May 9th, 1971 @ 7:30 PM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-9-71 7:30 p.m.
On the radio, you are sharing with us the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled Saved Forever, Forever Saved. We invite you who listen on radio, as with us in this great auditorium, to turn to the Gospel of John, chapter 10, John chapter 10; and we shall read from verses 22 through verses 30. John chapter 10, 22 through 30. And all of us having a Bible, and on the radio if there is possibility of your having a Bible, get your Bible and read out loud with us. John chapter 10, beginning at verse 22, closing at verse 30, now all of us together:
And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter.
And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon’s porch.
Then came the Jews round about Him, and said unto Him, How long dost Thou make us to doubt? If Thou be the Christ, tell us plainly.
Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me.
But ye believe not, because ye are not of My sheep, as I said unto you.
My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me:
And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand.
My Father, which gave them Me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of My Father’s hand.
I and My Father are one.
It would be very obvious, the sermon to be delivered tonight: "My sheep hear My voice; I know them, and they follow Me. And I give unto them eternal life." I don’t know how long that is, but however long that is that’s the length of the life that God gives us in Christ Jesus. "I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never, ever perish; nor shall anyone" – that word "man" there is in italics – "nor shall anyone, anything, any power, any demon, any devil, nor shall anyone pluck them out of My hand. My Father, which gave them Me, is greater than all; and no one, no demon, no devil, no power, no force is able to pluck them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are one." Now that’s plain language; that’s simple speech; that’s polysyllabic nomenclature.
I grew up in a little town, just a little town, about that big. On this trip we’re making to Israel, there are four more people going with us on that trip than there were in the town in which I grew up. There were two churches in that town. One was a Methodist church and the other was the Baptist church. Well when I was a little boy, I was introduced to those doctrinal differences. And one of those doctrinal differences was the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints on one side, and the fallen from grace on the other side. And I used to just listen to them as they would discuss that and argue that. The Methodists believed in falling from grace; and the Baptists believed "once saved always saved". And they used to just talk about those things, because in that little town you didn’t have anything else to talk about but the doctrinal differences between those two churches.
Well, I was fetched up in the Baptist faith. Oh dear! My folks were Baptist like you never saw in your life. I was brought up to love God and hate the Methodists. We really were committed. And as time went on, of course, I was taught these things about the perseverance of the saints, and the salvation forever of those that put their trust in Jesus, and that they could never ultimately fall away, that they were saved forever. And, of course, being imbued with that doctrine, I came to believe it, and to be persuaded of it. And as time went on, I read a story that one time to me illustrated it.
Way up there in Canada there was a hunter; and he came across a stream, a creek, a river, and it was frozen over. But he didn’t know whether it would hold his weight or not. So, to cross the stream, he got down on his hands and his knees and he began to creep, slowly, slowly, slowly, just wondering if that frozen ice would hold him up. Creeping, creeping, creeping, gradually crossing that stream. When he got out in the middle of that frozen river, he heard a roar behind him. And he stopped, and turned around and looked. And there thundering out of the forest was a big, log wagon, drawn by four mighty horses. And that driver drove those horses furiously down the mountainside with that heavy load of logs, and onto the stream, and crossed the frozen river, and up on the other side. And that fellow creeping down on all fours, watching that guy as he came thundering out of the forest, and up the mountain on the other side. That creeper is the Methodist: he’s gradually going along. And the driver of that log wagon is a Baptist, roaring across the river. Both of them safe, just alike; except one doesn’t know it and the other one does.
I don’t suppose that there is a doctrine to people who are introduced to the doctrines of the faith, I don’t suppose that there is a doctrine that is more discussed or more strangely scrutinized as this doctrine."Well, why do you believe that? Why do you think that people who are saved can never be lost?" Well there are several things, as we study God’s Book. For one thing, we ought to define our terms. If a man is going to hell, he’s not saved. The word "saved" refers to people that are going to heaven. And if a man on the way to heaven falls into hell, he’s not saved; he’s damned, he’s going to fall into perdition. So the word "saved" refers to those who are going to heaven: they’ll be in glory someday.
Now, the Bible plainly teaches to us that those who place their trust in Christ are forever united to God, and that they shall never be ultimately lost. But their names are in a roll; it’s in heaven’s Book of Life. And when that roll is called, your name will be there, and you will answer in that holy and glorious and triumphant day. Now there are four reasons that I have chosen why the Bible presents that to us, that we might have assurance and confidence in God.
First, I believe the Bible teaches that when we are saved we are saved forever because of the Word and the promises of God. In this Book of John alone – through which I am preaching on Sunday nights – in this Book of John alone, forty-three times, three and forty times does the inspired writer say that God gives to us eternal life. "My sheep hear My voice, I know them, they follow Me; and I give unto them eternal life." Or John 3:16, "That whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting, eternal life." Or John 5:24, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth My voice, and believeth on Him that set Me, hath eternal life, and shall never come into condemnation; but is passed out of death into life." Forty-three times in this book does God say that He gives to those who trust in Jesus eternal life. It is something that God bestows upon us; and if we can believe His Word and His promise, God could not lie in promising us that gift.
One of the most beautiful passages of the Book of Hebrews concerns the promises of God: "And when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by Himself,That by two immutable witnesses" – God and God’s oath – "we might have assurance and strong consolation, we who have fled for refuge to Jesus, have laid hold on the hope in Christ"[Hebrews 6:13, 18]. Now that’s the first reason: we are saved forever because God swears it, and because He could swear by no greater He swore by Himself, that we who trust in Jesus shall be saved forever; the devil can’t get us.
All right, the second reason: the second reason why the Book presents this eternal perseverance of the saints lies in the nature of what Christ has done for us. How are we saved? Now there are those who are persuaded that God sent Jesus into this world in order to teach us how to be better and better and better, and better and better and better and better, and going up that rung, those ladders of betterness and betterness, until finally we get good enough to be saved. But if we’re not good enough, why, we lose that salvation, and we never finally come to that glorious consummation of life in heaven.
Well, there is no such thing as that in the Bible; it just isn’t there. If all we needed was a philosopher, or a teacher, or a metaphysician, or a religionist even, to tell us that we ought to be better and better and better, you wouldn’t need anybody but Confucius, you wouldn’t need anybody but Mahavira, the Buddha, you wouldn’t need anybody but Zoroaster, you wouldn’t need anybody but Socrates or Plato; you wouldn’t need anybody but the Stoics, or Marcus Aurelius. There is no philosopher who ever lived that taught people to be vile and evil; they all teach men to be upright in rectitude and integrity. I don’t know a politician or a statesman or an author of any kind that doesn’t encourage people to be good. We had all the teachers in the earth to teach us to be good. We know to be good. The heathen know to be good. But there is the problem of human sin, and human depravity: we are not good. And if salvation depends upon our goodness, then how shall we stand in the presence of God? That’s why Christ came into the world: to save us from our sins. And all of us are in that judgment and condemnation alike. So God sent our Savior into the world to save us from our sins. And it is something He does, not I. It is something He does, not we. We don’t save ourselves; it is the Lord who saves us. He does it.
When He bowed His head on the cross and cried, "It is finished," what did He mean? It is finished, that He had taught us how to be good? No! For all of the philosophers and statesman and politicians and authors and leaders and literary men of the earth had taught us that; and we know to be good. There’s no man that doesn’t have inside of him that witness, "I ought to be good." But when the Lord bowed His head and cried, "It is finished," what He meant was that the great method, the way, the plan of salvation that God has for us was complete. He had died for our sins, according to the Scriptures. Our sins were atoned for. It is finished. And now our salvation is a free gift from God. It is something God has done for us, and our salvation is something God gives us. It is gratis. It is free. It is a gift; God offers us as such.
Suppose I come to you, and I have a thousand dollar diamond ring, thousand dollar diamond ring, and I say, "I’m going to give this thousand dollar diamond ring to you, going to give it to you."
"Oh no," you say, "oh no. I don’t want you to give it to me. Here, let me give you ten dollars." And so you give me ten dollars for it. And then you go and you boast, "Look what I did. Man did I skim him. I got a thousand dollar ring here for ten dollars. Look at that, ten dollars." As long as you pay me something for it, I have not given it to you. But if I give it to you, you don’t pay for it. That’s exactly with our salvation: it is a gift of God.
Listen to the Word of the Lord: Ephesians 2:6-8, "By grace," that is, just God’s loving favor, "By grace are ye saved, through faith;" that’s the way it is mediated to us, "By grace are ye saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves," you did not do it, "that not of yourselves," not something you did, "it is a gift of God," it is something God gives us; "not of works," not of yourself, not of something you did, "lest any man should boast," lest any man should glory, lest he should say, "Look what I did. I did it. I’m here in heaven. I forgave my own sin. I’m here in heaven. I have perfected my own life." No. It is a gift of God; it is something God does for us.
Third, we are saved eternally according to the Word of the Lord because of what Jesus is doing for us now. Where is our Lord? Isn’t that great, no? We just had a tremendously effective baptismal service. We baptized about nineteen tonight. What did that service mean? We are buried with our Lord, and we are raised with our Lord: He’s not nailed to a crucifix somewhere. The sign of the Christian faith is a cross, and the Lord is gone from it, departed from it; and He’s departed into heaven. He’s in glory, and His Spirit is here in our hearts, working with us. What’s our Lord doing in heaven? Listen to Hebrews 7:25: "Wherefore He is able to save to the uttermost them who come unto God by Him, because He ever liveth to make intercession for them." The devil is called our adversary, and he accuses the brethren day and night. He points to us sinners, "Look, sinners!" That’s right, but Jesus is our great Intercessor and Mediator, and He pleads for us. And He sees us through; He does it. And we’re kept from falling, by the grace of God. As the beautiful benediction in Jude reads, "Now unto Him who is able to keep you from falling, and to present you spotless, without blemish, in the presence of His glory." That’s what Jesus is doing for us: He is our Intercessor in heaven.
Third, fourth, why is it that the Bible presents to us that we are saved eternally? One, by the promises of God; the Lord swears. Second, because of the nature of the atoning grace of Christ; it is something He’s done for us. He gives it to us. Third, because of what Christ is doing now in heaven, interceding for us. Fourth, why are we saved forever? Because of the nature of our spiritual life.
How do you get to be a Christian? Well, we buy it: we save up money; we get rich enough to buy it. All the money in the world couldn’t buy it. God doesn’t need our money. He said, "If I were hungry, I would not tell thee. The cattle on a thousand hillsare Mine, the gold and the silver is Mine" [Psalm 50:10, 12]. We couldn’t buy it. How would you buy the death of Christ?
"Well, you say the nature of our salvation, if I don’t buy it, then I work for it. If God wants me to go out here and dig post holes, or go out here and work through all these days, I work for it." God expressly says, "Not of works, lest any man should say, I did it" [Ephesians 2:9].
Well how is a man saved, then? He doesn’t buy it, he doesn’t work for it, he could never be good enough to attain it. This is how a man is saved: you are born into it. You are born into it. And there are two ways in the Bible that that spiritual life is implanted in you. First, you are born into it. If you’re not born again, you are lost, you are not a Christian, you are not saved. If you are born into the kingdom of God, you are a child of God, born a child of God. That’s the way you are saved: you are born into it.
Now how would you "unborn" yourself? Just how would you do it? These children of ours, just how would you "unborn" your children? You cannot "unborn" them: they are your children as long as they breathe, and throughout all eternity. They are born into your family. And we are born into the family of God. That’s the first thing the Spirit does: we are born into the family.
All right, the second thing – and it’s the same thing, except in a different nomenclature, a different figure, a different simile – now listen to it, in 1 Corinthians 12:13, "By on Spirit are we all baptized into the body of Christ." When we believe in Christ, when we trust in the Lord, the Holy Spirit adds us to the body of Christ. Now, do you suppose that the doctrine could be scripturally correct, that would teach that the Holy Spirit puts us into the body of Christ, and we fall out of it; then He puts us into the body of Christ, and we fall out of it. Such a fanciful doctrine is never even approached in the Word of the Lord. We are by one Spirit baptized, added to, the body of Christ. And no member of Christ shall ever, ever perish.
"Now pastor, just wait a minute. I know people, and they are degenerates; yet at one time they were Christians." Are you right sure? Doesn’t the Lord Himself say, "Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven" [Matthew 7:21]? Was Judas ever saved? No. He was the son of damnation; you have it translated in the King James Version "perdition". From the beginning, he was never a child of God. Jesus said he was a devil; his heart was never regenerated. And it didn’t come out, it wasn’t seen by the world, though the Lord knew it; it wasn’t seen by the world until he betrayed the Lord, and sold Him for thirty pieces of silver, and hanged himself in bitter remorse. Was Ananias a Christian, the liar in the church? No, he was never saved, he was never regenerated: all he had his heart and mind on was to use the church in order to further his financial genius. Was Demas a Christian? "Demas hath forsake me, having loved this present world" [2 Timothy 4:10]. No, he was never saved, never saved.
Well how do you know when a man is saved? Why it’s very simple. When a man is saved, it doesn’t mean that he doesn’t fall, that he doesn’t stumble, that he doesn’t sin; but what it does mean is he comes back. Simon Peter wept bitterly: swearing and cursing and denying the Lord; and in the midst of his curse and his oath, the Lord turned and looked upon Peter, and he went out and wept bitterly [Luke 22:61-62]. And when the Lord was raised from the dead, he turned to Simon Peter and said, "Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me? And he was grieved because the Lord said the third time, Lovest thou Me? He said, Lord, You know all about me, You know everything; Thou knowest that I love Thee" [John 21:15-17]. That’s what a Christian does. If you are born again, if you are a child of God, 1 John says the seed of the Lord remains in us, and we never go beyond it or escape it [1 John 3:9]. And you won’t either, not after you’re a child of God.
I held a revival meeting, and out on the highway was a joint, a cheap dance hall and a cheap beer joint, a filthy, dirty, smelly, unsavory kind of a place, out on the highway. And somehow one of the members of the church got the burden of that man on his heart, and came to me, and said, "Would you drive out there down that highway, and go to that joint, and talk to that man about his soul? God’s put him on my heart." I said, "I will." I got in the car, and drove down the highway, and out there on the edge of town, and went in, and saw him, introduced myself to him, and I said, "Could I talk with you privately, where these people couldn’t hear?" He said, "I’d be glad to talk to you." And we went in the back part of that filthy place. We went in the back part, and he sat down by my side. And I told him who I was, and that I was there holding a revival meeting. And I told him about a friend that had him upon his heart, and had prayed for him, and asked me to come to talk to him. And I said, "That’s why I’ve come. I’ve come to talk to you about your soul, and about Jesus."
Did you know, as I talked to that man, he began to cry, just weep, just sob. And here’s what he said: he said, "I grew up in a Christian home, with a godly father and mother. And," he said, "when I was a teenager, I was saved. I was saved, and I was baptized." Then he said, "I have gotten away, and I have fallen down to the place where I run this filthy joint." Then he added, "But I am so miserable, I could die. I am so wretched. Every day is a cursed day for me. I’m so unhappy."
Well I said, "That’s the sign that you’re saved, you’re a child of God. When you put a pig in the dirt, he wallows in it and likes it. When a sheep falls in the mud, he tries and he struggles to get out." And that’s a surefire test of you. When you’re out there in that world, if you like it, you’re not saved, you’re not born again. But when you’re out there in that world, and you’re so miserable you could die, you’re a child, you’ve been born again.
He said, "I’m so miserable, I could die. Every day is a miserable day for me. I’m so unhappy." Well I said, "Would you close this joint up? Would you trust God to give you another job? Would you come down the aisle at that church? Would you tell that church the decision you’ve made in your life, that you’re coming back to Jesus?" He said, "I will;" shook my hand. He closed up that joint. He came down the aisle at that church. He told God’s people all about it. God gave him new friends. God gave him a new job. God gave him a new happiness. That’s it. If you have ever been saved, you will never get away from it as long as you live.
"My sheep hear My voice;" and you don’t ever get beyond that call. "My sheep hear My voice; I know them. They follow Me. I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never, ever perish."
The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose,
I’ll never, no never, desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.
["How Firm a Foundation"; John Rippon]
If my salvation depended upon me, I might lose it. But if my salvation depends upon God, He can never be moved. If I’m holding on to the hand of God, I may turn loose. Why even in the hour of death, I might not know what I was doing, I might turn loose. But if the Lord has my hands, if He holds me, whether I’m in my mind or I am out of my mind, whether I am in health or I am in delirium, He holds my hand.
I see Mabel Ann up here in the choir tonight. Walking down Akardone time, when she was just a little thing, little bitty girl, walking down, we came to the light, and she was watching the light, intrigued by those colors. And when it turned green, she said, "Daddy, let’s go, let’s go." So she took my hand, "Let’s go." I wasn’t about to go like that. I took her hand, and I pulled it away from mine; and then I took a firm grip on her hand, and I walked across the street with her. Because as a little child, she might let my hand go, distracted by some enticement or some little thing on the street or in the curb; but I knew I wouldn’t let her hand go. So I held her hand, and we crossed the street. That’s exactly the way it is with God. If my salvation depends upon my holding to God, I may miss it, I may fail, I could let go. But if my salvation depends upon God’s unchanging hand – Leroy, sing that song someday, "God’s Unchanging Hand", did you ever hear that song? No, you’re too young; you’re too much of a child. God’s unchanging hand, that’s what saves us: the Word and the promise, and the keeping omnipotence of almighty God.
And that’s our invitation to you tonight. To give your life to God, to trust in the Lord, to believe in Him, to let Him see you through, to let Him hold your hand, put your life in the hands of God, trust the Lord with your soul, and to old age and to death and through every trial and strain and stress He’ll see you through. Make that decision now in your heart. And in a moment when we stand up to sing, stand up coming, "I’ve made the decision for Christ tonight, and here I am, here I come." On the first note of the first stanza, come now; a family, a couple, you. God will bless you, angels will attend you, the Holy Spirit will open the door for you. That first step is the most meaningful one you’ll ever make in your life: take it for Jesus, and let Him see you through. There’s no answer He doesn’t have. There’s no strength He doesn’t possess. There’s no victory He can’t win; He never lost a battle in His life, and He’ll not lose it for you. Trust Him, and come, while we stand, while we sing.