Once Saved, Always Safe
September 5th, 1982 @ 10:50 AM
ONCE SAVED ALWAYS SAFE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
9-05-82 10:50 a.m.
And welcome the great multitudes who are sharing this hour on radio and on television. This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas delivering the message in the doctrinal series on soteriology, on salvation. And the message is entitled Once Saved Always Safe. It is a message concerning the eternal security of the believer. And you read my text a moment ago in John 10, verses 27 to 30:
My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me:
And I give unto them eternal life—
just how long is that?
I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never, ever perish,
neither shall anyone pluck them out of My hand. My Father, who gave them Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to pluck them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are one.
The eternal security of the believer; what do you mean by saved? If we are saved, we are safe in Christ. By being saved, we refer to that one who has been joined to the Lord by faith, and is a member of the body of Christ.
First Corinthians 12:13, “By one Spirit are we all joined, are we all baptized into the body of Christ.” It is a strange and heretical and erroneous doctrine to think that the Holy Spirit joins us to the body of Christ and then we can be unjoined and then joined again and unjoined and joined again. Take my hand off, put it back on; take my foot off, put it back on. There’s no such doctrine as that in the Word of God. By one Spirit are we all joined to the body of Christ [1 Corinthians 12:13].
And we are going to heaven to be with Him. We belong to Him. We are members of His body. By being saved, we mean we’re going to be with Jesus in heaven [John 14:3]. If we fall into hell, we’re not saved. By being saved, we belong to Christ. We are a member of His body, and we’re going to be with Him world without end, eternally [1 Thessalonians 4:17]. It is one thing to join a church; it is another thing to be joined to Christ. It may be one thing to have your name on a church roll; it’s another thing to have you name in the Lamb’s Book of Life in heaven [Revelation 20:12, 15, 21:27]. And those who are saved, who are joined to Christ, are safe forever; the eternal security of the believer [John 10:27-28 .
Now there are five great reasons out of the Word of God to give us assurance who have found refuge in Jesus Christ, that when we are saved we are safe, saved forever. Number one: we have the assurance of our eternal security in salvation because of the Word and promise of God. That Word of the Lord is immutable and unchanging [Psalm 119:89]. It is like God Himself yesterday, today, and forever; the same [Hebrews 13:8]. Not having length of time to speak of other passages, let us just quote some of the promises of God in the Book of John alone.
- John 1:12-13: “But unto them that received Him, to them gave He the right to become the children of God, even to them that trust in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor the will of the flesh, nor the will of man, but of God.
- John 3:16, a verse all of us memorized as children: “He so loved us He sent Jesus to die for us, that whosoever looks to Him, believes in Him, trusts in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
- John 5:24: “Verily, verily, truly, truly I say unto you, he that heareth My Word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed out of death into life.”
- John 6:37: “He that cometh unto Me, I will in no wise cast out.”
- And this great text in John chapter 10: “I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never, ever perish” [John 10:28].
The immutable, and unchanging, and eternal, everlastingly true Word of God [Psalm 119:89]; nor does my timorous trepidation nullify, disannul, interdict that eternal promise of God.
In Exodus 12, verse 13, God said to the children of Israel: “This night the death angel will pass over, but when I see the blood on the lintel, on the doorpost, in the form of a cross, when I see the blood, I will pass over you. And there will not be death and condemnation visit that home” [Exodus 12:13, 23]. Being human, I would suppose that those Israelites that awesome and terrible night, sitting in the house under the blood, were just as we would have been—full of trepidation, and fear, and fright, “What will happen?” I can imagine one of them saying, “I’m scared.” I can imagine another one of them saying, “I’m uneasy.” And I can think of another one saying, “I just wonder if it will work?” However, the family members were inside that house, if they were under the blood, God did not say “When you see the blood, you may pass over.” God said, “When I see the blood, I will pass over you” [Exodus 12:13]. Our security lies not in the boldness or the courageousness of my faith; it lies in the faithfulness of God. And whether my faith is weak, and tremulous, and trembling, and hesitant, or whether my faith is bold and courageous; whether it is one or the other, I am saved because of His faithfulness. His promise is immutable and unchanging [2 Timothy 2:13].
Did you hear about that hunter in the North Canadian woods? In the wintertime came to a frozen stream. He put his gun over his shoulder and lest he fall through the broken ice, not knowing the depth of it being frozen, he began cautiously and timidly to crawl on his hands and feet. And when he got out in the middle of that frozen stream, he heard a roar back of him. And on his hands and knees he turned to see. And there was a lumberjack, big fellow driving a big team of horses, had a big wagon loaded with enormous logs. And he roared down that mountainside and came to that frozen stream and drove across it furiously. And that hunter, timidly on his hands and his knees, looked up and across at that big team and the wagon and the big load of logs. Both of them safe alike; one so timidly crawling and the other roaring across with a heavy wagon load of logs; that’s God. However I may be hesitant, and weak, and trembling, or however I might be bold and courageous in the faith—whether I am one or the other—I am saved in Him [Ephesians 1:7]; His immutable and unchanging Word [2 Timothy 2:13].
Number two: if I am saved, I am safe because of the finished work of Christ. In the Gospel of John 19:30 we are told the Lord on the cross bowed His head and cried, saying, “It is finished,” and gave up the ghost.
What did He mean by saying, “It is finished”? [John 19:30]. He referred to the work that He came to do in the earth: to save us from our sins [Luke 19:10], to make atonement for our souls [Hebrews 10:5-14], to make open a door for us into heaven [John 10:7, 9], and to secure for us an eternal salvation [John 10:27-30]. And that work of our Lord of atoning love, and mercy, and grace is forever complete [Romans 5:11; Hebrews 2:17]. It is perfect, it is finished, I can add nothing to it, take nothing away from it. It is absolutely, certainly, perfectly, beautifully, preciously, everlastingly done. “It is finished” [John 19:30]. And for me to try to add to that perfect atoning work of our Lord, is for me to blemish what Christ has done. I can think of a man standing before one of the beautiful pictures, paintings of Raphael such as the Sistine Madonna, and as he looks at it he says, “Bring me a paint and brush. I’m going to add to, I’m going to improve upon this marvelous painting of Raphael.”
I made a journey one time to Dresden, East Germany; one of the reasons to look upon that painting. Raphael was one of the sweetest spirits who ever lived, one of the finest painters God ever made. And for me to say, “Bring me a paint brush, and I’m going to daub it on that beautiful painting, I’m going to improve on it,” is unthinkable! It’s an insult! Be the same way if I were to say to a man, “Bring me a hammer and a chisel; you see this magnificent Pieta in the Vatican, made by Michelangelo, or this statue in marble that he carved of Moses? Bring me a hammer and chisel; I’m going to improve upon the work of Michelangelo.” It is unthinkable! It is thus in the atoning grace of our Lord Jesus Christ; that work is perfectly, splendidly, certainly, completely, everlastingly done! “It is finished!” [John 19:30]. I don’t add to it. All I can do is to receive that gift of atonement and salvation from His gracious hands. I take it as a gift, complete finished, perfect.
I want to say a word about a word that Paul uses to describe that. Paul says in Ephesians 2:8-9: “For by grace are ye saved through faith,” the channel to us mediated to us through faith. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is a gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast” [Ephesians 2:8-9]. May I speak of that little word, boast? Lest any man should glory, lest any man should say, “I did it,” boast, “I won my salvation, I merited it. I worked for it, boast” [Ephesians 2:9].
It’s like this. Suppose a man were to come to me and say, “I have a five thousand dollar diamond ring. I give it to you.” And I reply to him, “Oh, no sir, you don’t give it to me, I will buy it from you. I’ll give you five dollars for it.” And I buy it from him for five dollars, and I go home, and I boast; saying, “Look what I did. I bought this five thousand dollar ring for five dollars.” Boast, “Look what I did!” That is identical to what Paul is saying. Our salvation is a gift [Ephesians 2:8], and we don’t buy it; neither with works [Ephesians 2:9], or merit, or worth, or money, or anything else, it is a gift to us. And when we get to heaven, there are no self-laudatory words that you’ll hear sung in the presence of the angels of God. Every word will be a praise to the Lord Jesus, “Unto Him who loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood . . . To Him be glory, and honor, and dominion, and power forever and ever. Amen” [Revelation 1:5-6]. It is a gift of God. Finished, complete, perfectly, and certainly, and beautifully, and everlastingly done. My salvation is something God gives me, mediated through faith, through acceptance [Ephesians 2:8-9].
Number three: why the assurance of our salvation? Three, because of our confidence in God’s Son and our Savior, because of the confidence we can have in Him. Let me read a piece of a verse in 2 Timothy 1:12, “For I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day,” the great final judgment day of Almighty God. “For I know whom I have believed,” isn’t that a wonderful thing for a man to know the Lord Jesus? “For I know whom I have believed,” and the more I know about Jesus, the more assurance and the more certainty that I have [2 Timothy 1:12].
To know the Lord Jesus is like rising on eagles wings out of the midst of the darkness and doubt of this world and rising in the very presence of God. It is because I know so little about the Lord that sometimes I’m filled with doubt and hesitancy. But the more I know about Him, the more certainty comes into my soul. As we sing sometimes, “More, more about Jesus, more of His saving grace to see, more of His love who died for me.” [“More About Jesus Would I know”; Eliza E. Hewitt, 1851-1920]
“For I know, I know whom I have believed,” in this little piece of a verse in 2 Timothy 1:12, three times does he refer to Jesus my Lord, “For I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He,” the second time, “is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him,” the third time, “against that final day. I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded, that He is able to guard that which I have committed unto Him against that great judgment day” [2 Timothy 1:12].
We have not trusted a system or institutions; we have trusted a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. We have not trusted a speculation or a hypothesis; we have trusted a glorious Lord! We have not trusted some hypothetical, hierarchical power; we have given our lives in trust to a Somebody; the Lord Jesus. “For I know whom I have believed.”
We have not even trusted rules or teachings or even examples in Him; we have trusted Him Himself. Not “what,” not a system, not an institution, not a speculation, not a hypothesis—not a “what” but a whom—we have trusted Him.
John Oxenham wrote:
Not what, but WHOM, I have believed
That, In my darkest hour of need,
Hath comfort that no mortal creed
To mortal man can give;–
Not what, but WHOM!
Not what I do believe but…Whom.
WHO walks beside me in the gloom?
WHO shares the burden wearisome?
WHO all the dim way doth illume,
Who bids me look beyond the tomb
The larger life to live?–
Not what I do believe,
[“Credo”; John Oxenham]
Our salvation depends not upon a system; it depends upon a Somebody; the Lord Jesus Christ.
There was a neophyte, a young preacher quoting a verse to an old saint who was dying. And he quoted it like this, “For I know in whom I have believed,” and the old saint touched his arm and said, “Son, wait a minute. I won’t even have a preposition between me and my Lord, not in whom, but whom I have believed—a Somebody, Jesus.” Will you notice the dogmatism, the positive dogmatism of the apostle Paul, “I know, and I am persuaded” [2 Timothy 1:12]. Isn’t it refreshing today to hear a man say that, “I know, and I am persuaded?” We live in a critical and cynical and skeptical world. It is a virtue not to believe anything, and it is the blackest of sins to be dogmatic. Isn’t it refreshing to hear a man who believes something, who has heard something, who has seen something, who has given himself to something? “I know whom I have believed, and I am persuaded” [2 Timothy 1:12]. That’s the peroration that ends the glorious eighth chapter of the Book of Romans:
For I am persuaded, I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creation, shall be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
I know whom I have believed, and I am persuaded in Him! [2 Timothy 1:12].
You notice another thing here, “I know whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that He is able,” to guard that literally, “to keep that which I have committed unto Him” [2 Timothy 1:12]. Those words, “which I have committed unto Him” is a translation of one word parathēkē, parathēke. Parathēkē is a deposit, such as you would go to a bank, and you deposit something in the bank for the bank to guard and to keep it safe. That sacred, holy deposit—that parathēkē—I have given in the hands of Jesus Christ. What is that parathēkē? He’s referring to his life. He’s referring to his soul. He’s referring to his destiny. He’s referring to the great judgment day, “I know whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him,” that deposit of my soul and life [2 Timothy 1:12].
For I can’t keep myself, I’m no equal for the ravaging days that bow my head in age. I’m no equal in the day that death comes and knocks at my door. I’m no equal for the grave and much less when I stand at the judgment bar of Almighty God [1 Peter 4:5]. I falter and fail; Somebody must stand for me. I know whom, and He is able! It’s Jesus [2 Timothy 1:12].
And you know for Satan to get me, first of all, he has to overcome all of the guardian angels of God in this earth. The Bible says each one of us has a guardian angel [Matthew 18:10]. He has to overcome that host of guardian angels in this earth. Then for Satan to get me, he must climb, he must scale the ramparts of heaven. Then he must overrun the great myriads of angels in heaven that serve our living Lord. Then, having overcome them, he must reach his felonious hands into the bosom of God the Father and tear me out! My brother, the twelfth chapter of the Book of Revelation says that battle is already fought; it’s already won. And guess who wins? It’s our Lord, and Michael, and His archangels [Revelation 12:7-9]. I am saved and safe because of the confidence we have in Him. “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day [2 Timothy 1:12].
Number four: why our assurance of an eternal salvation? Because of what Jesus is doing today. Where is He? He is in heaven at the right hand of the throne of God [Hebrews 8:1, 12:2]. And what is He doing? He is seeing the security of our salvation, that we get there, that we not fall or fail but that we be there [Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25].
In Romans 5:10: “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, shall we be saved by His life.” What does Paul mean when he says, “Much more then, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life”? What he’s saying is that on the cross He made a perfect atonement for our sins [John 19:30; Hebrews 2:17]. And now in heaven living, living, He has the power to see to it that we not fail in our pilgrim way. We’re going to be there. He is going to see to it.
You remember Hebrews 7:25: “Wherefore He is able to save us to the uttermost.” We have who have come by faith unto God through Him; able to save to the uttermost! There’s no limit to the able, omnipotent, mighty power of Jesus Christ to save and to keep us.
In the first chapter of the Revelation, John, looking upon the risen glorified Lord, fell down at His feet as one dead [Revelation 1:17]. And as He had so often in the days of His flesh, the Lord put His right hand on the shoulder of His sainted apostle John and said: “Fear not, fear not, do not tremble, do not be afraid. I am Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the Ending; I am He that liveth and was dead; and, behold, I am alive forevermore; and I, I have the keys of Hell and of Death” [Revelation 1:17-18].
“Do not be afraid. This whole universe and its destiny and history is in My hands. I have the keys of Hell and of Death. Do not be afraid.” That’s what Jesus is doing now. “I am He that was dead and am alive forevermore, and I have the keys” [Revelation 1:17-18]. He lives that we might be saved forever [John 10:27-30; Hebrews 7:25].
And a fifth and a last reason for the security of the believer; if we are saved, we are forever safe. A fifth reason: because of the realistic and confirming experience of our Christian life. I’m not speaking of some esoteric, far out, strange doctrine of theology. I am speaking of the everyday experience of the child of God; our Christian testimony, our Christian experience.
The apostle Paul said in Romans 8:15: “God has given us His Spirit.” He has poured out His Spirit in our hearts. “Whereby we cry Abba, Father. And His Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God” [Romans 8:15-16].
The Holy Spirit of God in our hearts, and we feel His presence. It’s never the same again. There’s something deep in our hearts that God has placed there. It never goes away. It’s always present.
There was a Louisiana farmer that captured a wild mallard duck and staked it out on the pond on his farm. And there that big mighty mallard swam around and around with those domestic ducks. Staked, corded to the pond. When the springtime came and those great mallards began to rise from the swamps of Louisiana in their V’s to head north, rising in the sky, they looked down and saw that mallard swimming on the pond. And they called to that mallard from the sky. And he lifted up his head and lifted up his eyes and lifted up his ears. And hearing that call, he raised his great wings to rise to meet them. But he was held down by the cord that staked him to the pond. Those great mallards circled round and round and called to that mallard in the pond, and again and again he spread his wings and with mighty lurches sought to join them in the sky, and was each time pulled down by the cord and the stake. As they called to him from the sky, in one last valiant attempt, he spread his great wings and with a mighty lurch, he broke the cord and joined those mighty mallards in the sky.
You’re like that. If God has ever saved you, if you’ve ever had an experience of grace, way down deep on the inside of you there’s the Spirit of God that answers the call from the sky. That’s why I wanted you to listen to the testimony of that boy Dave Griffith, converted, saved as a teenager. In sin and sex and drugs in the world, and then to hear him say, “But down deep, I was miserable. I was unhappy.” And he had his big bonfire, burned up ten thousand dollars’ worth of rock ‘n’ roll records. They had a revival meeting upstairs in the family home and is now telling people what Jesus has done for him.
The Spirit in your heart, you never get away from it, never. If you’re saved, the confirming witness of the Spirit of God is always in your heart. You never escape it, never flee from it. It’s always there. You carry it with you.
The unregenerate falling away of Judas [Matthew 26:14-16, 47-50], and Ananias [Acts 5:1-5; 2 Timothy 4:10]; a Demas; but the regenerate always come back. A Simon Peter with many tears, “Lord, Lord” [John 21:15-17]; a David, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite spirit, O Lord, Thou will not despise” [Psalm 51:17]; or like the prodigal, “I will arise and go back to my father at home. I don’t belong here in the hog pen. I don’t belong here eating husks. I belong in my father’s house. I’m a child of the King” [Luke 15:16-21]. That’s what God has done for us. And if you’ve ever been saved, if you’ve ever known the Lord, that witness is in your heart and you’ll never escape it.
Oh, the grace, and the mercy, and the goodness God hath extended to us! In the nail-pierced hands, in the atoning blood, in the everlasting covenant of Jesus our Lord; man, that’s something to shout about, to sing about, to praise God about, to be glad in forever and ever, and that’s what we’re going to do in heaven. Going to thank Him and praise Him, sing about Him, adore Him, worship Him world without end forever and ever, amen. May we stand together?
Our Lord, who couldn’t but shout, and sing, and lift voice and heart and hands in praise to God for His wonderful goodness to us? When we were sinners and enemies of God, He reconciled us up [Romans 5:10]. He reconciled us to God as children born again, changed, a new creation fashioned after the glorious similitude of our risen Lord [2 Corinthians 5:17-18]. And now Lord, the rest of our lives we just praise Thee, and thank Thee, and love Thee, and serve Thee, and adore Thee, and worship Thee because of the wonderful good thing God hath done for us in sending Jesus to save us [John 3:16-17].
Oh, glory to Him! “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive honor, and glory, and riches, and dominion, and power. For He hath redeemed us by His blood out of every nation, and tribe, and family under the sun, and hath made us kings and priests to our God” [Revelation 5:9-12]. Oh, bless His name, bless His name! That we are in the hollow of His hands, we’re in the bosom of the Father, we are kept safe because of the loving grace of Jesus our Lord [Ephesians 2:8-9]. Oh, bless His name, bless His name, bless His wonderful name!
And while our people bow in the presence of Jesus, and praise His name, and pray for you, a family you, a couple you, or just one somebody you, “Pastor, God has spoken to me today, and we’re answering with our lives.” In the balcony round, down one of those stairways, and there’s time and to spare. In the press of people on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, “Pastor, the Lord has spoken to us, and we’re coming.” May angels attend you in the way as you answer with your life. And blessed Jesus, thank Thee for the sweet harvest You give us, in Thy saving and keeping name, amen. While we sing our song, while we pray and wait, welcome, welcome. Amen!
ONCE SAVED ALWAYS SAFE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. Eternal security of the believer
B. Joined to the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13)II. We have assurance because of the Word and promise of God
A. Immutable, unchanging (John 1:12-13, 3:16, 5:24, 6:37, 10:27-30)
B. Our fearful trepidation does not nullify the Word of God (Exodus 12:13)
C. It is God’s faithfulness that saves usIII. We have assurance because of the finished work of Christ
A. What is finished? (John 19:30)
1. The work of salvation He came to do
B. Nothing from me to be added to His perfect work
C. A gift I receive (Ephesians 2:8-9)IV. We have assurance because of the confidence we can have in Him
A. The more we know Jesus, the more certainty we have (2 Timothy 1:12, Romans 8:38-39)
B. A deposit in the hands of ChristV. We have assurance because of what Jesus is doing today
A. He’s in heaven, seeing the security of our salvation (Romans 5:10)
B. No limit to His power to save (Hebrews 7:25, Revelation 1:8-18)VI. We have assurance because of the confirming experience of our Christian life
A. The Spirit of God in our hearts (Romans 8:16)