send those who belong to Christ to hell.
Christ is for us. The apostle teaches the commitment of the Lord Jesus to us. The Bible is very clear that we have sin. The question now is what eternal danger that sin may put us in. If anyone charges us with sin, will God Who hates our sin condemn us? Someone has to bring the charge. God will deny us nothing we need such as forgiveness, so it is impossible for Him to do the opposite and begin what would send us to hell. Might Jesus our Lord condemn us? Paul now wants to show that Christ has already done the opposite thing!
Rather than condemn us, Christ died for us. The One Who gave Himself for us is not going to turn against us. Jesus took the death our sin merited and He has given His people the eternal life He merited for us. If we wonder if Christ might turn against us, He will not; He is for us too.
There is more to the ministry of Christ. His sacrifice on the cross was in the past; God approved of His offering for us and raised Him from the dead. Now Christ is at the right hand of God interceding for us (v.34), so He never ceases to be the reason why God accepts us. Christ would never intercede for us if He were not “for us”. Every sin we commit is a sin He died for long ago. His presence at the Father’s right hand is a testimony that God is permanently satisfied with Jesus’ sacrifice and has granted His intercessory plea that we should be forgiven, blessed and heirs of all that He has.
Everything else might be against us. So if God the Father and Jesus the Son are for us, no rejection is possible from God and we have Jesus answering whoever may seek to charge us; we are secure in Christ. Paul now asks about anyone else, whoever it might be. He speaks further of anything else, whatever it might be. Can any person or any thing separate us from the love of Christ? The answer is NO! It is true that we have much trouble – trouble “all day long” according to v.36, yet no trouble of any kind, and no person of any kind, can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: "For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:35-39
Summary: Every threat to our security is covered. Is it possible for those who belong to Christ to be separated from Him? There is no possibility at all. If God is for us, no one can successfully be against us. God will not separate us from His love, and the world and the devil cannot, no matter how hard they try.
D. Philippians 1:6 & 2:12,13 Without holiness no man shall see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14). How can we ever be assured of heaven when we have sin? How can we be assured of having holiness? In Philippians 1:6 the Apostle Paul said he was confident “that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” The salvation the Lord has started is one He will finish. This does not mean that we may be passive. Obedience has begun in the believer; this is a clear evidence of salvation. So Paul tells them in Philippians 2:12,13 to work out their salvation in further obedience and good works (Ephesians 2:10) because “it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”
E. 2 Thessalonians This short letter encourages believers facing persecution (1:4). When Jesus returns, He will be glorified in His holy people because they believed the gospel (1:10). Before Christ returns there will be a great apostasy (2:1-12), but the believers will not be part of that. They will persevere and remain true to the Lord. This is so because the Lord loved them and chose them to be saved by the work of the Spirit and belief in the truth (2:13). God had called them to salvation so that they might share in the glory of Christ (2:14). Since this is true of all who belong to Christ, we should be encouraged (2:16,17). We should hold firmly to this teaching about the certainty of our future with Christ (2:15).
The Hebrews letter is also a sermon. It emphasizes that Christ is our Great High Priest. In Jesus’ ministry He represents His people. He has made an offering that has obtained for us eternal redemption. He blesses and prays for His people and delivers to us all the benefits of the new covenant. Jesus does not know how to be unsuccessful in anything He does, so He secures for us an eternal inheritance. Hebrews has many themes; the passages that follow show the safety of all who truly believe in Christ.
A. Hebrews 2:5-11 God created man to have glory and honor (v.7), but because of his disobedience, man lost his glory as God’s loyal man (v.8). Jesus became a man and did the will of God by suffering for us, so Jesus has been honored for His obedience to death (Philippians 2:8) and for that reason He has been crowned with glory (v.9). His death was for all in His family: sons, brothers, and children (vv.10-12). He was made lower than the angels when He became a man. In dying He was deprived of the kind of glory and honor Adam had in the original creation. His obedience in suffering (v.10) made Him worthy of glory and honor. Only one man in all of history has pleased God throughout His human life. Jesus deserves the glory God has given Him.
Jesus not only experienced death for His family, He brings many sons to the glory man lost (v.10). The connection of Jesus and His people means that He not only died for their sins, they also share in His accomplishments. He brings His own to glory, not halfway, not to disappointment but to His presence forever. This is a complete salvation in a resurrection body like His (Philippians 3:21). Because He lives, so shall we (John 14:19). In sin, man lost glory; in Jesus’ obedience and death, He gained glory, and He brings His family into it.
There is a union of the Lord Jesus and His own (Romans 6:5-8). Often we call this union with Christ – words we use for the many times in the New Testament that we read “in Christ”. Hebrews 2 teaches that Christ Who makes men holy, and those He makes to be holy (believers) are one. This union includes Him representing us and us belonging to Him. This union makes certain that things He has acquired for us will come to us. The Lord Jesus causes us to participate in the glory of being perfectly holy people. To be made holy in His sight (Ephesians 1:4) is God’s goal in saving us. We are His project (Ephesians 2:10). It is impossible for God to be frustrated in His project. Jesus does not merely attempt to bring “many sons to glory,” He succeeds in doing so.
Because Jesus makes His own to be holy, certain conclusions are related to this. He is not ashamed to call them brothers (v.11). He would be ashamed of us if there were no holiness in people united to Him. This is the kind of thing God could never allow. Everyone united to Christ has a transformed life. All who live in sin without repentance are not holy and have never seen him or known Him. “Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him,” (1 John 3:4-6). Both statements are true: 1) All who belong to Christ are being made holy. 2) If any person has no holiness (shown by obedience, love and repentance), he does not belong to Christ.
B Hebrews 2:14-18 This paragraph teaches us that Christ has destroyed the devil, and freed the children of Abraham who were under Satan’s power. The Son of God became human so that as a warrior He would defeat the devil by His death for His own. As a priest He faced God to make the sacrifice that sets us free from the fear of death. This was how He broke our bondage to Satan. To be delivered from sin is to be delivered from a fear that anticipates the Judgment Day.
Is it possible for God to attempt to save sinners and then fail?
No, nothing in this paragraph leaves room for the idea of failure by Jesus the Deliverer. He took on our flesh and blood. He destroyed the devil (v.14), freed us(v.15), and sacrificed for us (v.17). With the same power (Ephesians 1:19-20) He continues to help those who belong to Him (v.18).
Did Jesus really break the devil’s grip on the ones Jesus helps?
Yes, we have not been snatched from the devil’s hand with the possibility that he might win us back. In relation to God’s children, the devil has been destroyed. A destroyed devil is a devil with no power to take us back.
Are Abraham’s true children set free from their fear of death?
Yes, they are freed from the fear of death, because it is not possible for us to fall under the devil’s power again. When God has forgiven our sins, we do not worry that we might still go to hell.
Will Jesus’ sacrifice bring permanent good to us?
Yes, as our priest, Jesus has made in one offering the sacrifice that has fully satisfied God concerning all our sin forever (Hebrews 10:12-14). This sacrifice covers all our sin, including future sins. The salvation given to us is more than forgiveness, it is also deliverance from sin’s power. Since this is so, those for whom Christ died will live lives of repentance, not rebellion. We will confess our sins very often, but we never need any other sacrifice for sin.
Does Christ continue to help those He died for when they are tempted?
Yes, we are in constant need of help in our weakness and temptations (Hebrews 4:15,16). The Lord does not reject His own. Because we sin, He intercedes for us (Hebrews 7:25) and helps us (2:18).
Can a Christian come under the devil’s power again?
No, Christ is an activist Savior Who defeated Satan and delivers those He came to save. He is the Finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). The devil will never be able to boast that he was able to bring into bondage any soul Jesus has saved. That would embarrass our Lord. Christ did not just make things difficult for the devil; He has destroyed the devil’s ability to destroy us (Luke 11:19-22).
Summary: This Scripture presents Christ as a powerful fighter, a successful Savior Who delivers His people from our great enemy the devil, from the fear of death and from sin. Jesus has done all this as our Great High Priest. This deliverance is the effect of the sacrifice He offered to God. His action has brought us out of the kingdom of darkness (Colossians 1:12-14). We are no longer the devil’s; we are the Lord’s and are now in His kingdom (Colossians 1:13). This deliverance is permanent. It is the devil who is frustrated in his efforts, not God.
C. Hebrews 6:7-20 We do not always know who truly belongs to Christ. Hebrews 6:7,8 provides a simple illustration: After time farmland will reveal whether its crop is good or bad. So it is with people; some really do not believe; their lives produce weeds. Land that produces thorns and thistles will be burned (v.8); it is no good. Those who belong to Christ produce a good crop (v.7). Things that always accompany salvation will appear in a believer’s life (v.9). The specific example given is the love they showed to God by helping His people (v.10).
Hebrews 6:7-20 was written to encourage their faith. It is not our faith that takes us to heaven but the Lord we put faith in, so Hebrews emphasizes the faithfulness of God. When God makes a promise, He will keep it. Faith grows by considering God’s faithfulness, not by looking at itself.
God made an oath to Abraham (6:13-18). That means God did more than make a promise. It was an amazing condescension for God to make an oath for Abraham, but He wanted Abraham to see how very serious He was. We have a God committed to all His promises to us; not one will fail. He is serious to convince us that He is trustworthy, and it pleases Him when we trust Him (Hebrews 11:6).
The point in Hebrews 6 is that any promise made by God brings certainty. In the gospel we have been given assurances of forgiveness of sins because of Christ (Ephesians 1:7). The certainty of our hope rests on Christ, a hope that is “ an anchor for the soul, firm and secure,” (v.19). Our hope is not anchored in us, for that anchor would not hold. Since our hope is in Christ, our anchor enters the inner sanctuary, the presence of God in heaven. As surely as Jesus is at the Father’s right hand representing us, we are assured of forgiveness and acceptance by God. Jesus is there “for us” or “on our behalf.” Christ is the reason God instills assurance in us. He does not deceive us. Since He is satisfied with all Christ has done for His own, we have reason for great confidence (Hebrews 4:16).
Summary: When we believed in Christ we ran to Him as our refuge. Our danger was God against Whom we have sinned. Our refuge is Christ whom God sent to be our Priest. God is faithful to His promise; it is impossible for Him to lie. He accepts all that Christ has done and all who are in Christ. This is our encouragement. Ships drop anchors to the bottom of the sea, but our anchor is up in heaven where Jesus has entered for us. His blood shed on the cross is the petition to God that He should forgive His children. Jesus’ petition has been granted. All who belong to Him are secure in Him just as the oath and word of God are firm and secure.
D. Hebrews 7:11-28 This part of Hebrews tells us Jesus is able to save and that He brings perfection (v.11) to us and enables us to draw near to God (v.19). He saves because He remains a living priest permanently. The Bible presents this truth to us this way so we will know that Christ continues to represent us and always intercedes for us. “Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them,” (v.25).
Christ did not become a priest by appointing Himself (Hebrews 5:4,5). He became a priest by God’s appointment; God swore to Him that He is a Priest and would be one forever. Then v.22 adds that He is the surety or guarantor of a better covenant. “… Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant,” (Hebrews 7:22).
Every covenant with God means that God is our God and that His people are His people. Covenant people must obey God. Since we are sinners we are covenant breakers. Every sin by a believer in Christ is a denial of God as our God; it is breaking our covenant with Him. So how can God ever maintain a covenant with us when we continue to have sins until the day we die or the day Jesus returns? The answer is Christ! We are not in covenant alone. Our Covenant Mediator, the Lord Jesus, is the Guarantor of the new covenant. By becoming man, the Son of God stands on both sides of the covenant. On one side He is God the Lord, and on the other side Jesus is a man in covenant with God. In this role He represents us. For our covenant breaking, He suffered the covenant sanctions by dying for us. As the Priest/Guarantor, He has fulfilled all covenant obligations for us, thus God can view us – only in Christ – as covenant keepers. Only Christ has personally produced the perfect obedience God requires of all who are in covenant with Him. Because Jesus was sent to be our Priest and supply His righteousness to us (1 Corinthians 1:30), He is the guarantor of our covenant with God. He is the reason God can accept us. On our own we break covenant, but in Christ we are recognized as covenant keepers.
There is nothing left out. Christ is able to save completely all who come to God through Him, because His service as a Priest for us in heaven is a continuing ministry of intercession for us. “… He is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them,” (Hebrews 7:25). In this life we always have sins, and He always intercedes. He fully meets our need (v.26). He has made one sacrifice for our sins and God requires nothing more from Jesus for the forgiveness of all sins, past, present, and future. If we ever think we must meet our need of holiness or reconciliation, we will despair. We have a Priest Who has met and continues to meet our need. When the Bible says we have Christ as our Guarantor, then we know we are safe when we belong to Him. [Note: guarantor in older English is surety.]
E. Hebrews 8 This chapter speaks of Jesus’ continuing ministry for us in heaven (Hebrews 8:1,2). He is the mediator of the new covenant (Hebrews 8:6 & 9:15). As the Mediator He brings to us all covenant blessings. One of these is a genuine covenant response to God from our hearts, thus in the new covenant it is the Lord Who makes us to be faithful. Because Christ is the Mediator, we receive the Holy Spirit. According to Ezekiel 36:25-27, the Spirit Christ gave us causes obedience in us. We must remember that God accepts us only because of Jesus’ perfect conduct, because it is perfect, but all who are in the new covenant are having their conduct transformed by the Spirit. This is not yet a finished work; our justification can only rest on the covenant-keeping of Christ.
When we belong to the Lord, we do not and cannot live in sin. We may fall into sin, but we cannot remain in it without repentance (1 John 3:6). Why? In the new covenant, God produces a new heart for each one. “… I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people,” (Hebrews 8:10). It is not that God produces obedience in us only if we let Him (a common misunderstanding!). A person who has the Holy Spirit within cannot stop Him! The Spirit makes us obey. New life has been given, so no one with God’s seed in him will continue in sin (1 John 3:7-10). There are no exceptions.
We are saved by trusting in Christ and His work outside our lives. But there is more: we can see that we have been saved by the change within us (1 John 3:24), evidence that God has brought us into the new covenant. In this covenant we have both blessings: forgiveness (Hebrews 8:12) and transformation (Hebrews 8:10). Christ is the Mediator Who brings both for all who belong to Him.
In Genesis 17:8, God promised an eternal inheritance to Abraham. Abraham would be a blessing to all nations (Genesis 12:2,3) and heir of the world! (Romans 4:13). But for anyone to have any inheritance from God there must be the required faithfulness. (Note in Deuteronomy 4 that Israel’s possession of the land inheritance in the old covenant was conditional on their obedience.) Adam and Eve could have remained in the Garden of Eden if they had obeyed. The promised inheritance is ours only by obedience, but we lack obedience and we have sins. The gospel is that through the obedience of Christ “the many are made righteous” (Romans 5:18,19). Through one man only, Jesus Christ our Covenant Mediator, God’s provision and the gift of righteousness reigns in life (Romans 5:17). Abraham received the promise that he would be heir not by his obedience, but through the gift of righteousness that comes by faith (Romans 4:13).
Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, (v.15). If we did not have Christ our Covenant Keeper, the condition of inheritance would not be met by anyone. When we were included in Christ (Ephesians 1:11-14), we became heirs (Romans 8:17) and our inheritance is now guaranteed to us. The Holy Spirit is the initial deposit from God. With this gift, God demonstrates His determination to give us the full inheritance.
Christ is the Mediator so those God has called can receive the promised eternal inheritance. Jesus has met all the conditions by Himself! We must not get it wrong: our hope rests entirely in what Christ has done. For Christ it was work to acquire that inheritance, but for us it is a gift to receive by faith. All who are called (Romans 8:30) receive this inheritance, not because of their faithfulness, but because Christ is the Mediator of the new covenant. Furthermore, the One Who obtained this inheritance for us has also protected us from losing it through our sin, now that He has paid with His blood the ransom that sets us free.
In ancient times, many covenants were made with an animal being killed. Its blood was sprinkled on those entering into a solemn agreement with some powerful king. That blood was a threat and a reminder not to rebel against him. God had covenants like that too. But when Jesus made the new covenant the night He was betrayed, the blood of that covenant was His, not the sinner’s (Luke 22:20). In other covenants, people enter the covenant with the proviso that they die if they break it. Their blood would be on them! In the new covenant, things are quite reversed. God the Son became the victim of our covenant breaking. It was not the blood of violators, but the blood of the Mighty King was shed for the treason of His servants. Only because God has positioned Christ between Himself and us, we have the guarantee of the blessings of salvation.
An important distinction must be observed in Hebrews 10. It asserts that believers have been made perfect (v.14) and have been made holy (v.10). That is our status. Then it also speaks of a different aspect of our salvation when it says we are being made holy (v.14). This careful way of stating these things is very important. The complete and finished status of already perfect is a way to express justification. Then in addition to this, the ongoing unfinished process of being made holy is our sanctification. Justification is an act of God; sanctification is a work of God. In the new covenant (10:15-18) both are promised, and in Christ both are secured for us and delivered to us. This text makes no room for the false doctrine that anyone may be justified but have no progress in holiness. Both are delivered to us in the new covenant. Justification does not rest on our sanctification, because it rests only on Jesus’ blood and Jesus’ obedience, yet justification never fails to result in sanctification and good works.
b. What assurance does the sacrifice of Christ give us?
I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way – in all your speaking and in all your knowledge – because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful. (1 Corinthians 1:4-9).
The specific sins mentioned in 1 John are varied, but the pattern is similar. One sin may be the false claim that one has no sin, while another sin is hating a brother. Here are appraisals of sinners.
The sinner makes God a liar (1:10; 5:10), but it is the sinner who is a liar (2:4; 4:20); deceiving himself (1:8), and the truth is not in him (1:8; 2:4). He is still in the darkness (2:9), walks around in the darkness (2:11) and does not know where he is going (2:11). He continues to sin (3:9). He does not and cannot love God (2:15; 3:17; 4:20). He does not belong to the believers (2:19), does not understand us (3:1) but hates us (3:13). He does not have the Father (2:23), has not seen Him (3:6) or ever known Him (3:1,6; 4:8); rather, he is of the devil (3:8) and is under his control (5:19). He is not a child of God (3:10) but remains in death (3:14) and does not have eternal life (3:15). He will not listen to the apostle (4:6), which means he will not listen to the Word God has given. God’s Word is not in him (1:10); he does not believe God, so he speaks from the viewpoint of the world (4:5) under the spirit of falsehood (4:6).
When we speak of belonging to Christ, God does not apply the promises and blessings to professing Christians who do not belong to Him and never have. None who live without repentance have comfort in Scripture. When they die in their sin (John 8:21), they are not ones the Lord has lost, but ones He never saved.
1 John is a book that calls for spiritual reality. It gives many contrasts to polarize sin and righteousness. A strong emphasis is, “We know we have come to know Him if we obey His commands,” (2:3) and if a person continues in sin, he has never been born of God (3:9; 5:18). Thus one way to know we have been born of God is to see evidence of it in our lives. We will obey (2:5,6), do what is right (2:29; 3:7,10), love others (2:10; 3:14,18; 4:12), love God (5:2,3), and hold to the truth we have learned of Him (2:21, 4:2,15).
Paul said similar things in Romans 6. Christians are not under the ruling power of sin (v.14). We are slaves of righteousness not sin (vv.17,18). Because we have been united to Christ (vv.1-11), we are to refuse to present our bodies as slaves of sin, and we are to present them in service to God as instruments of righteousness (vv.12,13,19). We have been set free from sin and have been made slaves of God. We are on a path of holiness and eternal life (v.22); this eternal life in Christ – a gift of God (v.23) – has already begun.
Thus, this part of God’s Word teaches that assurance of salvation includes this factor: the transformed life of a person is evidence that he has been born of God. We are very cautious about telling anyone to look within his own heart for assurance. When we examine ourselves we will discover sin. 1 John 1:8-10 is very clear about this. Yet if God has given us His Spirit (3:24; 4:14), then we should see major changes from the old life of sin. By this transformation we know we belong to Christ (2:3,5,29; 3:14,19,24; 5:2,13).
It would be a very serious mistake to suppose that the only way we know we belong to Christ is by a change in us. Many texts earlier in this paper focus our attention on Christ and His work; so does much of 1 John! No part of the Bible ever treats doctrine as not relevant to life. Many today make life more important than doctrine, but the Apostle John in a variety of places makes doctrine the foundation of conduct. He speaks of knowing God (2:13), with His (written) Word living in the believer (2:14). Believers know truth (2:20,21). Specific examples of this truth are acknowledging the Son (2:23), confessing His historical incarnation in the past (4:2) and looking for His appearing in the future (3:2). No person would ever look for it if he did not believe it is a future reality. We know the purpose of His first coming (3:5), the substitutionary nature of His death (3:16), and that He was sent by the Father (4:9) to be a propitiation for our sins (2:2; 4:10). This appearance of Christ was also to destroy the works of the devil (3:8) and take away our sins (3:4). We believe that Jesus is the Christ (5:1), the Son of God (5:5); in fact we believe the entire testimony of God about His Son (5:9). Jesus’ coming has brought us understanding so that we may know Him Who is true! No one should ever say that the teaching He has brought to us (i.e., doctrine) is in any way unnecessary, because it was one purpose of His coming to earth! Only the man who believes that Jesus is the Son of God (a clear matter of embracing a creed!) overcomes the world. Without good doctrine a person is vulnerable to all kinds of error and sin. The kind of assurance John promotes does look for substantial change within, yet real assurance also looks primarily to Christ and believes all that God’s Word affirms about Him.
Summary Assurance of our security in Christ happens as the individual Christian becomes aware of being born of God. This new birth brings obedience and love, for no person can live in sin if he has truly been born of God. Thus it is legitimate for us to review our lives to see if God has produced holy living in us. He who has the Son always has life (5:12), and he who has the Son has the life-giving Spirit. All these truths enter the Christian’s life by believing the Word of God and its rich testimony throughout Scripture on Who Christ is and what He has done.
The Father has assigned to Christ the salvation of all the souls He gave to Him. We have a Savior Who cannot disobey His Father and Who will succeed in doing His Father’s will. Jesus will never cast us out and cannot lose us. Jesus is our Great High Priest Whose offering to God has already been accepted for us. God showed His satisfaction with Jesus’ offering by telling Him to sit, never to offer any other sacrifice again; none would be needed (Hebrews 10:11-14,18). There at the Father’s right hand His intercession prevails. If God has given His Son to die for us, He will most surely give us everything else we need – including our proper response to Him of obedience from our hearts (Ezekiel 36:26,27). God has set out on a mission to save us; He will not turn against His own purpose and fail to finish what He has begun. He will not leave us to our sin or to the devil. Jesus brings His sons to glory not frustration (Hebrews 2:9). Because the devil’s power over us has been destroyed (Hebrews 2:14; 1 John 3:9) Satan is unable to take us from Christ.
When we were justified by faith we were not only forgiven all our sin, God placed Jesus’ righteousness on our record (Philippians 3:9). This righteousness God gives is pure and perfect; Jesus’ obedience cannot have any improvement from us. In Him we have been declared righteous; that is our status. Then for our conduct, we have the Holy Spirit within Who wars against all the sin remaining in us. The Spirit never makes peace with our sin; He works to bring holiness to us and never gives up (Galatians 5:16,17). As those delivered from the kingdom of darkness, we have and are members of a different kingdom – one that cannot be shaken (Hebrews 12:28). God cannot give His Spirit as a down payment of our inheritance and then deny us the full inheritance (Ephesians 1:13,14). We have a God Who cannot break His promise of eternal life to any believer. Each one He foreknew and thus predestined will be called and glorified (Romans 8:29,30). Nothing is able to separate us from the love of God in Christ. God Who gave the Son to die for us will give, as part of an indivisible package, everything else with Him (Romans 8:32). For every one in Christ, this is true: “All things are yours, whether … the world or life or death or the present or the future – all are yours, and you are Christ's, and Christ is God's,” 1 Corinthians 3:22,23
One objection to this teaching I have not tried to deal with every objection to this truth. I will mention only the most obvious misunderstanding: There are people who have been recognized as Christians in the church, yet some return to their sin and turn against the Lord. I am not speaking now of believers who fall and repent and seek forgiveness. I speak of those who repudiate the Lord. We call such people apostates. Note that the apostle says in 1 John 2:19 that they were never saved, so they did not lose what they never had. Then there are people who continue all their lives with the appearance of being believers; they fool others and themselves, but not Christ (John 2:24,25). They have never turned in their hearts to Christ even when they have the right words on their lips (Mark 7:6; Luke 16:15). We call such people hypocrites. They have much public participation in the church but they have never been saved; they have no root (Matthew 13:5,6; 13:20,21). In the Judgment the Lord will declare that He never knew them; they were never His, and He will reject them (Matthew 7:21-23). He was not really their Lord; they only said “Lord, Lord.” The difference is that those who have been saved, hear His voice and follow Him in obedience (John 10:27). Thus they overcome sin, the devil, their flesh, and the world (1 John 2:13,14; 4;4; 5:4). All Christians are described as those who overcome in such places as Revelation 2:11 and 21:7. This victory over sin, shown in their good works, reveals that they have been blessed by the Father (Matthew 25:34) and given the Spirit Who produces new life in them (Romans 8:5,9-11), the fruit of faith, repentance, and remaining in Christ (Luke 3:8,9; 6:43-45; Romans 7:4; Galatians 5:22,23; Ephesians 5:8; John 15:1-8).
Since God’s Word emphasizes that good fruit is in every believer, everyone should be very careful about making the claim of belonging to Christ when repentance is missing, when obedience is absent, and when love for others is hard to find (1 John 2:6-11). Some people only think they are saved (Luke 8:18), but they are not! We should tremble at God’s word (Isaiah 66:2), and we should fear lest anyone in our fellowship by unbelief has not entered into the blessings of the gospel (Hebrews 4:1,2). In Christ we are safe; outside Christ we are lost, so each one should be serious to be sure that his or her faith is in God’s promises, our hope is in His Coming, our obedience is to His commandments, our love is to all brothers and sisters, and our trust is in Jesus’ righteousness, sacrifice and resurrection.
“Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen,” (Jude 24,25). Surely those who believe are kept by the power of God and will never perish but have everlasting life.