Once Saved Always Saved Thanks To Jesus Christ
Posted by Job on October 20, 2008
An excellent example of the incontrovertible Biblical truth of the doctrine “perseverance of the saints”, or rather “once saved always saved” is the verse John 17:11 contained within the high priestly prayer of Jesus Christ:
And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.
Now please recall that a role of the priest is to stand before God as the people’s appointed intercessor and representative. So in this prayer, Jesus Christ stood before God the Father in the role that God the Father gave Him, as the elect lady’s (the church’s) vicar, and made a request of this same God the Father on our behalf.
What did He request? “Keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me!” Now keep us with respect to what? From poverty? No, for many Christians have been poor. As a matter of fact, many early Christians were known for their poverty and admired for their dignity and holiness in enduring it. Oppression? No, for the Bible says that our trials and tribulations are part of the process of God’s refining, reproving, purifying, and teaching us. Death? No, for a mere few years after this sermon was prayer was given we saw martyrdom beginning with Stephen.
Does it refer to schism? Why yes, it does! Jesus Christ was in fact praying that none should leave the church. However, let us not think of this in an earthly sense, or else the Protestant Reformation (or more accurately the separation of groups like the Particular Baptists from the state Reformed churches) would have violated this prayer. As a matter of fact, even Paul and Barnabas going their separate ways over John Mark in Acts can be interpreted as something of an apostolic schism by earthly standards.
But that is by earthly standards. The true church, the Body of Jesus Christ, which the Bible in various places calls a mystery, is a spiritual reality, not an earthly body or institution. So when God the Son prayed to God the Father (I will propose that without Trinity my argument does not work because Jesus Christ would have been praying to Himself or to some nonexistent entity), He was not asking that we be prohibited from leaving first Baptist church for second Presbyterian church. And by “that they be one” Jesus Christ did not mean to restrain us from criticizing any and every “judge not touch not mine (never) anointed and do my (false) prophet no harm” crackpot pulpit pimp sorcerer and heretic that defames the term Christian by calling himself one.
Instead, when Jesus Christ was praying “Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one” He was petitioning the Father that every born again Christian would remain in the true church, the spiritual universal church that He is the Head, Lord, Redeemer and Guarantor. Claiming that a person could lose his salvation would mean that either God the Father refused the prayer of Jesus Christ or He could not deliver on the request of Jesus Christ. Either way, it makes God fallible, which makes Him no God at all and our faith a lie. After all, if God cannot or will not honor the prayers of Jesus Christ, what makes God the Father honor His sacrifice on the cross? Further, since Jesus Christ is God, for God the Son to ask of God the Father only to have the latter refuse, then God is divided against Himself and again is not God at all.
But what of the exhortations that Christians should continue in the faith and endure till the end? They were just that: exhortations to holy and righteous Godly living, to not use the grace of God as a justification for lasciviousness. It is one of those apparent tensions or contradictions along the lines of “saved by faith alone and not works” and “faith without works is dead.” In other words, stumblingblocks that exist in the mind of those who choose not to believe, usually because of their insistence on making a thing of the spirit into a thing of this world. For how can a newly saved Christian know of the imperative not to abandon the faith and live holy unless he is told? How is he to learn true doctrine and practice and become spiritually mature unless he is taught by someone who knows these things? It is true that God seals the Christian and keeps Him in the faith. But why cannot or should not this same God use His preachers – and His Word – to tell Christians “stay in the faith” as part of the persevering process?
To put it another way, salvation is not accomplished by men, but rather the work that Jesus Christ accomplished on the cross. It is not the result of some individual human decision, but those that God predestines and elects. Yet, the fact that God requires humans to preach the gospel to other humans as part of this process – and the Bible specifically states that salvation will not happen unless this God ordained component is fulfilled – does not negate that salvation was started and finished by Jesus Christ. Such a thing as spontaneous combustion may exist, but there is no such thing as spontaneous regeneration. Another way of speaking, just as birth cannot happen unless a seed is provided (the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit in the case of Jesus Christ, human seed in all other cases), rebirth cannot happen unless a human plants the seed of the gospel.
So if there is a mandated God ordained human role starting the race (a sinner hearing the gospel and becoming born again), what prevents there from being a God ordained human role in staying in the race until the end? Again, the evangelist’s telling the not yet born again member of the elect “repent of your sins and accept Jesus Christ or perish in eternal flame” as the gospel message requires does not undo the fact that God has elected this person. In a similar fashion, the teacher’s telling the born again “you must stay in the race or perish” does not undo eternal security. Telling the truth in one area does not invalidate truth in another, and as a result the words of Jesus Christ and many other New Testament writers that promise eternal security are not contradicted by words of the same Jesus Christ and writers that speak of the need to persevere.
The best example: the parable of the sower. Jesus Christ spoke of the seeds that fell by the wayside, that fell in stony soil, that fell among the thorns, and that fell in good soil. According to those who preach that it is possible to lose one’s salvation, Jesus Christ’s own high priestly prayer contradicted what He stated mere months earlier regarding the people who would receive the gospel initially but then turn aside because of persecution or worldiness. The only way to harmonize that parable with Jesus Christ’s prayer is to conclude that rather than being born again Christians who failed to persevere, the plants that grew in the thorns and stony soil represent people who may have put their trust in religion, values, tradition, apostate Christianity, or some other form of godliness without the power thereof (or those who sought out the faith for the wrong reason, or those who were deceived, manipulated, or coerced into conversions) and as such were never born again. In that, the contrast is between both those two groups (the stony soil and the thorns) and those who fell by the wayside (meaning that they rejected the gospel out of hand) and those who received the gospel in good soil. Now please note that by implication both the first group (the wayside people who reject the gospel out of hand) and the last group (the good soil people who persevere in the faith) are the smallest. It appears that the bulk of the people are going to be in the middle two groups, people who hold onto some external form of Christianity for a time or even for all their lives. Indeed the road is narrow and the gate is strait!
But never forget that what separates the seeds that produce plants that persevere and the seeds that do not is their landing in good soil, and what makes them good soil is their measure of faith given by the sovereign God. And the same faith given by the sovereign God that creates the good soil that results in true lasting salvation is the same one that will over time (rapidly in some, less rapidly in others) produce spiritual maturity and submission that leads to obedience and good works. The same faith that caused conversion in the first place will cause good soil Christians to heed the exhortation of preachers – as well as the exhortation in the Bible – to persevere. The same Holy Spirit that works the regeneration of Christians upon their hearing the gospel will work the perseverance and eternal security of those same Christians. Why? Because it is the same Holy Spirit which is working on the same ingredient: faith. And what is the object of this faith? What the resurrected Jesus Christ did on the cross. And to whose will and glory does this take place? God the Father, the same who sent the Son and on whose behalf the Holy Spirit speaks and bears witness. (Again, eternal security requires Trinity, which is no surprise because the Bible requires the same.)
So Christian, God the Son prayed to God the Father for your eternal security in John 11:17 and it was done. Believe it, receive it, and live it for doing any other including denying it is akin to claiming that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit is in fact no God at all, for this would be a God in conflict with Himself and incapable of internal consistency of will, word and action or of keeping His promises.