7. The Security of the Saints (Exodus 32:1-14)
Each summer when my family and I go to Washington state to visit our families and friends, my father and I traditionally play our annual game of golf. This year my father and I went as a threesome with my uncle, who also happens to be a golf coach. My dad tactfully took me aside as we were approaching the clubhouse and gave me a bit of advice: “Bobby, why don’t you use your number three iron at first, until you gain a little confidence.” My answer tells you a lot about me: “Pop, I don’t have any trouble with confidence, just ability.”
Occasionally, though, I do lack a sense of security and self-confidence. I once worked as a school teacher in a medium-security prison in my home town in Washington state. In the prison school we had a guard who was stationed in the hall just outside the classroom. The guard, Mr. Look, was a man who was in control of things to such a degree that he inspired confidence in every teacher. He seemed to be almost omniscient (he always knew what the inmates were thinking), omnipresent (he seemed to be everywhere at once and to have eyes in the back of his head), and omnipotent (Mr. Look always got his way). From the teachers’ standpoint, Mr. Look was synonymous with security.
One week, however, Mr. Look went on vacation. The guard who took his place had neither the competence nor the confidence which all the teaching staff had come to expect. I must tell you that week was torture for all of us. No one had to tell us that matters were entirely in our hands. If we failed to control things in the classroom, we could expect little help from the guard outside. That week insecurity became a very real feeling which I had to contend with.
As I view the world in which we live, overconfidence may be a problem for some, but insecurity is epidemic in proportion. Science was once touted to be the savior of mankind. Now the ominous threat of the atom bomb hangs over our heads. Some would say that even if the bomb doesn’t kill us, nuclear power plants (such as Three Mile Island) will. The airplane has dramatically changed travel, but those of us who fly not only wonder if the plane will hold together, but we fear being hijacked to some foreign country or colliding in mid-air because of the air traffic controllers’ strike. The environment continues to become a garbage dump for all kinds of pollution and poison. The elderly are frightened to go out on the streets and yet afraid to be alone in their homes. And now the final blow has been struck—we are told that Social Security is no longer secure. And what little people have been able to save is being devoured by inflation.
With all of these sources of insecurity, some Christians would have us add yet another to our list—spiritual insecurity. They would tell us that it is possible for a person who has genuinely been converted, who has come to a personal trust in Jesus Christ for salvation, to lose that salvation through disobedience and sin. They want us to believe that we are only as secure as we are saintly. Because of this we must address ourselves to the subject of spiritual security.
I have chosen to approach the subject of the security of the saints in a somewhat backward fashion. I believe the Bible emphatically teaches the security of the saints, but first I want to show you that the doctrine of the security of the saints is not only true, but necessary. Insecurity is a devastating thing. I do not believe that it ever produces anything of eternal value. In order to demonstrate this I want to turn your attention to several instances in the Scriptures where insecurity has ruled the day. In this way we will see that security is essential to us, not only for our future, but also for day to day Christian living.
In Genesis 11 the people of Babel were insecure with the thought of spreading out and filling the earth as God had commanded (Genesis 9:7), so they set out to build a city with a tower in order to find their security in a city and a society. That project was cut short, and the people were dispersed by confusing their languages (Genesis 11:6-9). In Genesis 12 Abram was not secure in the promise of God in verses 1-3, so he fled to Egypt and resorted to deception to save his skin at his wife’s expense (verses l0ff.). This sin was repeated in chapter 20. In Genesis 16 Abram and Sarai felt insecure without a child to assure them of their future and the realization of God’s promises, so they set out to produce a child in their own way. The child which came from the union of Abram and Hagar brought only discord and sorrow (cf. 16:4ff.; 21:1ff.). In chapter 27 we find that Rebekah could not trust God to give Jacob preeminence over Esau as He had said (25:23), and so she sought to bring it about by intrigue and deception (27:5ff.), but at the cost of the son she most loved. She probably never saw him again before she died (27:41ff.). Over and over in Genesis insecurity was a major factor in actions which greatly displeased God and resulted in great suffering and sorrow for the saints. The same could be shown throughout Scripture.
Spiritual life, growth, and service is often etched away by the acid of insecurity. We must look for a biblical and more positive basis for spiritual motivation and ministry. A very significant part is played by the biblical teaching of the absolute security of the saint. It is to this truth that we are devoting our attention in this lesson.
A Scriptural Definition of Spiritual Security
Before we begin to defend spiritual security we must first define it. Spiritual security is the biblical teaching that a Christian is not only saved by God’s grace and power, but he is also kept by it. One who is truly born again can never relapse into the former state of being lost. Thus the saint is spiritually secure from the time of his salvation to the time of his glorification.
To put this into its simplest form, “Once saved, always saved.” To speak of it in more biblical terms, all those who have been chosen in eternity past and, in time, called and justified will, without exception, be glorified:
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren; and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these he also justified and whom He justified, these He also glorified (Romans 8:28-30).
There is not so much as a hint that some will be lost from one step to another in the divinely directed process from election to glorification because it is God who is working all things together for good.
This doctrine of the security of the saints is based upon several biblical assumptions.
First, we assume that not all who profess to be saved are actually saved:
“Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness’” (Matthew 7:22-23; cf. also James 2:14-26).
Some will appear to be Christians who never were.
Second, we must regretfully admit that some who are genuinely saved may not, at a given point in time, appear to be a Christian. In the Old Testament Pharaoh might not think Abram to be saved as he lied about Sarai (Genesis 12), nor does David seem to be a saint when he took Uriah’s wife and his life (2 Samuel 11). In the New Testament, Peter did not appear to belong to our Lord when he denied Him (Luke 22:54-62), nor did the man who was living with his father’s wife, an act considered pagan by unbelievers (1 Corinthians 5:1-5). The doctrine of the security of the saint does not mean that a Christian cannot fall, but only that his salvation will never fail:
The steps of a man are established by the LORD; And He delights in his way. When he falls, he shall not be hurled headlong; because the LORD is the one who holds his hand (Psalm 37:23-24).
Third, we must say that the doctrine of the security of the saints does not mean that all who are truly saved will necessarily feel so at any given moment in time. There is a great deal of difference between security and assurance. Security is a reality, while assurance is our perception of this reality. Security is a fact; assurance is a feeling. At times of sinfulness and disobedience, assurance is frequently lacking, but security is not.
Fourth, I have chosen for a definite reason to employ the expression “spiritual security” instead of the more familiar “eternal security.” While it need not be so, there is the implication in the latter expression that while my eternal destiny is secure, my day to day experience is a horse of a different color. I can be sure of going to heaven, but there is considerable doubt whether or not God’s purposes for my life will be realized. If I make but one mistake, some think, I will throw God’s plan for my life irreversibly off course. That is not spiritual security, for spiritual security assures me that God’s purpose to bring me to glory will certainly be realized, just as His purpose of bringing glory to Himself through me in this life will be (Romans 8:28-39; Philippians 1:6).
We know that Daniel continued to pray to his God even when the Law of the land prohibited it. We are not surprised when God shut the mouths of the lions because Daniel trusted his God and obeyed Him (cf. Daniel 6). Similarly, Daniel’s three friends were delivered out of the fiery furnace because they trusted in God (Daniel 3). Abraham obeyed God by taking his son Isaac to Mt. Moriah to sacrifice him as God had commanded, and God spared his son (Genesis 22). In all of these situations God preserved and protected men when they were faithful to Him. But what of those times when men choose to disobey?
The doctrine of spiritual security maintains that God’s purposes for our lives will be realized in spite of our disobedience. God promised to bless Abraham and the world through him (Genesis 12:1-3, etc.). He protected and even prospered Abram and Sarai in Egypt when they lied (Genesis 12:10ff). God purposed that Messiah would come through the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:8-12). Judah, however, was willing to enter into marriage with a Canaanite and into a sexual union with a woman he thought to be a cult prostitute. His sons were wicked and sought to avoid having children through Judah’s daughter-in-law, Tamar, but God nevertheless provided a son, Perez, who would be the ancestor of our Lord (Genesis 38). The book of Esther describes the fate of those Jews who chose to remain in Persia when they could have (and should have) returned to the promised land. By and large, the people of God were in unbelief. Throughout the book the future of these Jews seems to hang by a thread, but God saved them in spite of their unbelief and scheming. It was the purpose of God to bring the Ninevites to repentance through the preaching of Jonah. While Jonah arrived somewhat later than might have been the case, and certainly shaken by his experience, nevertheless he preached and many were saved, despite Jonah’s disgruntled attitude, even at the last of the book.
God’s purposes are not dependent upon our willful or joyful cooperation. When we choose to trust and obey, we have the privilege of participating knowingly and joyfully in God’s work through us. But when we disobey, God uses us anyway. The difference is that He uses us without our being aware of it, without our experience of the peace and joy that results from obedience, and often with the painful consequences brought about by our waywardness. Thus Joseph’s brothers accomplished the will of God (cf. Genesis 50:20), but unknowingly. And they went through much unnecessary grief and anxiety because of their sin. Yet in all of this the plan of God was being carried out without a hitch (cf. Genesis 37-50). Whether we respond to God’s leading or resist it, God’s will is accomplished. Therein is spiritual security.
Fifth, while I am spiritually secure from the moment I have been born again, pursuing a life of sin and disobedience is ill-advised:
It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father’s wife. And you have become arrogant, and have not mourned instead, in order that the one who had done this deed might be removed from your midst. For I, on my part, though absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged him who has so committed this, as though I were present. In the name of our Lord Jesus, when you are assembled, and I with you in spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus, I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus (1 Corinthians 5:1-5).
The sinner here was a true Christian, I believe. He had done that which shocked even the pagans and brought discredit to our Lord and His church. The discipline which Paul urged was intended to restore this brother, a course of action that was effective (2 Corinthians 2:5-11). Paul said that while his flesh might be destroyed, his spirit would be saved. Spiritually this sinning saint was secure, eternally secure, but he was nevertheless in great danger. God has ways of dealing with sin besides revoking salvation. Being turned over to Satan is a frightening possibility. Our souls are secure in the Lord, now and forever, but we still may reap the consequences of divine chastening if we choose to take the grace of God lightly.
A Scriptural Defense of Spiritual Security
The doctrine of our spiritual security is not just true because we want it to be so and not even because we need it to be true; it is a fact because the Bible boldly states this to be the case. While there are many lines of proof for the security of the saints, I will focus on some of those which are most striking to me.
(1) The saints are spiritually secure because the Scriptures say so. Our Lord Himself assured us of our security in Him:
“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them; and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch 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 10:27-29).
Several things in this passage support the conclusion that our Lord assured the Christian of his spiritual security. His sheep, true sheep (not hogs or dogs—2 Peter 2:22) listened to Him, recognized His voice and followed Him, as opposed to false teachers (John 10:5,14,26). The sheep of our Lord are given eternal life, and their security is as certain as the strength of God to keep them. Since the Father is greater than all, no one can snatch us from His hand (verse 29).
Let your way of life be free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).
Christians should never seek their security from riches, for such security is uncertain (cf. 1 Timothy 6:17). Instead we should be content with what we have, for true security is in Him who will never leave us nor forsake us.
What Jesus promised, Paul preached:
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, “For Thy sake we are being put to death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:31-39).
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life (Romans 5:8-10).
Paul says that our victory was won on the cross of Calvary through. Christ, who died and was raised again. Our victory is in Him, and nothing can separate us from His love. In Romans 5 the certainty of His love is stressed by contrasting our past condition with our present state. He died for us while we were yet in our sins, His enemies, and resisting His will. If His love was such that He would die for His enemies, how much more we can be confident of being kept since we are now members of His family. If He saved us as enemies, surely He will keep us as members of the family.
Paul has yet another argument for our security. His confidence in the keeping power of God is unshakable because God always finishes what He begins:
For I can confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6).
Here is the fundamental issue in the matter of our security: who initiated our salvation, God or us? The song says, “If you’ll take one step toward the Savior, my friend, you’ll find His arms open wide.” It would appear from the song that it is man who makes the first move, but the song is wrong. Notice what Paul says in Philippians 1:29:
For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.
Now this verse tells us that it is God who has granted us to believe. Other passages bear out this same point:
… and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed (Acts 13:48).
… and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul (Acts 16:14).
“You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain; that whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He may give to you” (John 15:16).
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ-, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will (Ephesians 1:3-5; cf. also 2:1-10).
When we were dead in our sins, enemies of God (Ephesians 2:1-3), not seeking Him (Romans 3:10-18), He chose us, sent His Son to Calvary, regenerated us by His Spirit, and drew us to Himself. Salvation begins with God, and therefore God will finish what He began.
Peter reiterates what Jesus promised and Paul preached:
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 Peter 1:3-5).
The writer to the Hebrews says plainly that God both initiates and completes our salvation:
… fixing our eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2).
Heaven, Peter assures us, is kept securely for us. Frankly, I have never stayed up nights worrying about that. More important for me is the promise that we are being kept for it, by God’s power.32
(2) In addition to explicit statements in the Scriptures there are also many implicit assurances of the security of the saints. We know that God is omniscient (that is, He knows all). Knowing all means that God knew all of our sins long before He ever chose us (in eternity past) or called us. How inconceivable it is to think that an omniscient God would save us from some of our sins, all the while knowing that by other sins we would be lost. Since God is immutable (that is, He never changes), His purposes never change, nor do His promises, nor does His love. If God’s love does not change, nor His purposes, and His power is greater than all, how can we ever be lost, having once been saved? The gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable (Romans 11:29).
(3) We never find any instance in the Bible, Old or New Testament, where one who was once saved lost his salvation. David sinned greatly, but he was restored. Peter denied his Lord, but he had a position of prominence in His church. And even the man who lived with his father’s wife was considered spiritually secure (1 Corinthians 5:5). And lest someone object that these men were all lost and then saved once again, let me remind you of this passage:
For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God, and put Him to open shame (Hebrews 6:4-6; emphasis added).
If it were possible to be lost after once being saved (which it is not),33 then that one would be lost forever.
(4) Finally, the character of God demands that the saints be spiritually secure. In Exodus 32 we find the nation Israel had quickly turned from true worship and had become involved in idolatry (verses 1-6). While I am reading between the lines, I do not believe that God was as willing to give up on the Israelites as was Moses, who, I think, was ready to resign. The interchange between God and His servant was a brilliant stroke, for it caused Moses to intercede for the Israelites, pleading with God to preserve them.
Notice how God chose His words to suggest that these people were really the responsibility of Moses when the LORD spoke to Moses, “Go down at once, for your people, whom you brought up from the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves” (Exodus 32:7; emphasis added).
Since when were the Israelites Moses’ people? They were God’s chosen people! It would seem that neither Moses nor God wanted them at the moment. It sounds something like our house when our children have misbehaved. I tell my wife to deal with her children, and she insists that they are mine.
I do not think for a moment that Moses’ answer really changed God’s mind,34 but I do believe that it changed his. How could God give up on the nation of Israel? He had publicly identified with them in Egypt and brought about their miraculous release by the plagues and bringing them through the Red Sea. Moses told God that all the nations knew of this. If He were to fail to finish what He started, it would be His reputation that would be blemished. Like it or not, Moses seemed to be saying, God could not give up on His people, even if He wanted to, because it was His reputation that was on the line.
Isn’t that a comforting thought? God has committed Himself to saving us and to completing the work of salvation by glorifying us with Him in heaven. All of heaven looks on with keen interest (1 Corinthians 11:10; 1 Peter 1:12). His glory is to be realized by our redemption:
In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory (Ephesians 1:13-14).
… in order that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places. This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord (Ephesians 3:10-11).
Conclusion and Application
Most of us are probably familiar with the little Peanuts book which carried out the theme “Happiness is …” I would like to give you my version of “Security is …” only without the cartoons to accompany it.
- Security is knowing that my salvation is as certain as He is loving, powerful, and unchanging.
- Security is knowing that God is my Father and that He will always deal with me as a son, not as a stranger.
- Security is knowing that God will bring about His glory and my good through my failures as well as through my faithfulness.
- Security is knowing that I am secure no matter how I may feel at the moment.
- Security is knowing that God purposes not only the ends, but also provides the means.
- Security is knowing that God has given me a vital task to perform and the gifts to do it (cf. 1 Corinthians 12).
- Security is knowing that God loves to confound the wise by using the simple (1 Corinthians 1:18-31).
The biblical teaching of the spiritual security of the saints provides us with several principles which we need to understand and apply in our Christian experience:
(1) While fear has value as a deterrent, it is security and faith that motivate us to steadfast service.
For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath upon the one who practices evil (Romans 13:3-4).
Fear has the beneficial effect of causing some to turn away from evil. Fear of eternal judgment has a very definite part to play in the conversion of the lost (cf. John 16:8; Acts 2:14ff., 16:29), but it does not provide an adequate or satisfactory basis for a life of service. A life of service is the result of spiritual security. Jesus frequently used the comforting words, “Fear not” (cf. Luke 5:10, 12:7, etc.). John wrote,
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love (1 John 4:18).
I believe that Timothy was a man who lacked confidence. I do not think it is difficult to see that he was a timid person who needed encouragement from Paul. In his second epistle to Timothy it was necessary for Paul to exhort him to diligence in the ministry to which he was called and for which God had gifted him:
And for this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, or of me His prisoner; but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God (2 Timothy 1:6-8).
In this same context Paul underscored the confidence and security he had in Christ, a confidence which Timothy should share:
For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day (2 Timothy 1:12).
The writer to the Hebrews, who were tempted to shrink back in a time of testing, stresses the confidence which should be the basis for boldness and endurance:
Since therefore, brethren, we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our body washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more, as you see the day drawing near (Hebrews 10:19-25).35
In the long term, fear does not motivate the saints to be saintly. If the security of my salvation were dependent upon my own faithfulness rather than upon God’s, I would just as well bail out early and avoid the rush. If my salvation is secure, even when I fail, I cannot lose, and therefore I can invest my life in God with the utmost of confidence.
May I go so far as to suggest that if fear has only a deterring value, while security has a positive and constructive dimension, we need to ask ourselves what motivation we are employing to promote the security of others. Marriages today are entered into with the understanding that if the union fails to produce all that we had hoped for, the union must be set aside. That is burdening marriage with a deadly sense of insecurity. Who is willing to invest everything in a relationship which is structured to fail? Permanence promises security, and security promotes long-tem investment. Do we imply to our mates that we will love them if …? Do our children conclude that we only love them when …? That is insecurity, and it does no more for our families than it does for our faith. Let us put aside all such things. And if insecurity does not work well in the family, I suspect it is unproductive in the factory or anywhere else.
(2) The security of the saints was never intended to encourage slothfulness or sin in the Christian’s life. The major objection to the doctrine of the security of the saints is not exegetical or biblical, but practical: “Once saved, always saved means that once I am saved I can live any way I wish and still go to heaven.” In one sense this is hypothetically true. Nothing I can do, once I am saved, will cause me to lose my salvation. But let me remind you, as I often do, that just because a doctrine is wrongly applied does not mean that the doctrine itself is wrong. Any truth can be misapplied and yet still be true.
The doctrine of spiritual security means that when I sin as a saint God will deal with me as a son, not as a stranger:
For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you may not grow weary and lose heart. You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood, in your striving against sin; and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by Him; for those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives.” It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it-, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble (Hebrews 12:3-12).
Now I must tell you that when I was naughty as a boy it was of little comfort, at the moment, to know it was my father who would be giving me my “licks.” Because he was my father, I knew that he had much more invested in me than the next-door neighbor or a total stranger. Consequently, those spankings hurt a lot.
When I was in elementary school one of the ways I found to get out of class was to be a projectionist. As such, my friend Rickey and I had a great deal more freedom than our peers. One day Rickey and I were careening down the hall at breakneck speed with the projector, cart, and all. As we executed a particularly skillfully banked corner, we ran into my father. He was the last teacher in that building I wanted to meet under such circumstances. Fathers do not go lightly on their sons if they love them. But when all is said and done, I never questioned the fact that I was still a son. Chastening is bearable, but being disowned is something entirely different. That is something the Christian need never fear.
(3) While our security is founded upon the promises of God, it is ultimately rooted in the person of God. No promise is any better than the person who has given it. Because God is omniscient, omnipotent, loving, merciful, and changeless I know that I will ever be secure in His salvation.
I find that Christians today are placing more emphasis upon the quality and quantity of their faith than upon the object of their faith. I may have great faith that I can fly by flapping my arms feverishly, but if I jump off a cliff with faith in my arms, I’ll die. On the other hand, I may have a weak and faltering faith in the 747 leaving Dallas/Ft. Worth today, but that plane is completely trustworthy. The object of my faith is far more important than the amount of my faith. Many will perish because they have much faith in the wrong object. When we wish to be assured of our security, we would do well to focus more upon the object—God Himself, His attributes, His character, His faithfulness in history (e.g., Psalm 78)—than upon our faith. In the words of one more honest than many of us, “I do believe; help me in my unbelief” (Mark 9:24).
(4) A security that is based upon anything other than God Himself and the work of His Son on Calvary is a false security, doomed to disappoint us. Money, for example, is not a firm foundation for our security:
A rich man’s wealth is his strong city, And like a high wall in his own imagination (Proverbs 18:11).
Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy (1 Timothy 6:17).
Our security is not in money, not in our position or power, not in our friends, but only in God.
(5) The saint is never more secure than when he has no visible means of support. It is easy for Christians to glibly say that we trust only in God. After all, even our coins say this. But in reality most of us trust in God and our bank account, our influence, our abilities, and our accomplishments. Nearly every Christian has “something up his sleeve,” so to speak, some extra hedge against insecurity. God has a marvelous way of pulling these “props” out from under us, gently and one at a time (usually), but surely. Abraham, for example, seemed to rely upon his relatives. While he was commanded to leave both his country and his relatives, he did not leave Terah, his father, but Terah left him in death, after taking the family to Haran (cf. Genesis 1:27-32; 12:1; Acts 7:2-4). Only reluctantly and after considerable time did Abraham leave Lot behind. Then he clung to Ishmael, whom God said had to be sent away. Finally it was Isaac who was Abraham’s sole source of security, and so God had to test his faith by commanding him to sacrifice Isaac (Genesis 22).
The message of the book of Hebrews is that our faith is not in earthly, visible things, but in God alone and in His promises of a new and better land, for which we still wait: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).
All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them (Hebrews 11:1, 13-16).
If security is to be found only in God, then I now have an entirely different outlook on the matter of suffering. Suffering causes me to take His Word more seriously:
Before I was afflicted I went astray, But now I keep thy word (Psalm 119:67).
It is good for me that I was afflicted, That I may learn Thy statutes (Psalm 119:71).
If Thy Law had not been my delight, Then I would have perished in my affliction (Psalm 119:92).
Suffering makes me cling more loosely to the things of this life and to yearn for Him:
Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven; inasmuch as we, having put it on, shall not be found naked. For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed, but to be clothed, in order that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge. Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord—for we walk by faith, not by sight—we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord (2 Corinthians 4:16-5:8).
In short, suffering and affliction force me to find my security only in God:
Whom have I in heaven but thee? And besides Thee, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail; But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. For, behold, those who are far from Thee will perish; Thou hast destroyed all those who are unfaithful to Thee. But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord God my refuge. That I may tell of all Thy works (Psalm 73:25-28).
The song writer has grasped the security of the saints and has penned these words of comfort and praise:
More secure is no one ever Than the loved ones of the Saviour
Not yon star on high abiding Nor the bird in home nest hiding.
God His own doth tend and nourish, In His holy courts they flourish;
Like a father kind He spares them. In His loving arms He bears them.
Neither life nor death can ever From the Lord His children sever,
For His love and deep compassion comforts them in tribulation.
Little flock, to joy then yield thee! Jacob’s God will ever shield thee;
Rest secure with this Defender, At His will all foes surrender.
What He takes or what He gives us Shows the Father’s love so precious:
We may trust His purpose wholly Tis His children’s welfare solely.
The security of which we have been speaking does not belong to all men by right, but it is a part of the salvation God has offered to men through faith in the shed blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. He died for your sins; He was raised from the dead and ascended to the right hand of the Father. He intercedes for His own, and in Him every true believer has absolute security for time and eternity. If you have never trusted in Him, I urge you to acknowledge your sinful state of rebellion against God and to cease trusting for your spiritual security in anything other than what our Lord has accomplished for you at Calvary.
32 One may hasten to point out that we are “protected by the power of God through faith.” But since faith itself is a gift from God and not of ourselves (Ephesians 2:8-10), we know that keeping us is God’s work.
33 Many interpretations of Hebrews 6 are to be found, but regardless of which you choose, the point remains: a Christian, if he could be lost, could not be re-saved. While some believe that this passage speaks of those who are only acquainted with the gospel and therefore never (yet) saved, I believe it to be a hypothetical argument intended to spur true Christians on to deeper things (cf. 5:11-6:3). If a Christian could be lost and then re-saved, the gospel should be the continual diet of the Christian (or ex-Christian, if he has sinned lately). But if no one can be re-saved, the subject of their study should be the deeper truths beyond that of salvation. Many churches who pride themselves for preaching the gospel every service should seriously consider this word from the writer to the Hebrews.
34 The statement of verse 14 is thus anthropomorphic; that is, it describes the event as Moses perceived it and not as it was precisely. In the same way we say that the sun rises, for so it appears, yet we know there is a different scientific explanation. Similarly, our Lord in Luke 24:28 seemed intent upon leaving the two disciples and going His way, but they persuaded Him to dine with them (verse 29). God is free to change His actions, but His attributes and His decrees do not change.
35 You might ask, “But aren’t the following verses (26-31) proof of the Arminian argument that we can lose our salvation?” The confidence of which the writer speaks in verses 19-25 is that which we have in Christ, as true believers. The dread of which he writes in verses 26-31 is that which is to befall those who have rejected the work of Christ, who are His adversaries (verse 27), who have disregarded our Lord and insulted His Holy Spirit (verse 29).