The Privileges of Eternal Security
By Dr Tony Evans
The grace necessary to finish well is one of the privileges we have the opportunity to enjoy because we have been saved, sealed, and secured forever by the precious blood of Christ. I want to talk about some of these privileges that can be ours in Christ, in the hope that you will come to appreciate and value your salvation in new ways and determine that nothing will keep you from serving Him faithfully and running your race to His glory. I refer to these privileges as opportunities because they are not automatic. That is, these things we’re going to discuss are tied to our faithfulness in living for Christ. They don’t determine how much salvation we get, because we get all of it. But they do help to determine how much we will enjoy our salvation.
THE MANY PRIVILEGES OF ETERNAL SECURITY
The Privilege of Becoming Partakers with Christ One of the privileges available to us as believers is the opportunity to become “partakers” of Jesus Christ. The writer of Hebrews addressed his readers as “partakers of a heavenly calling” (3:1), and then he told them, “For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end” (v. 14). Let me deal with the last part of verse 14 first, because on first reading, it sounds as if the writer is making salvation conditional. We’ve covered enough biblical ground in this book to demonstrate that these conditional phrases refer to the potential loss of privilege and reward, not salvation. So let’s lay that issue to rest right here. The Greek word translated “partakers” in this text has a tremendous meaning. In biblical days it referred to a ruler’s cabinet or inner circle of friends and advisers. Interestingly, this same word is translated as “companions” in Hebrews 1:9 in reference to Christ’s preeminence. These companions are believers, the same ones who are later called “brethren” (Hebrews 2:11). That makes Jesus Christ the most special person among those who are His partakers or companions. We have pointed out before that when it comes to our service and usefulness for Christ here on earth, all believers do not have the same depth of relationship with Christ. Nor does He commit Himself equally to all believers (John 2:24). He is the Savior of all who believe, so that’s not the issue. But the privilege of being a partaker with Him is for those who prove themselves worthy, who “hold fast the beginning of [their] assurance firm until the end” (Hebrews 3:14). The problem is that being human, we can get sidetracked from the work God has called us to do. Although in one sense that’s understandable, and although it happens to all of us at one time or another, it’s not an excuse for a failure to be faithful. Jesus made some strong statements about what it takes to have a place close to Him in terms of our earthly service. “Whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother” (Matthew 12:50). “You are My friends if you do what I command you” (John 15:14). Again, these are not conditions for salvation but conditions for being what the book of Hebrews calls a partaker of Christ. The Privilege of Entering God’s Rest If you’ve studied the book of Hebrews, you know that one of its key themes is what is called God’s rest. Hebrews 4:1 contains a conditional statement regarding God’s rest: “Let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it.” Then in verse 4 we read: “For He has said somewhere concerning the seventh day: ’And God rested on the seventh day from all His works.’” This takes us all the way back to Genesis 2:2, where we read, “By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.” God did not rest because He was tired and needed some sleep. The idea here is that God sat back, if you will, beheld His creation, and felt complete satisfaction in what He had done. In other words, God thoroughly enjoyed what He had created. God offers you and me the privilege of feeling the same way about our work as He felt about His work. Not because our work is perfect, by any means, but because when we are fully participating in His plan for us and are serving Him to the limits of our ability and faithfulness, we can enjoy a tremendous sense of satisfaction and spiritual fulfillment. The opposite is that sense of guilt and frustration so many Christians testify to because they are knocking themselves out trying to please God. The Privilege of Earning Great Reward I’ve referred to Jesus’ parable in Matthew 25:14-30 that teaches the principle of reward for faithful service. We don’t have the space here to quote the entire passage, which you can read for yourself. I want to summarize the story and highlight the principle. The parable involves a man who goes on a long trip and leaves various amounts of his money to three of his servants to manage and invest for him. You may recall the story, in which the first two servants double their money while the third hides his allotment in the ground and does nothing with it. When the master returns and calls for an accounting, he commends the two diligent servants and gives them a reward that is described as being put “in charge of many things” (vv. 21, 23) and the extra blessing of entering into his joy. Whatever this involved, it was very good. But the third servant is judged and stripped of his money because he was faithless with what the master had given him. He had nothing to present to the master in return for the privilege of having charge of some of the master’s money. It’s true that the servants were given different amounts of money to work with. But the reward for those who were faithful is identical. And the third servant had the same opportunity to hear the master say, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (vv. 21,23 KJV). The only difference was that this servant didn’t persevere in faithful service. God is watching what we do with the salvation we have been given. Rewards await those who are faithful. The Privilege of Finishing Well Aren’t you glad that God gives us the privilege of finishing well? That’s important because as so many have said, the Christian life is a marathon and not a short sprint. This takes us back to Hebrews 3:14 and the exhortation to “hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end.” In one sense, the truth of eternal security assures us that we will finish well, because every person whom God saves makes it to heaven. But there’s something even better than making it to heaven. It’s finishing well and entering heaven with a lifetime of rewards from Christ instead of merely making it through the fire of Christ’s judgment seat (see 1 Corinthians 3:15). Finishing well should be our response to the grace of God. Grace is what God gives us; good works are what we can—and are called to—do in response. And as God’s grace gains you heaven, so your works gain you reward in heaven. THE
PERSEVERANCE OF ETERNAL SECURITY
We’ve said a lot about this great salvation and what it means to be totally saved. The Bible is clear that what God wants from His children is a life of faithfulness in gratitude for what He has given us. And, as noted above, the Bible is equally clear that God desires to reward His children when they are faithful to Him. We conclude our study of eternal security and the doctrine of soteriology by looking at that life of faithfulness to which God calls us. The Importance of Perseverance In 2 Timothy 2:12, the apostle Paul made a very important statement about the great value of our endurance or perseverance in the faith: “If we endure, we will also reign with Him [Jesus Christ].” We’ve dealt with this verse and the crucial passage of which it is a part, so let me remind you that it deals with reward or the loss thereof in heaven, not the loss of salvation. The principle being taught is that the degree of our eternal reward depends on our faithfulness to Christ. There is a major difference between being a son or daughter and being an heir. Jesus had a lot to say about our service for Him and the reward it brings. One of the most concise summaries of His teaching on this subject comes in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, found in Matthew 6:1-21. Inverses 1-18, the Lord taught us how to do our giving, our praying, and our fasting in a way that honors Him and brings His reward. It’s not that the hypocrites Jesus was talking about go unrewarded. It’s just that their reward, human praise and recognition, is so temporary and totally restricted to earth. It makes no impact whatsoever in heaven. That’s why Jesus closed this section of the Sermon on the Mount by saying: Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21) The Test of Perseverance It doesn’t take much perseverance to reap a temporary earthly reward if that’s what you’re willing to settle for. But storing up treasures in heaven demands a mind-set of faithfulness that believes God when He says He will reward us for the service we do in His name and His power, and for His glory. The deposits we lay up in heaven are long-term investments, like the deposits people make in their retirement accounts. In order to enjoy these blessings, you have to take the long view and see the unseen, like the apostle Paul: Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18) Now don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying that if we just get the right spiritual attitude, then a life of fruitful, consistent service will flow easily from our lives with no struggles. The interesting thing is that of all of Paul’s letters, 2 Corinthians is the most poignant and revealing in terms of Paul’s human weakness and struggles. He had “conflicts without, fears within” (2 Corinthians 7:5). But he was able to serve God consistently in spite of his weakness because he had learned how to access God’s grace and the power of the Holy Spirit. The church is built and God’s work is advanced by faithful believers who have the long view and serve Christ to the best of their ability. I love what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 1:26-27: For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong. That should encourage us, because, let’s face it, most of us fit in the category of the foolish and the weak as far as greatness in this world is concerned. You may not be able to bring the crowd to its feet, but you can be faithful and persevere in the place where God has put you. I’m convinced that the people who will enjoy the greatest reward in heaven are those who didn’t give up when the storms came. When Questions Come What about those times when we are tempted to question our salvation as doubt takes hold of us? The best example I can give you in this case is what John the Baptist did as he languished in prison and began to wonder if Jesus really was the Messiah. John sent two of his disciples to Jesus with the question: “Are You the Expected One, or do we look for someone else?” (Luke 7:19). Jesus demonstrated His power to John’s disciples, then sent them back with the unmistakable testimony of His deity (vv. 21-22). God is not afraid of your questions, so if you’re struggling He knows it, and you might as well talk to Him about it. Don’t hide when you have questions and doubts, because God can deal with them if you’ll be honest with Him. Now let me point out that Jesus answer to John didn’t get John out of jail. His circumstances didn’t change, but it makes a big difference in trials whether you know that Jesus is the One and you belong to Him, or whether you’re not sure. That can make the difference between persevering and giving up. Now let me turn this issue of questions around and talk about what happens when God has questions to ask of us. God would ask some of us, “I have given you a great salvation and secured your future in heaven. What are you doing with what I’ve given you?” We’ve promised God that if He would meet this need or get us out of that tight spot, we would serve Him faithfully. Have you ever done that? This question of what we are doing with our salvation is one that all of us need to ask ourselves. We’re secure in Christ, but what are we doing for Him in gratitude and love for what He has given us? If you are a spiritual dropout, then get back in the race. Pick up the pace to make up lost ground. Every day you delay is another day of lost opportunity. “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary” (Galatians 6:9). OUR UNSHAKABLE KINGDOM Here’s a final word from Scripture to encourage us with the truth of our security in Christ and urge us to persevere: “Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:28-29). This world may be shaking, and things may get a lot worse before God decides it is enough and Jesus returns for His own. But as believers in Christ, we are in the most secure position we could possibly be in. We are part of a kingdom that cannot be shaken by the instability around us, because our kingdom is not of this world. What can we do to express our appreciation for this secure position? The answer is in the text. We need to show gratitude to God by serving Him “with reverence and awe.” In other words, God is like loving parents who take care of their children and meet all of their needs, but who have to say sometimes, “How about a little gratitude here? How about a little help with the chores and the responsibilities around the house?” We are saved and secure, and God wants us to be grateful for our privileges by serving Him in a way that is acceptable to Him. God will not make us be grateful, but neither can we make Him reward us for our lack of gratitude. There’s a whole lot of shaking going on out there in the world, and if anything ought to make us grateful, it is our security in Christ.
PERSONAL APPLICATION FOR LIFE
1. God has saved and secured you and brought you into His unshakable kingdom. He has promised to keep you from falling. He loves you that much. His question is, How grateful are you for His presence in time and His promise for eternity? 2. In any task, it’s important to finish well. Our faith is no exception. Hebrews 3:14 exhorts us to “hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end.” God gives us not only the opportunity, but the grace to finish our course well. How well are you holding to your confession of faith? If you need help, ask God to give the grace you need to finish the course well. 3. We look forward to an eternity with God. As a child of God, are you ready for the coming kingdom? Matthew 6:33 exhorts us to make it a priority to seek God’s kingdom and righteousness. Is kingdom living the top priority in your life? 4. In 2 Timothy 2:12, the apostle Paul made a very important statement about the great value of our endurance or perseverance in the faith: “If we endure, we will also reign with Him [ Jesus Christ].” Staying the course can certainly be difficult at times. Never forget that God is capable of helping you do whatever He’s called you to do. Are you finding the road difficult right now? Lay claim to the affirmation of Philippians 4:13 and ask God to give you a special measure of strength to get through the current storm in your life.
FOR GROUP STUDY
Questions for Group Discussion 1. What does it mean for believers to be partakers of Christ with regard to their eternal security? What does being a “partaker” involve? 2. Read Hebrews 4:1. What is “God’s rest”? 3. Read 2 Timothy 2:12. What does it mean to “persevere” in our faith? What is the test of our perseverance? (See 2 Corinthians 4:16-18.) (Use the chart below as an aid to your discussion.) 4.What is the reward of our perseverance? (See Galatians 6:9; Matthew 25:14-40; Hebrews 12:28-29.)
There is great value in our persevering in the faith. If we endure, we will reign with Christ in His kingdom. The degree of our eternal reward depends on our faithfulness to Christ.