Once Saved, Always Safe
September 5th, 1982 @ 8:15 AM
ONCE SAVED, ALWAYS SAFE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
9-5-82 8:15 a.m.
We welcome the great multitudes of you who are sharing this hour with us on KCBI, our Sonshine radio station of the Center of Biblical Studies. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled Once Saved, Always Safe, a doctrinal message on the eternal security of the believer.
In the passage we have just read together, John chapter 10, beginning at verse 27, our Lord avows, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me: And I give unto them eternal life” [John 10:27-28]. Just how long is that? He says, “I give unto My sheep, who hear My voice and follow Me, eternal life; and they shall never perish, never, neither shall anyone pluck them out of My hand. My Father, who gave them to 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” [John 10:27-30]. That sounds like the eternal security of the believer, doesn’t it? “I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never, ever perish; nor is there one in heaven, in earth, or under the earth, in the abyss, who is able to pluck them out of My Father’s hand or of My hand. My Father and I are one” [John 10:28-30].
First, the definition of “saved”: once saved, always safe. By saved we refer to those who are joined to Christ by faith, who are members of His body. First Corinthians 12:13, “By one Spirit are we all baptized into the body of Christ, joined to the body of Christ.” And Christ will never lose any of His members, nor His hands, nor His feet. Once joined to Christ, once a member of the body of our Lord, we are there forever. It is an erroneous and strange and alien doctrine that we are added to the body of Christ as one of His hands, cut off, added back, cut off, added back. There is no such intimation of any doctrine like that in the Bible. So by being saved we mean these who are going to heaven, they are going to be with our Lord in glory [1 Thessalonians 4:17]. If they fall into hell, they’re not saved. The saved are God’s children who are meeting Him in that great assize in heaven. By being saved we mean those who are joined to Christ [1 Corinthians 12:13], not just joined to a church. By being saved we mean those who are born again [John 3:3, 7], not those who are not children of our Lord. By being saved we refer to those whose names are not just on a church roll somewhere, but whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life [Revelation 20:12, 15, 21:27; Luke 10:20]—the eternal security of the believer [John 10:28-30].
Now there are five reasons, as I read the Holy Scriptures, that give us that assurance. Number one: we are safe if we are ever saved because of the word and the promise of God. That word is immutable and unchanging; it is like God Himself: yesterday, today, and forever the same [Hebrews 13:8]. Just in one book in the Bible, the Gospel of John, and just picking out a few verses, listen to these.
- The word and promise of God that we are eternally secure, saved, in Him: John 1:12, “But to as many as 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 of the will of man, but of God” [John 1:12-13].
- Look again in the verse that all of us memorized from childhood, John 3:16; they have everlasting life; those who believe in Jesus have everlasting life.
- Look again at John 5:24: “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.”
- Listen again to John 6:37: “He that cometh unto Me I will in no wise cast out” His forever.
And this marvelous text in John 10, “I give unto them eternal life” [John 10:28]; the word and promise of God, immutable, unchanging.
Our fearful and weak trepidation does not disannul, or repudiate, or interdict, or nullify the word of God. However trembling and hesitant I may be, God remains faithful. In Exodus 12:13, God said to the children of Israel, “When I see the blood, I will pass over you.” Being human, those Israelites, I’m not far-fetched in my imagination when I think of those families gathered there in those homes with the blood on the lintel and on the doorposts in the form of a cross, and they’re seated there that awesome and fearful night [Exodus 12:7, 28-29]. And I can imagine one of them saying, “You know, I am scared”; and another one saying, “And I am frightened”; and another one saying, “You know, I am uneasy”; and another one saying, “I just wonder if it will work.” That would be normal and human, wouldn’t it? And I would think they responded like that. But under the blood, God had said not “When you see the blood, you pass over,” but “When I see the blood, I will pass over” [Exodus 12:13]—God’s immutable word, not interdicted or nullified by my weak and timorous response.
We are saved by the faithfulness of God! [Lamentations 3:22-23; 1 Thessalonians 5:24] My response, my faith may be hesitant, and timid, and fearful, and weak; or it may be bold and courageous. But whether it is timorous and hesitant or whether it is bold and courageous, my salvation does not depend upon me; it depends upon the faithfulness of Almighty God, whether I’m timorous or whether I’m bold.
Do you remember that hunter in the north Canadian woods in the wintertime who came to a frozen stream? And being timid and fearful, lest the ice not hold him up, why, he took his gun and put it on his shoulder and fearfully and timidly began to crawl on his hands and knees crossing that frozen stream. And when he was in about the middle of that frozen stream, he heard a roaring, and turned around to look: and there coming down the mountainside was a driver with a big team of horses, and a big wagon load with enormous logs, and he roared down that mountainside and down on that stream, and roared across it on the other side. And that timid hunter on his hands and knees looked up at that team of horses and that wagon loaded with logs roaring across that stream that he was crossing on his hands and on his knees. Both of them were safe alike, the timid one and that tremendous load of logs pulled by those big horses. So it is with us: some of us may be bold and courageous, and some of us may be hesitant and fearful, but it is God’s word and promise that He will keep. It is He and His faithfulness that saves us [1 Thessalonians 5:24].
Number two: what assurance do we have that we’ll go to heaven someday, that we’ll be with Jesus? Second reason: because of His finished work. In John chapter 19, verse 30, it says that Jesus bowed His head on the cross and cried, saying, “It is finished” [John 19:30]. What is finished? The work that He came to do: to pay the penalty for our sins, to offer full atonement for our souls, to make it possible for us to go to heaven when we die [Hebrews 10:5-14]. “It is finished” [John 19:30]. The atoning work of our Lord for us, for our souls, is forever complete. It is perfect. There is nothing that I can add to it or even take away from it. And I am saved by the perfect completed work of my Lord, not by anything that I can add to it [John 19:30].
I think of a picture of Raphael, the sweetest painter that ever lived. I could not imagine my taking a brush and dipping it in paint and saying, “I’m going to add to the painting of Raphael.” I would just daub it. I would take away from it, so perfect and complete, this marvelous work of Raphael. Or take one of those marvelous statues of Michelangelo, such as Moses and I look at it and I say, “Bring me a hammer and a chisel. I’m going to embellish this statue of Michelangelo.” My brother, I would ruin it! So it is with the completed, finished, perfect work of Christ: it is done, it is finished, and it is perfectly complete [John 19:30]; I don’t add anything to it. The atoning grace of my Lord is all sufficient [Ephesians 2:8]. What I do is I receive the perfect atonement of my Lord as a gift [Romans 5:11]—don’t add anything to it, don’t buy it, just take it, just receive it, the grace and love of my salvation in Christ Jesus. Nothing I do to merit it, I receive it as a gift from Christ.
Let me show you a word. In Ephesians 2:8-9, the apostle Paul avows, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Now I want to take that word “boast” not of works, lest any man should glory, saying, “Look what I did: I saved myself”; or, “I added to the atoning grace of my Lord, and that’s the reason I’m in heaven.”
“Lest any man should boast” [Ephesians 2:9]. That’s like this: suppose a man were to come up to me and say, “I’m going to give you this five thousand dollar diamond ring,” and I demur, and I hesitate, and I say, “Oh no, no, I don’t want you to give it to me. I’ll buy it from you. Here is five dollars.” So I buy the ring from him for five dollars, and I go home and I hold it up and I boast, saying, “Look what I bought for five dollars: a five thousand dollar ring!” Now that’s the doctrine Paul is avowing here in the text. It is a gift of God, lest any man boast, saying, “I did it, this marvelous salvation; my merit, my good works, my worth, I deserved it. I won it. I bought it. I got it for myself.” Not so. When you get to heaven, there’ll be no laudatory word said about us; but it’ll all be to Him who loved us and gave Himself for us [Galatians 2:20]—He did it! He gave it to us, and the songs of our souls are not to glorify and boast of us; they are to glorify the Lord Jesus. That’s the second reason why we are eternally saved, because of the finished work of Christ [John 19:30]; we add nothing to it, it’s a gift from God [Ephesians 2:8]. I take it. I receive it.
Number three: we are eternally secure, eternally safe, because of the wonderful confidence that we have in our blessed Lord. In 2 Timothy 1:12, there is a half of a verse that is marvelous: “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. For I know whom I have believed” [2 Timothy 1:12]. The more we know about Christ, the deeper and the more steadfast our assurance in Him. The less I know about Christ, the more uncertain I become. But if I know Him, it’s like having the wings of an eagle that rise and rise toward the sky, out of the mist and the doctrine and the darkness of doubt and uncertainty. I can’t know too much about Jesus. That’s a wonderful song we sing:
More, more about Jesus;
More of His saving love to see,
More of His grace who died for me.
[from “More About Jesus”; Eliza E. Hewitt]
“For I know whom I have believed” [2 Timothy 1:12]. Three times in this little piece of a verse does he refer to the Lord. “For I know whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that Day.” “I know whom … He is able … what I have committed unto Him” [2 Timothy 1:12].
My brother, my sister, we have not placed our trust in a speculation, but in a person, in a Savior. We have not trusted in a hypothesis. We have trusted in a person, Jesus our Lord. We have not pillowed our head upon a theory; we have rested our souls upon a God-Man, Jesus Christ! We have not trusted an institution or a hierarchy; but we have trusted Him! Not just His teaching or His rules or His faith, but we have trusted in Christ Himself: “For I know whom I have believed,” a somebody, a someone, a whom, a Christ, Jesus our Lord [2 Timothy 1:12].
John Oxenham wrote:
Not what, but WHOM, I do believe,
That in my darkest hour of need,
Hath comfort that no mortal creed
To mortal man may 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,
And bids me look beyond the tomb,
The larger life to live?—
Not what I do believe,
[from “Credo,” John Oxenham]
Our faith is not in a system, it’s not in an institution, it’s not in a hypothesis; it’s in a Person, it’s in Jesus our Lord—“WHOM I believe” [2 Timothy 1:12].
I one time read of a neophyte young preacher who was by the side of a dying old saint, and he read this verse, but instead of saying what Paul said, he put a preposition in there: “I know in whom I have believed.” And the old saint stopped him and said, “My young brother, don’t even put a preposition between me and my Lord. I know whom I have believed.” Our confidence lies in a Somebody: Jesus.
Will you look again here, will you look at the dogmatism of the apostle Paul: a positive dogmatism, “I know and I am persuaded!” [2 Timothy 1:12]. Oh, how strange that sounds upon our ears today. We live in a cynical and a skeptical and a critical world; and for a man to be sure about anything, to be dogmatic is the blackest of sins. But to be uncertain is to be accepted in our generation as a virtue. He wasn’t like that. “I am persuaded, I know…” [2 Timothy 1:12]. Do you remember how the great eighth chapter of the Book of Romans ends? It ends just like that: “For 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” [Romans 8:38-39]. Brother, that’s dogmatism, that’s certainty, that’s positive avowal!; that’s the Book, that’s God, that’s His apostles.
Will you notice again, he says here in this very verse, “I am persuaded, I know, that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that Day,” and all that verse, “that which I have committed unto Him” [2 Timothy 1:12], all that is a translation of one Greek word: parathēkē. Parathēkē means “a deposit”; like you go to a bank and deposit something in the bank, the deposit. He is able to keep the deposit which I have given unto Him against that great final judgment day of Almighty God [2 Timothy 1:12].
Well, what is that deposit? He’s talking about his soul, he’s talking about his life, he’s talking about his destiny, he’s talking about his appearance at the great judgment bar of Almighty God. He says, “I know and I am persuaded that the deposit I made in Him, the trust I have given to Him, He will faithfully guard,” literally the translation of that word, “He will guard it, He will keep it faithfully against that ultimate and final Day” [2 Timothy 1:12]. I may stagger around and fail and falter and fall, but He won’t. He will see me through.
You know, for Satan to get me, he would have to overcome all of the guardian angels that are in this earth. Then he’d have to scale the ramparts of heaven, and he’d have to overrun all of the myriad of angels that serve our Lord in glory [Matthew 26:53], and then he’d have to reach forth his felonious hands and pluck me out of the bosom of my Father in heaven [John 10:28-30]. And in the twelfth chapter of the Book of the Revelation, that war has already been fought—and Satan has lost [Revelation 12:7-9]. Isn’t that right?! That’s right.
Once saved, always safe. The fourth reason for our assurance: because of what Jesus is doing now, now. Where is Jesus now? And what is He doing now? Romans 5:10 avows, “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” What does he mean, “saved by His life”? He refers to the life of our Lord in heaven. He is living to see to it that you and I make it through those pearly gates and beyond those golden streets [Revelation 21:21]. That’s what He is doing, that we might be saved, that we might get to heaven, He lives [John 14:19].
Now what does He do up there? Hebrews 7:25 says, “Wherefore He is able to save to the uttermost those who come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for us.” He pleads for us, He prays for us, He intercedes for us, He stands for us in heaven, to see to it that we make it in His holy and precious presence. Dear me! Remember what He said to the apostle John in the first chapter of the Revelation, verses 17 and 18? [Revelation 1:17-18]. When John fell at His feet as though one dead, He put forth His right hand and touched the apostle, as He had so many times in the days of His flesh, and said, “Do not be afraid. Fear not; I am the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last; I am He that liveth, and was dead, and behold, I am alive for evermore, and I, I have the keys of Death and of Hell!” Don’t you be afraid. Don’t you be afraid. That’s what Jesus is doing: He is alive for evermore, and He has the keys of life and destiny today, tomorrow, the present, the future, the eternity to come, the keys to heaven, the keys to hell, the whole world is in His hands [Ephesians 1:22]. And He is a friend of mine.
Last, why are you so certain that you’re going to be saved, that you’re going to see God’s face someday, and live [Revelation 22:4], that you’re going to heaven when you die? The last reason: because of the confirming experience of the Christian life. I’m not speaking of something theoretical. I am not speaking of some obtuse, unusual, esoteric doctrine. I’m talking about the common, everyday experience of the Christian life. The apostle Paul wrote, in [Romans 8:15-16], “God has given us His Spirit, God hath given us the Spirit, whereby we cry, Abba, Father; and the Spirit witnesseth with our spirits that we are the children of God.” The Spirit, He has given us in our hearts [1 Corinthians 6:19-20].
There was an old farmer in Louisiana that captured a wild mallard duck. And he staked it in his pond, and it swam around and around with the domestic ducks on that pond. And when the springtime came, those great mallards began to rise and to form those great V’s, and to turn toward the north. And when those great mallards arose, they saw that mallard down there on that pond, swimming around with those domestic ducks. And they called to him from the sky, and that great mallard staked to the pond lifted up his head, and lifted up his face, and lifted up his ears, and heard the call from the sky. And he raised his wings to fly to join them, and he was pulled back by the stake to the pond. But they called; they honked. And that mallard rose again and again, and finally he broke the cord that staked him to the pond. And rising on wings of glory, he joined those great mallards in the sky, turning northward.
Those domestic ducks never even heard; they never lifted up their heads, they never lifted up their ears, they just swam around in the pond. But that mighty mallard had something on the inside of his soul, on the inside of his heart, on the inside of his deepest life, and he heard the call, and struggled to rise. You’re like that: you can’t help it. There may be ten thousand unregenerates around you that never hear the call, but you do. And God has put His Holy Spirit in your heart [Romans 8:15-16; 1 Corinthians 6:19]: it’s never the same again. You hear, you respond, you reply [Romans 8:15].
The unregenerate fall away: a Judas [Matthew 26:14-16], an Ananias [Acts 5:1-5], a Demas who loved this present world [2 Timothy 4:10]. But the regenerate always come back: like a Simon Peter with many tears [Luke 22:61-62]; like a David who cries, saying, “A contrite and a broken spirit, O God, Thou wilt not despise” [Psalm 51:17], or like the prodigal son, “I will arise and go back to my father, and to my home” [Luke 15:18]. You’re that way. It is verifiable; it is confirmed by our Christian experience. Once a man is ever touched by the Spirit of God, he is never the same again. His name is written in the Book of Life [Revelation 20:12, 15, 21:27; Luke 10:20]. He is a new creation [2 Corinthians 5:17]. And though he may drift away, he’ll come back: he hears the call and the voice of God from the sky [Romans 8:15-16].
Aren’t you glad? Dear me! If my salvation depended upon me, I don’t know what would … but it depends upon Him, and He will not fail [Matthew 19:26; Luke 1:37]. He will stand by us. He has saves us, not just in a moment, but a for ever and a for ever [John 3:16, 10:26-30]. We’ll be in heaven some day [Revelation2 2:3-5].
In this moment of our appeal, a family you, “God has spoken to us, and we’re coming.” A couple you, “We’re putting our lives together in the Lord, in this wonderful church.” A one somebody you, “This is God’s day for me, and I’m coming.” If you’re in the balcony, down one of these stairways; in the press of people on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, “Pastor, I have decided for God [Ephesians 2:8]. He has spoken to my heart. I’m answering with my life.” Make the decision now, and when you stand up, stand up taking that first step, down that stairway, down this aisle. Angels attend you in the way, and a thousand times, welcome, as you come, while we stand and while we sing. God bless you as you come.