Once Saved Always Safe
November 15th, 1987 @ 8:15 AM
SAFE IF SAVED
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-15-87 8:15 a.m.
And welcome the multitudes of you who share this hour on radio. You are a part of our dear First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor delivering the message entitled Safe if Saved, the security of the believer. It is a presentation of one of the most magnificent of all of the revelations and promises in God’s Word. In our preaching through the Gospel of John, we are in chapter 10, and in the tenth chapter of John verses 27, 28, 29, and 30. 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 any one pluck them out of My hand.
My Father, who gave them Me, is greater than all; and no one, no power in heaven or in earth is able to pluck them out of My Father’s hand.
I and My Father are one.
Saved: the soul that by faith is joined to Christ is a member of His body [1 Corinthians 12:27]. Christ shall open for that one the doors of heaven; saved, safe. If I fall into hell, I am certainly not saved. By being saved, God’s Word means that we’ll be in heaven someday with our Lord, joined to Christ, not joined to the church [Ephesians 1:22-23]. Our names written in the Book of Life [Revelation 13:8, 17:8, 20:12-15, 21:27], not on a church roll. Saved, regenerated, by faith a child of God [Ephesians 2:8-9]; and if a child, then an heir with Christ, a joint-heir with Him and forever with our Lord in heaven [Romans 8:16-17]. If I’m saved I’ll be in heaven someday; the eternal security, the everlasting life God has promised to the believer [John 10:27-30].
That assurance is based upon several things. Number one: the words “immutable” and “imperishable,” the promise of God. In Numbers chapter 23, verse 19, “The Lord God in heaven is not a man, that He should lie …. What He says He will do. And what He has promised He will faithfully perform” [Numbers 23:19].
“I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never ever perish” [John 10:28]. God’s Word is like God Himself, the same yesterday, and today, and forever [Hebrews 13:8]. And my frail, trembling timidity does not nullify the word and promise of God. However I may tremble, however I may fail, God does not fail. His promise endures forever.
I think of a family, a home, a house on that dreadful and awful night of the Passover in Egypt. God said in the form of a cross, place the blood on the front of the house on the lintel at the top, on the doorposts on either side. And “when I see the blood, I will pass over you” [Exodus 12:7,13, 22-23].
I can well imagine a family inside of one of those homes: some of them are afraid; some of them are scared; some of them are full of trepidation and trembling and doubt; some of them wonder if it’ll work. However they are in that house makes no difference to God. He said, “When I see the blood,” not when you, “when I see the blood, I will pass over you” [Exodus 12:13]. Our eternal salvation does not lie in our strength or our ability, and our frailty and trepidation has nothing to do with it. Our eternal salvation lies in the word of God, in the faithfulness of the Lord to His promise [John 10:28].
I one time read of a hunter in the far Canadian woods. He came in the wintertime to a stream and, not knowing whether the ice would hold him or not, he crawled on his hands and knees, inch by inch, across the water. And while he was crossing across the water, he heard a roar, and turning around he saw a wagon train filled with heavy loads roaring out of the woods; came down the mountainside and across the stream and up on the mountainside beyond. And there, crawling on his hands and knees, full of trepidation and fear, he looked at that big load of logs. Whether the wagon train with confidence roaring across, or whether crawling timidly on his knees, both of them were safe alike.
How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said—
You, who to Jesus for refuge have fled?
That 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.
[from “How Firm a Foundation,” John Rippon, 1787]
Our assurance lies first in the immutable, unchanging, enduring, eternal promise of God. “I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never, ever perish” [John 10:28].
Number two: our assurance lies in the finished work, the atoning grace of our Savior. When He died, He cried aloud, “It is finished!” [John 19:30]. What? The payment for our sins, all of them. It is a complete and perfect work, the atonement of our Lord, and I can add nothing to it, nor does God expect such an affront out of me. The work of our Lord in atonement is complete and perfect and sure.
I sometimes think when people try to add to the grace of our Lord their own feeble goodness or their own frail works, I sometimes think it’s the same kind of a thing as if, when I stood in Dresden, East Germany, and looked upon Raphael’s Sistine Madonna, I should attempt a brush stroke here and a correction there; or standing in Florence, Italy before Michelangelo’s statue of Moses, or Michelangelo’s Pietà in the St. Peter’s, Rome, I should take a chisel and correct something here or correct something there. It’s unthinkable!
The work of Christ is complete. It is perfect and I can add nothing to it. God says in Ephesians 2:8-9:
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 say, “I did it!”—
lest any man should boast. It is a gift from God.
If I came to you with a $5,000 ring and say, “I give it to you,” and you say, “Pastor, I’m going to give you fifty cents for it,” and I take your fifty cents, you can go home and boast, saying, “Look, I have bought a $5,000 ring for fifty cents”? No! It is a gift of God. There’s nothing I can do to add to the perfection of the atonement of our Lord. There’s nothing I can do to deserve God’s salvation; it is a gift in my hands, in my heart and life, by faith [Ephesians 2:8-9].
Number three, the security of the believer: it is found, in the third place, in our confidence in our Lord who secured it for us. Listen to 2 Timothy 1:12, the last half of the verse: “…for I am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day. I know whom I have believed, and I am persuaded He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day—I know Him, whom I have believed.” Three times in that little half of a verse does he refer to our Lord. “I know whom I have believed, and I am persuaded He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day” [2 Timothy 1:12]. What a marvelous avowal and what a sure and unshakeable confidence. “I know whom I have believed.”
Our salvation does not rest in an abstraction or a phantom. It rests upon Him, the Lord Jesus Christ. We are not trusting in a system or in a hierarchy. We’re trusting in Him, a person: Jesus Christ our Lord [2 Timothy 1:12].
When we lie down at night, we lay our heads upon, not a hypothesis or a theorem or a suggestion, but upon a person: the Lord Jesus. We’re not even trusting the sermons that He preached or the examples that He set; we’re trusting in His atoning grace: “I know whom I have believed.”
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,
WHO bids me look beyond the tomb
The larger life to live?
Not what I do believe, but WHOM;
Not what, but WHOM.
[from “Credo,” John Oxenham]
Somebody! Our great assurance does not lie in any kind of a theological proposition, nor are we resting on any kind of a hierarchical organization. Our salvation depends upon a somebody—whom: “I know whom I have believed” [2 Timothy 1:12].
In my reading, I came across a story of a young neophyte, a young preacher, who was comforting an old saint as he lay dying, and he quoted for the old saint, “I know in whom I have believed.” And the old saint stopped him and said, “Son, bring me my Bible.” And he turned to this passage, 2 Timothy 1:12, and said, “Now, son, read it.” And the boy read it according to the Bible: “I know whom”—and the old man stopped him and said, “That’s right, son. I don’t want even a little preposition standing between me and my Lord.” It’s not “I know in whom”; it’s “I know whom I have believed.” Our salvation rests in the ableness and the faithfulness of Jesus Christ, a somebody, a person, a “whom,” the incarnate God [Matthew 1:23-25; John 1:1, 14; Philippians 2:5-7].
You know I can’t help but remark about the dogmatism of Paul. We live in a cynical age when it is a black, black wrong and transgression to be sure about anything. Not Paul: how certain, how committed, how persuaded! “I know whom I have believed,” and do you notice that word, parathēkē? “And that He is able to keep that which I have committed” [2 Timothy 1:12]: all of that is a translation of parathēkē; parathēkē is a deposit. Parathēkē, a deposit—my soul, my life, my future, my eternity—I lay in His hands, I place at His dear feet. I’m trusting Him; parathēkē, the deposit.
Remember my text? “I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish … neither shall any one,” noone, anyone, “…pluck them out of My Father’s hand” [John 10:28-29], hid with Christ in God [Colossians 3:3]. For Christ to give me up and for the Father to let me go and for me to fall into hell, Satan would have to bring his angels and overcome the guardian spirits of God that protect us here in this earth. And he’d have to climb the balustrades and the battlements of heaven. And having scaled the walls of heaven, he’d have to seize the Book of Life and tear my name out of the Book of Life [Revelation 13:8, 17:4, 20:12-15]. And having torn my name out of the Book of Life, he’d have to pluck me from the bosom of the Father with his felonious hands. I could not imagine it! “No one is able to pluck them out of My Father’s bosom and out of My Father’s hands. And I and My Father are one” [John 10:28-30]: the confidence we can have in Him.
Number four, the assurance of our salvation: God is so present with us now and what Jesus is doing for us this moment, this moment. Romans 5:10: “If, when we were sinners, we were redeemed by the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, much more, having been redeemed, shall we be saved by His life.” What does He mean, “by His life?” By His life in heaven, by His resurrected life in glory [John 20:1-9]; God presiding over the care and the pilgrimage of His children.
Hebrews 7:25: “Wherefore He is able to the uttermost to save them who come unto Him, for He ever liveth to make intercession for us.” God, in Christ, is at the throne of grace every moment of every day and night, interceding for us, watching over us; His guardian care for us.
I do not know of a more thrilling view in all the Word of God than in Revelation 1:
I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last.
I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore;
and I have the keys of Hell and of Death; I have the keys of the grave and of the judgment.
[Revelation 1:11, 17-18]
And our lives and destiny are in His hands who lives forevermore [Revelation 1:18], and who stands presiding over our pilgrim way.
Last: how do you know that you’ll be in heaven someday—that God has given to you an unending and everlasting life; that no one is able to pluck you out of the hands of our dear Lord? [John 10:218]. I know it by an experiential and confirming commitment, something in my heart, in my soul. Romans 8:16: His Spirit bears witness with my spirit that I am a child of God. When a man trusts Jesus, when he’s saved, when he accepts the Lord, God does something in his soul, in his heart. He puts heaven in him, the longing and the remembrance, the vision, a homesickness. He puts another life in him, another vision in him. He’s somebody else. God does something to the human heart when that human heart finds salvation and refuge in Jesus.
I one time heard of a farmer in southern Louisiana, captured a wild mallard duck and staked the great mallard on his pond, and in the wintertime, all that winter, that great mallard swam around and around in that pond with the domestic ducks. But when the springtime came, those great mallards that had come down from the north to spend the winter in southern Louisiana—when the springtime came, there was the call of the north. And they rose out of those swamps, and out of those ponds, and out of those rivers, and out of those streams, and they, in their flight back to the north, they saw that mallard down there staked to that pond, and they made a great circle and called from the sky. And that great mallard lifted up his head, lifted up his face, and lifted up his ears, and he heard the call from the sky, and he spread his great wings and tried to rise and to fly, and that stake pulled him back down, pulled him back down. And those mallards made a great circle again and called from the sky, and again that mallard spread his great wings to fly toward heaven, and that heavy string to the stake pulled him back down. All of those domestic ducks just swam around and around and around and around, but that great mallard heard the call from the sky. And once again those great mallards made a circle and called to that mallard staked to the pond; once again he spread his mighty wings, and this time he broke the string free from the stake, and rose to the heavens.
That’s we! These who are unsaved, unregenerated, they live in this world, stay down here. Their visions are here, their fortunes are here, their treasures are here, their loves are here, their lives are here. But if you’ve ever been saved, there’s something on the inside of your heart that calls toward God, that calls toward heaven. You’re made that way. And there’ll be times, there’ll be moments when you feel God’s upwardness and God’s call from the sky; that’s eternal salvation [John 10:28]. It’s in this life, it’s in this world, it’s in this time, and it’s in that world and that day and that time. It’s in earth and it’s also in heaven. What a wonderful, glorious destiny God has prepared for them who love Him [1 Corinthians 2:9].
While we sing this hymn of appeal, to give your heart to the Lord Jesus [Romans 10:9-10], to come into the fellowship of this precious church, to answer a call of the Spirit of God in your hearts, while we sing this song, while we make the appeal, while the Lord is near, come, and welcome. Our ministers are here; our praying people are present; the Holy Spirit knocks at the door of your heart. Jesus waits. Come, and welcome. Make it now, while we stand and while we sing.
A. Eternal security of
the believer (John 10:27-30)
B. Joined to the body
of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13)
II. We have assurance because of the Word
and promise of God
unchanging (Numbers 23:19)
fearful trepidation does not nullify the Word of God (Exodus 12:13)
It is God’s faithfulness that saves us
III. 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, Revelation 5:12)
IV. We have assurance because of the
confidence we can have in Him
a “what”, but a “whom” (2 Timothy 1:12)
B. Dogmatism of the
V. We have assurance because of what Jesus
is doing today
A. He’s in heaven
interceding for us (Romans 5:10, Hebrews 7:25)
B. No limit to His
power to save (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)