How Can God Save Me Forever?
April 18th, 1984 @ 12:00 PM
HOW CAN GOD SAVE ME FOREVER?
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-18-84 12:00 p.m.
The theme for this sixty-eighth year of our pre-Easter services is an exclamation of one of the disciples in the twentieth chapter of the Gospel of John, “My Lord and my God” [John 20:28]. Monday, How Could God Become a Man? from the first chapter of John [John 1:14]. Yesterday, Tuesday, How Can God, Recreate, Reborn, Remake Me? from the third chapter of John [John 3:1-12]. Today, How Can God Save Me Forever? from the tenth chapter of John [John 10:27-30]. Tomorrow, How Can God Sympathize With Me? from the eleventh chapter of John [John 11:1-5]. And on Friday, How Can God Die For Me? from the nineteenth chapter of the Gospel of John [John 19:16-22]. And on Sunday, resurrection day, How Can God Raise Me From the Dead? the twentieth chapter of the Gospel of John [John 20:28].
Today, How Can God Save Me Forever? By salvation, I mean that we’ll be in heaven one glorious morn. If I fall into hell, I’m not saved. By salvation, I mean I’ll greet you in the morning on the bright riverside when all sorrow has passed away. On some Hallelujah Boulevard from across some Amen Square, by the side of some glorious mansion, I’ll greet you and shake your hand. We’ll drink from the river of the water of life. And we’ll eat from the tree of immortality [Revelation 2:7]. That’s what I mean by salvation. I’ll see you in heaven someday, saved forever.
How is it that God can do that for me? I have chosen, out of a multitude of passages, I’ve chosen five that bring to us that wonderful heavenly, godly, assurance. The first one is John chapter 10:27 and following. John 10:27:
My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me: And 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 thing, no power, whether it be angelic or human or abysmal is able to pluck them out of My Father’s hand.
I and My Father are one.
My first assurance of eternal salvation is the immutable and unchanging word and promise of God. “I give them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any one, any thing pluck them out of My hand” [John 10:28]. God’s word is like Himself: “The same yesterday, and today, and for ever” [Hebrews 13:8].
Numbers 23:19 avows, “God is not a man, that He should lie; nor the son of man, that He should repent: hath He not spoken, and shall He not perform it? Hath God said it, and shall He not bring it to pass?” Nor does my tepidity or timidity abrogate or negate the word and promise of God.
I often think of those thousands of homes in the day of the Passover, in the darkened land of the slavery of Egypt, when God said, “Tonight My death angel passes over, but if you place on the front of the house, in the form of a cross, on the lintel and on the door posts on either side the blood, the death angel will pass over you” [Exodus 12:22-23].
And I think it would be human to suppose that those who were underneath the blood looked at one another in anxiety and uneasiness. One would say, “I’m scared.” Another one might add, “I wonder if it will work.” Another one could observe, “Just blood, atoning blood. How could it spare us the visitation of the angel of death?”
But God never said, “When you see the blood.” God said, “When I see the blood, I will pass over you” [Exodus 12:13]. We are saved not by our courage or fearlessness. We are saved by the faithfulness of God to His word and to His promise. And when God says to me, “I give you eternal life: and you shall never ever perish, neither shall anyone pluck you out of My hand” [John 10:27-28], my salvation therefore depends upon the faithfulness of God to the promise He has made to me.
When I look at our people, I see all kinds of response in faithfulness to the word of God in their lives. Some of them are very frail and timid and sometimes doubtful. Others are very bold and very courageous. Both alike are saved in the faithfulness of God [2 Timothy 2:13].
I remember reading one time of a hunter in the north Canadian woods, who came in the wintertime to a stream frozen. And not knowing its strength of the ice, he got timidly and fearfully down on his hands and his knees and began to crawl across that frozen stream. And when he was out in the middle of it, he heard a thunderous noise back of him. And he turned to see. And there was a big team pulling a big wagon with a load of enormous logs. And the team and the wagon rushed down the mountainside and across the stream and up on the other side and that timid hunter on his hands and his knees looking at that thing passing by. We’re that way! Some of us are very timid and fearful and frail before the promises of God when absolutely, positively, everlastingly, eternally God is faithful to His word. That’s the first reason why I have assurance that God will save me forever; He has promised [John 10:27-30].
Number two: that assurance of our eternal salvation is found in the finished work of the atoning grace of our Lord. When Jesus therefore hath responded to those who had offered Him that bitter wine to drink, He said, “It is finished”: and He bowed His head, and gave up His spirit [John 19:30]. The finished work of Christ—what is finished? The atonement for my sins! [Romans 5:11]. The payment for my iniquities—it is complete. It is finished! Christ did it! [Matthew 27:32-50; Romans 5:11]. And for me to attempt to add to that atonement is an affront not only to God but to judgment.
It’s like this: I went one time to Dresden in East Germany. And one of the things that I wanted to see was Raphael’s Sistine Madonna. And as I stood there in the Dresden art gallery and looked at that incomparable masterpiece of Raphael, what if I had said, “Bring me a brush and some paint. I’m going to add a stroke here, and I’m going to add a little color there.” It is unthinkable! The great masterpiece is finished by Raphael himself.
One time I went to the Church of Peter in Chains in Rome. I wanted to see that marvelous, incomparable statue of Moses. When we think of Moses, we think of the kind of a man Michelangelo chiseled in the solid rock, in the solid marble in that marvelous piece in that church in Rome. And as I stand there and look at that incomparable masterpiece, what if I said, “Bring me a hammer and bring me a chisel? I’m going to add a little here and take away there.” It is unthinkable! It is preposterous! It is finished by the incomparable artist Michelangelo himself. It is no less so in the presence of my Lord. Atonement—the payment for our sins is a finished work of Christ [John 19:30]. And I do not add to it. I receive it as a gift from God’s loving hands. “For by grace are you 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]. Lest he say, “I did it.”
Number three, our assurance of eternal salvation; number three: in the confidence that I can have in my Lord. Second Timothy 1:12, “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.”
I know how wonderful it is to rise and rise and rise into the brilliant light of the knowledge of God in Christ Jesus [2 Corinthians 4:6]. It’s when we sink and we sink and we sink into the darkness of our lack of knowledge of the Lord that even a whisper will fill us with doubt. But to know Christ is to be filled with infinite and everlasting and unfading assurance. It’s remarkable in this little one half of a verse that I have just read. He is referred to three times, our Lord. “I know whom.” Not “in whom.” Let’s don’t put a preposition even between us and Him. “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him” [2 Timothy 1:12]. We have not trusted a system or an organization or a hierarchy. We have trusted the Lord Christ Himself. We don’t pillow our heads on a speculation or a metaphysical theory or presupposition. We rest in the Lord; “I know whom I have believed” [2 Timothy 1:12].
Do you notice that word? It’s translated here with several words, “That which I have committed” [2 Timothy 1:12]. All of that is translation of one little Greek word, paratheke. Paratheke means “a deposit,” a deposit; what I have deposited in His hands, a deposit. The same ordinary word that we use when we take something precious and put it in a bank; a deposit, the deposit we’ve placed in the hands of our Lord. That’s our soul. That’s our life. That’s our hope. That’s our salvation. That’s our forever. We deposit it, paratheke, in His hands. And Paul avows, “I am persuaded, I know that He is able to keep that which I have deposited in His hands” [2 Timothy 1:12].
May I make an aside here to say, it surely is refreshing to read of a man who says, “I know and I believe.” In this day of cynicism when it is almost a black iniquity to believe anything—we’re to doubt everything. I say it’s refreshing to see a man to say, “I know and I have committed.”
Number four: how do you know you’ll see Jesus someday, that you’ll live in heaven? Because of what He is doing for us now! In Hebrews 7:25, “Wherefore He is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them.” What is our Lord doing? He is in heaven at the right throne of God mediating, interceding, pleading, praying for us that we’ll make it [Romans 8:34]. And the prayers of our Lord could not fall unheeded even to the streets or the floors of heaven. He is interceding for us, seeing to it that we make it through this earthly pilgrimage, and someday come to the beautiful gates of heaven.
And fifth and last: how do you know you have eternal salvation in Christ? Because of the verifiable, confirming experience that we have in our hearts—all of us who have found refuge in Him. In the eighth chapter of the Book of Romans, Paul writes, “For ye have not received the spirit of fear to bondage; but we have received the Spirit of adoption”—inclusion in the family of God—“wherefore, we cry Abba, Father. For the Spirit Himself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God” [Romans 8:15-16]. It is something on the inside of us that God puts there. And when God puts that in the human heart, in the human breast, in the human soul, all the angels and all the demons in hell, all the forces in the universe, will never ever take it out. It’s there forever.
When a man is saved, when he opens his heart to Christ, when the Lord comes in to make His house and His home and His dwelling and His fellowship with us, you are somebody else. You are something different. And you will never get beyond it—never! It’s a confirmable, affirming experience—the Spirit of God witnessing with our spirits that we belong to the Lord [Romans 8:15-16].
In south Louisiana a man, a farmer, captured a great mallard duck. And he put a string, a cord around its foot, and staked it out on the pond where it swam with the domestic ducks on the farm. And when the springtime came, those great mallards— that in the wintertime fly south to southern Louisiana, and make their home down there on those lakes and waterways, but in the springtime they rise and fly back to their home in the north—when the springtime came, those great mallards rose from the waterways of southern Louisiana. And looking down from the sky, they saw that mallard, one of their own, swimming with the domestic ducks on the farm.
And they cried to that great mallard from the sky, and that mallard lifted up his head and listened to the cry from the sky, and he spread his great wings and sought to rise upward! But the cord and the stake pulled him back. Those great mallards circled and cried to him from the sky, and he sought again to liberate himself, and that cord and stake pulled him to the earth. And they circled again and cried from the sky. And this time with a great surge, the great mallard spread its wings, and with one last effort broke the cord and flew up into the heavens and into the home in the northland.
What’s the matter with the domestic ducks? The difference lies in the heart. It lies in the soul. And that’s the difference between a man who knows God and one who’s never been saved.
If you have ever known the Lord in the free pardon of your sins [1 Corinthians 15:3] and you have ever given your life in faith to Him [Romans 10:9-13], you will never get beyond it. Never! It’s in your heart and in your life forever and ever. I wish I had the opportunity and the time to illustrate that as I work among the people.
There are some who fall away like a Judas [Matthew 26:14-16], like an Ananias [Acts 5:1-5], like a Demas [2 Timothy 4:10]. They’ve never been saved. If you’ve ever known the Lord, and if you’ve ever been saved, you’ll be like Simon Peter. You’ll come back. Maybe with many tears [Luke 22:54-62]. You’ll be like David, who bows in a penitential psalm [Psalm 51:1-19]. You’ll be like a prodigal son who turns his face homeward [Luke 15:18-21].
It’s like the great Spurgeon said, “A Christian is like a man aboard ship. He may fall again and again on deck. But he’ll never fall overboard.” This is the ableness of the unchanging, immutable hand of Almighty God [John 10:28-30].
And our Lord, in that confidence and assurance may the Lord bless us, as we serve before Thee and work in Thy fields and Thy vineyards. Lord, make us always grateful in prayer and life for what Jesus has done to save us [Ephesians 5:2], and is doing to keep us, whose face someday we shall see [Revelation 22:3-4], in His blessed name, amen.
GOD SAVE ME FOREVER?
I. We have assurance because of the Word
and promise of God
unchanging (John 10:27-30, Numbers 23:19)
fearful trepidation does not nullify the Word of God (Exodus 12:13)
It is God’s faithfulness that saves us
II. 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)
III. We have assurance because of the
confidence we can have in Him
more we know Jesus, the more certainty we have (2
Timothy 1:12, Romans 8:38-39)
B. A deposit in the
hands of Christ
IV. We have assurance because of what Jesus
is doing today
A. No limit to His
power to save
B. He’s in heaven
mediating and interceding for us (Hebrews 7:25)
V. We have assurance because of the
confirming experience of our Christian life
A. The Spirit of God in
our hearts (Romans 8:15-16)
Unregenerate ultimately fall away; regenerate always come back (Psalm 51:17, Luke 15:18)