Once Saved Always Safe
November 15th, 1987 @ 10:50 AM
ONCE SAVED ALWAYS SAFE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-15-87 10:50 a.m.
You are listening to the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas delivering a message. Preaching through the Gospel of John, we are in chapter 10. These are verses 27 through 30, and they concern the eternal security of the believer: Once Saved, Always Safe – safe, if saved. John 10:27-30:
My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me:
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 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.
The eternal security of the believer: those who have found refuge in Christ, who have received Him as personal Lord and Savior, are regenerated forever. They are saved. They will be in heaven. If they fall into hell, they are not saved.
By being saved, we mean God will preserve them against that great and final day, and they will answer to their names in heaven. When we are joined to Christ by faith [Ephesians 2:8-9], we are members of His body [1 Corinthians 12:27]. And the body of our Lord in heaven will not be mutilated, nor will some of His members be absent or cut off or fallen away. He will be complete, and we shall be complete in Him; joined to Christ, not to a church, our names in the Book of Life [Revelation 13:8, 17:8, 20:12-15, 21:27], not necessarily on a church roll.
That may be two different things. Your name on a church roll may be quite different from your name in the Book of Life. But if you are saved, if your name is in the Book of Life, if you have been joined to Christ by faith [Ephesians 2:8-9], if you are a member of His body, you will be in heaven. That’s what you mean by being saved, "I’ll see you when the roll is called up yonder."
Now the sermon is on the assurance of that salvation. Number one: we are assured of our eternal security because of the word and the promise of God. If God says it, if God has promised it, God will faithfully keep His word and perform what He has said. One of the most magnificent verses in the Bible is Numbers 23:19: "God, the Lord God, is not a man, that He should lie. If He has said it, He will do it. And if He has promised it, He will faithfully perform it" [Numbers 23:19]. However our frail and trembling trepidation, it does not nullify the word and promise of God. However I may quake, and tremble, or be afraid, or scared, it does not change the mandate of the Lord God in heaven. If He has said it, He will faithfully perform it.
I sometimes think of that dark and terrible night in Egypt when God said, "My death angel will pass over. And on whatever lintel and door post in the form of a cross the blood is not sprinkled, there will death come into that house and into that home and into that family. But when I see the blood, I will pass over you" [Exodus 12:7,13,22-23].
I can easily imagine that awesome, terrible night in the circle of a family underneath the blood: one of them is afraid; another one is scared; one trembles; one is full of doubt; one is hesitant; one thinks whether such a thing as blood sprinkled in the form of a cross would save from the presence and power of death. I can just imagine all kinds of things going on in the hearts of those who are underneath the blood.
But the Lord God never said, "When you see the blood" or "What you think about the blood." God said, "When I see the blood, I will pass over you" [Exodus 12:13]. And as long as they were under the blood, they were saved. They were safe. They were secure. They were delivered [Exodus 12:22-23].
It is the same thing with our salvation. Our salvation depends upon the faithfulness of God to His promise. And if He keeps His word, if He has not misled us, then God will save us when we’re under the blood [1 Peter 1:18-19], when we’re trusting in Him, when we’ve given our souls and our lives in faith to Him [Ephesians 2:8], when we’re looking to Him. It does not depend upon us. It depends upon God. It is God who saves us and not we ourselves [Ephesians 2:8-9].
I one time read of a hunter who was in the north Canadian woods in the wintertime. And he came across a stream, frozen. But being a neophyte and a newcomer, he had no idea the depth of the ice, whether it would hold him or not. So, in crossing the stream, the hunter got down on his hands and his feet and was cautiously entering out across that frozen water.
And when he got into the middle of the frozen stream, he heard a roar up the mountainside and he turned to see, and there was a wagon train, full of heavy logs, and that wagon train roared down the mountainside and across that frozen stream and up on the other side. And there that timid hunter was, looking up and watching that wagon train full of logs go by. Both of them were secure alike: the timorous, half-scared, half-afraid hunter, down there on his hands and knees, and the driver of that wagon train with a heavy load of logs, roaring across. Both of them were safe alike.
That’s exactly God’s people who have trusted in Him. Some of them are so strong in the faith, so vigorous in the commitment, so full of assurance, and some of them are very frail and weak and timid. But whether one or the other, they’re saved. They’re safe, because of the word and promise of God, and not because of them.
Number two, the assurance of our salvation: first, I have just said, by the word and promise of God who does not lie, does not mislead us, He keeps what He says faithfully. Number two: because of the finished work of Christ. Dying on the cross, He cried, saying, "It is finished" [John 19:30]. What is finished? The perfect and complete atonement for our sins. Christ has done it all, and it is full and complete in Him. There’s not anything from me that needs to be added. Christ has completely, perfectly, gloriously achieved our salvation. The atonement for our sins, the payment for our sins, He has completely made [Romans 5:11]. There is nothing from me to be added to be the atoning grace and sacrifice of our wonderful Lord.
I sometimes think of standing, as I did upon a day, in Dresden, in East Germany, and looking at Raphael’s Sistine Madonna, one of the most marvelous paintings in the earth. What would you think, if I walked up to that glorious canvas and tried to add a touch of color there, or a stroke there? It is so marvelously wrought, it needs nothing from me.
I have stood in Florence in Italy and looked at Michelangelo’s David. In Rome, I have stood in St. Peter’s and looked at Michelangelo’s Pieta. What would you think if I took a hammer and a chisel, and sought to add a little touch there and a little correction there? It is unthinkable! Far more unthinkable is it that I would seek to add by my good works to the perfect atonement of our Lord on the cross. He paid the penalty for our sins completely, perfectly, foreverly, eternally, and it needs nothing from me. I can add nothing to the atoning grace of our dear Lord.
His salvation is a gift to me. I don’t buy it. I don’t deserve it. I can’t work for it. Ephesians 2:7-8: "For by grace," by the love of God, by the goodness of the heart of – "For by grace are you saved through faith"; the channel of faith, receiving it by faith. "For by grace are you saved through faith, and that not of yourself"; doesn’t come from you, "it is a gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast" [Ephesians 2:8-9]; lest any man should say, "See what I did? I did it."
When you get to heaven, it will not be, "Worthy am I. I’m here by my goodness, or by my works, or my good deeds." No. It is, "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive honor, and glory, and majesty, and power" [Revelation 5:12]. He did it. All of it is in His love and grace. And it is a gift to me.
If I came to you and say, "Look, I have a $5,000 ring here, and I give it to you," and you say, "No, let me give you fifty cents for it," and I let you do it, then, you’d go and boast and say, "Look at the bargain that I have. I have in my hand a $5,000 ring that I bought for fifty cents." That’s what you do when you seek by your good works to find your own salvation and the forgivenesses of sins. It is a gift from God. Christ paid the penalty for our sins, perfectly, completely, and I receive it from His gracious hands as a gift of His love and shepherdly remembrance [Ephesians 2:8-9]. That’s why we don’t praise ourselves and we don’t sing to our glory. That’s why we praise Jesus and sing to His goodness and grace. I love to sing, and I love to listen to our choir and orchestra. And I love to have all of us join in, loving Jesus, praising the Lord, just thanking Him for what He has done for us.
All right, number three: the assurance of our salvation by the word and promise of God [Ephesians 2:8-9]; and by the perfect, the completed, atonement of our Savior on the Cross, paying for our sins [John 19:30]; number three: the assurance of our salvation is found in the confidence that we can have in Him.
One of the tremendously pertinent verses in the Bible is 2 Timothy 1:12, the last half of it: "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." Three times in that little half of a verse does he pay tribute and loving glory and praise to our Lord: "I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that great and final judgment day."
"I know whom I have believed"; that is a marvelous avowal. Our salvation does not rest upon a phantom or an apparition or on an abstraction. It rests upon Him. "I know whom I have believed." It represents, it depends upon a person, upon Jesus our Lord. I am not secure in my salvation because I look to a system or an institution or a hierarchy. It rests upon Him. "I know whom I have believed." It does not rest upon a hypothesis or a theorem or a proposition. It rests upon Him. It rests upon Christ, a living Lord. "I know whom I have believed" [2 Timothy 1:12].
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 Lord. Your life to live.
Not what I do believe, but WHOM!
Not what, but WHOM!
["Credo," John Oxenham, 1913]
A great Somebody, Jehovah God, Jesus, my Savior!
Do you notice the dogmatism with which Paul writes: "I know, and I am persuaded." We live in a cynical age where everything is doubted. How different the dogmatism of the apostle Paul. "I know, and I am persuaded," and the word that he uses, paratheke, "I am persuaded He is able to," and paratheke, "that which I have committed" [2 Timothy 1:12]. Paratheke literally, the word means "a deposit," something that I have deposited for safekeeping in the hands of my Lord and God, paratheke, that which I have committed; my soul, my life, my destiny, my forever, in the hands of Jesus, my Lord. And He will keep faithfully that which I have committed unto Him [2 Timothy 1:12]. The day is soon coming when I will be unable; aged, death, the grave, the tomb, the gloom, the darkness. Who stands by me then?
As you know, I talk to all of these little children, all of them – I talk to these little children before they’re presented to you to be baptized. When they accept the Lord as their Savior, they’re taught a little book that I have written. It has four chapters: "What It Means to be Saved"; "What It Means to be Baptized"; "What It Means to Take the Lord’s Supper"; "What It Means to be a Good Church Member." And then, I talk to the little child. I talk to the little child, and I’ll say to them, "Do you realize, do you know that you will someday die? Do you know that?"
If a child is not aware of death and judgment, the child is not sensitive. The child is not able to accept Christ as Savior. The child can be taught to love Jesus. But, for the child to be what we call "converted," to be "born again," the child must realize what it is to be lost.
I force because I am a sinner, I face the judgment of death [John 3:18, 36; Ephesians 1, 12]. And, I’ll ask the youngster, "Do you know what a cemetery is? Have you ever seen a cemetery?" You face the judgment of death. Then, as I talk to that youngster, I will say to that youngster, "When you face that hour of death, who is going to save you? Who is going to stand by you? Who is going to be with you through those dark and dreadful moments and days? See your daddy there? See your mother there? If you have a terminal illness, all your daddy and mother can do is just watch you die. That’s all." Your daddy and mother will cry. They will lament. They will wring their hands. But they can do nothing to save you. They can just watch you die. I am your pastor. All I can do is hold a memorial service for you. And the church – all the church can do is provide a place for the service to be held. We can’t save you."
"Who can save us?" [Isaiah 53:6; Matthew 1:21; John 3:16-17].
And the child will always answer, "Jesus. Jesus."
He is our only hope. We don’t have any other hope except in the Lord Jesus [John 14:6; Acts 4:12]. Who can go with us through that dark and gloomy day? Who can stand by us at the grave? And who can raise us from the dead? [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17]. Who can speak life and resurrection into this dead corpse of a body? Jesus; Jesus. Our hope is in Him: "And I am persuaded He is able to keep that deposit of life that I have made in Him against that great and final day"; Jesus [2 Timothy 1:12].
The apostle John wrote it in a beautiful way: "No one is able to pluck you out of My Father’s hands" [John 10:29]. For Satan to get us and consign us to damnation in hell, he first would have to bring his legions of demons, his fallen angels, and attack us in this life, in this world. Then he’d have to scale the battlements of heaven, and in glory seize the page in the Book of Life upon which my name is written, and tear it out. Then he’d have to reach forth his felonious hands and pluck me from the bosom of the Father. He’d have to do that in order to consign my soul to the powers and flames of hell. Can he do that? He cannot! "No one is able to pluck them out of My Father’s hand" [John 10:29]. Secure in the arms of Jesus; what a wonderful, wonderful thing!
The soul that on Jesus
Hath leaned for repose,
I will never, no never
Devote to its foes.
That soul, though all hell
Should endeavor to shake.
I will never, no never,
No never forsake.
["How Firm a Foundation," John Rippon, 1787]
What a glorious promise from our saving, keeping Lord!
Number four: the assurance of our salvation; it lies in what is Jesus doing today. Romans 5:10: "For if when we were sinners, we were reconciled to God by His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life." What does he mean "by His life?" He means by the life of Jesus in heaven. If, when we were sinners, God received us for His Son’s sake, and forgave us our sins in His atoning blood, if that happened here, where I am in this world, where we live, think how much more we can find assurance by the living life of our Lord in heaven.
What is He doing there in heaven? Hebrews 7:25: "Wherefore He is able to save to the uttermost them who come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for us." What is our Lord doing? He is presiding over our earthly pilgrimage. He is interceding for us. He is praying for us in heaven. And He is seeing to it that we make it to that ultimate and final home in glory. He is able. He is interceding. He is seeing us through.
What a triumphant word in Revelation 1:17-18: "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. 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." They are in His hands.
When we face that ultimate and final day and the judgment of Almighty God, who stands by us? Who is our friend and Savior who died for us on the cross? [John 19:16-34; 1 Peter 1:18-19]. And who is interceding for us in heaven? [Romans 5:10, 7:24; Revelation 1:17-18]. It is Jesus, our Lord, our prayer partner, our yokefellow, our fellow pilgrim, our Savior, our friend. That, Jesus is doing today.
And number five, last, the assurance of our salvation: the Word of God [Ephesians 2:8-9], the finished work of Christ [John 19:30], the confidence that we can have in Him, "I know whom," who, our Lord, is doing for us in glory, interceding for us, praying for us, shepherdly guiding us through the days of this pilgrimage [2 Timothy 1:12]. And last: the experiential, the confirming witness of the Spirit of God in our hearts now. Having accepted the Lord, having received the Lord, having believed in the Lord, the witness that God has placed in my soul, in my heart, Romans 8:16: "The Spirit Himself witnesseth with our spirit, that we are the children of God"; the witness of the Spirit of the Lord in our hearts.
When you accept Jesus as your Savior, when you open your heart to Him and the Lord comes in and you are saved, you are converted, you are born again, and it will never, ever be the same again. Jesus, God, the Holy Spirit has come into your heart to live [1 Corinthians 6:19], and He witnesses to you in your heart. You’re different.
I one time heard of a farmer in southern Louisiana. He caught a big, wild mallard duck. And he staked that big mallard on the pond, tied a heavy cord to his foot and then tied the cord to a stake. And all that winter, that big mallard duck swam around with the domestic ducks on that pond, in southern Louisiana.
When the springtime came, those big mallards that had come down from the north to winter in the south, those big mallards in southern Louisiana rose out of the streams, and the ponds, and the lakes, going north. And one of those mallard formations up there in the sky, looked down, and saw that mallard swimming on a pond, down below. And they made a circle, a great circle, and called from the sky to that mallard down there on the pond. And that great mallard lifted up his head, and lifted up his face, and lifted up his ears, and heard the call from the sky, and he spread his mighty wings and lurched to fly upward, and was pulled down by that stake.
Those other domestic ducks just swam around in a circle, swam around, but that great mallard, when they circled again up there in the sky and called down, once again he spread his wings and sought to fly upward, and was pulled back down by the stake. And they circled yet once again and called from the sky, and that great mallard spread his mighty wings, and with a final lurch, broke loose from this earth, and wafted his way upward toward the heavens.
We are exactly like that! People in the world, their love is in the world, their treasures are in the world; their hopes, and purposes, and visions, and life, all are in the world. But, if you’ve ever been saved, if you’ve ever been born again, if you’ve ever accepted Jesus as your Lord, you’ll feel and you’ll hear that upward call toward God, toward heaven, toward the sky. You just will! And when time comes, you’ll say, "Lord, I’m ready. I’m ready; any day, any hour, any time, Lord, I’m ready."
What a glorious way to live in the love and grace of our Lord! What a triumphant way to die, listening to the upward call! And what a marvelous rendezvous with God’s saints, and the Lord’s angels, and with Christ Himself in heaven! That’s what it is to be a Christian, to be saved, and to have the assurance of that salvation eternally in your heart. Now may we pray?
Wonderful, wonderful Savior, what an incomparable promise You have given to us, we who have found refuge in Thee. O Lord, how precious Thou art, how comforting and assuring Thy Word, and what a beautiful, reassuring presence of the Spirit of God in our hearts. And our Lord, may everyday be a day of victory, triumph for us, knowing that Jesus is near; that the same grace and love that brought Him to the cross to die for us [John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8], is the same love and grace that will raise us from the dead and open for us the doors of heaven [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17]. And our Lord, without loss of one, please God, may all of us be there answering to our name when that final day comes. Please God, every member of our family, every soul we can touch, everyone to whom we might be able to witness, Lord, may all of us be saved; in Thy wonderful name, amen.
In this moment when we sing our hymn of appeal, to give your heart to the Lord, or to bring the family into the fellowship of our wonderful church, or just answering the call of the Spirit of God in your own heart, make that decision now. Do it now. And in a moment when we stand to sing, in the balcony round, on this lower floor, down an aisle, "Pastor, this is God’s day for me and here I stand." Do it, and angels rejoice with you as you come [Luke 15:10], while we stand and while we sing.