Once Saved, For Ever Saved.
by W. H. Sansom
IT is very sad to find so many Christians in doubt as to their final salvation; "I believe I am all right now," they say, "but if I am not faithful to the end, I shall be lost."
Now we shall seek to prove from God's Word, that the salvation which the sinner obtains through believing in Jesus, is not made to depend on either his faithfulness or failure, that it can never be lost, and that these doubts and fears grieve the Holy Spirit, dishonour God, and are a direct denial of the value of the death of His Son.
Accordingly, we ask you to accompany us in thought to a scene described in Leviticus xvi., and which took place yearly in Israel on the great day of atonement.
The vast congregation is gathered before the tabernacle as the high priest issues forth from the holiest, whither he has taken the blood of the slain goat to sprinkle before the Lord, to vindicate His righteousness, and enable Him to act in mercy and forgiveness to sinful Israel.
As Aaron leaves the tabernacle, a live goat is brought to him, and forthwith, he lays his hand upon its head, and confesses over it all the sins of the children of Israel, transferring them to the goat, which he then delivers into the hands of a fit man, who takes it into the wilderness; the goat bearing upon it all their iniquities into a land not inhabited.
With a sigh of relief, the people watch the little creature as it is led away.
Let us get a little closer; we may have an opportunity of conversing with some of them. See, there is a happy-looking Israelite standing on the edge of the crowd; his eyes sparkle with joy; we will speak to him.
"Well, friend, why so joyful to-day?"
"Do you not see the scapegoat?" responds he, as he points with his finger to the goat, which has now become but a mere speck in the distance.
"And what of that?" we ask.
"All my sins are on that," he rejoins; "Jehovah has accepted it as my substitute, and He will not bring me into judgment about them. I am a free man."
"But what about the future? Suppose you sin again, what will you do?"
"Ah!" says he, in a grave voice," there must be another sacrifice, another substitute."
"But suppose you die before the sacrifice is forthcoming, what then?"
Now watch his face as he replies. How troubled and anxious he looks! Every trace of joy flees away as he says mournfully, "Jehovah would judge me; for the scapegoat has only borne away my past sins."
And this was true; the question of past sins was dealt with, but he had no guarantee as to the forgiveness of future sins. You see, the law had a shadow of good things to come, but not the very image of the things.
Now for the application of the Scripture.
Does it not occur to you what is implied when you say, "I am all right now; for God has forgiven me my past sins, but if I fall again, I forfeit that which I now have?"
You put yourself into the very position occupied by the poor Jew and allege that you are no better off than he.
But the question is, Does the Word of God put you there? And for the purposes of this enquiry we ask you to leave Leviticus and turn to Hebrews ix. and x.
The Holy Ghost is there contrasting the religious system in force when Leviticus xvi. was written, with that which prevails now, consequent upon the death and resurrection of Christ; and His teaching is briefly but lucidly summarized in Chap. x. 11-14. ''Every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: but this Man [Jesus], after He had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down at the right hand of God . . . . FOR BY ONE OFFERING, HE HATH PERFECTED FOR EVER THEM THAT ARE SANCTIFIED."
Oh, my reader, listen to the wonderful fact!
The priests always stood, because their work was never finished. When Jesus had accomplished His one work, He for ever sat down at the right hand of God.
Think of it! the Man upon whom your sins were laid at Calvary has been received into glory and has sat down at the right hand of God. And mark the contrast—the many offerings under the law perfected nothing; by one offering, Jesus has perfected for ever them that are sanctified.
Now every believer is sanctified. The word properly means "separated," or "set apart." The moment therefore a sinner is saved, he is set apart to God. Wonderful fact! he who erstwhile was outside paradise, a poor wanderer over a sin-polluted earth, journeying onward to eternal misery, is now, through faith in Christ, saved from hell, delivered from the dominion of sin, and set apart to glorify God in the place where he had previously dishonoured Him by his sin.
And each person of the Godhead is shown to be engaged in the work of sanctification, God the Father (Jude 1), God the Son (Heb. ii. 11), and God the Holy Ghost. (1 Peter i. 2.)
What greater security than this could you have? Can the work of the eternal Trinity fail?
Lest, however, any misunderstanding should arise, we would here remark that sanctification is spoken of in Scripture in two ways—(1) as absolute, (2) as practical or progressive. The former is due to the work of Christ for me; the latter to the work of the Spirit in me. One refers to the believer's standing, the other to his state. There is an immense difference between these. "Standing'' is the believer's position before God, as risen with and united to Christ glorified. Scripture teaches that at the Cross, the first man was judged, and his history closed before God; that in resurrection, Christ became the head of a new race, the beginning of a new creation; and that in saving a sinner, God not only forgives him his sins, but He takes him out of the old Adam fleshly, standing out of his place and state of ruin and moral death, and gives him eternal life and union with Christ risen; takes him out, of the old man, and puts him into the new.
The Christian is thus spoken of as being "in Christ," the sinner as "in the flesh." That eternal life which is in the risen Man at God's right hand is possessed by the believer on earth. The same Spirit that dwells in Christ in glory, dwells in the saint on earth. Christ and he are one. (Eph. ii. 1-10; Rom. viii. 1-10; 2 Cor. v. 17, 18.)
The Christian thus stands on the resurrection side of the Cross, with judgment behind him and eternal glory before; with the link that bound him to the first Adam severed for ever by that Cross; henceforth, a member of that heavenly race of which Christ, the last Adam, is the infallible Head.
"State" is connected with the believer's walk, what he is responsible to be for God in an evil world. (Eph. vi. 10-18.)
Now, in the passage before us, the absolute side of sanctification is presented, and is accordingly unalterable and eternal. This is proved by the text, "He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified." With sins purged, the believer is henceforth set apart to God, accepted by Him according to the priceless and eternal value of Christ's offering, entirely apart from the question of his own personal merit or demerit, his faithfulness or faithlessness.
In 1 Thess. v. 23 and John xvii., the progressive side of the subject is the theme. This refers to the believer's walk, his "state." The daily advancement in practical holiness is there dwelt upon, the outflow of the divine nature; the evil nature, with its corrupt workings, being kept in check in the power of the Holy Ghost, who dwells in him.
In verse 10, the apostle, speaking of himself and all other believers, says, ''WE ARE sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all;" and in verse 14, "HE HATH PERFECTED FOR EVER, THEM THAT ARE SANCTIFIED."
What a marvellous proof of the eternal security of the believer! Could the Spirit have spoken in terms plainer and more positive in evidence thereof? For see, it is not a perfection which the believer has to attain in walk and practice, but a perfection in which God has already set him before Himself in Christ—the glorious fruit of an accomplished redemption.
Now observe the three wonderful things found in verses 9, 10, 15. 1. The will of God as to the sanctification of His people. 2. The work of the Son which forms the basis for the accomplishment of this will. 3. The testimony of the Holy Ghost that the work is complete.
Here is additional proof, that the believer can never be lost; for what can thwart the will of God, or who can nullify the Son's work?
God's irrevocable purpose from eternity has been to fill Heaven with saved sinners; but after a trial lasting 4,000 years, He has proved man to be utterly incapable of either gaining or keeping blessing on the ground of works. He has not therefore left the believer's salvation to rest upon the insecure basis of his own faithfulness, but He accomplishes His purpose, and displays the riches of His grace, by making the BLOOD OF CHRIST, the sole ground thereof. When that foundation can be touched, then, but not till then, will his salvation be in jeopardy. What therefore do we learn from all this?
The glorious fact that, unlike the poor Jew, who for every sin must offer a fresh sacrifice (Lev. v.), and who, after all had no certainty as to his ultimate safety, the Christian is perfected for ever, that not only have his past sins been put away, but that the question of all his sins (for God never divides them into past, present, and future) has been divinely settled by the one eternally complete substitutionary sacrifice of the Lamb of God. Brought out of his original state of ruin and misery, the result of sin, he is introduced into God's holy presence with sins put away, a new and divine nature communicated, there to be abidingly before God in all the unchangeable acceptance of Christ His glorified Son, with all the fragrant preciousness of that Son reckoned to him. No longer regarded as a fallen child of the first Adam, the heir of death and judgment, but a new creature in the risen Christ, the last Adam, the first-born from the dead. "For in Him, (Christ) dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, and ye are complete in Him." (Col. ii. 9, 10.) The Godhead glories of the exalted Christ are here displayed, and, amazing truth! the believer is seen to be in association with this glorious Person, and to possess in Him, a divine completeness before God, who views him in Christ, and causes him to share with the Son of His love, the nearness and acceptance in which that beloved One stands with Him.
Oh, what a deep and wondrous meaning these Scriptures impart to the words, "perfected for ever!" We may not be like Him in our walk, but we are as to acceptance and standing, and as these have their exclusive spring and source in His atoning work, they are unchangeable and imperishable, never to be affected by the weakness of man or the power of the devil.
Most earnestly therefore, do we beseech you to give heed to the Spirit's Words, "perfected for ever;" it is in divine contrast with the condition of the Israelite of Leviticus xvi. He knew nothing of this, while you, the whole of your life, have had within your reach a Book in which the living God has declared that the believer in Jesus is perfected "for ever." Not merely up to the present moment mind, but "for ever," a term which embraces time and eternity.
It is not said that this is through your faithfulness, but THROUGH THE OFFERING OF JESUS. Neither does it say so long as you are faithful, but FOR EVER, the magnificent result of that one offering. And yet, it may be that for years past, you have been fearing lest you might lose a salvation, which has its source in a work entirely outside of yourself, and is maintained, not by anything you, can do, but by the abiding efficacy of that work. You had nothing to do with the obtaining of it, and you have nothing to do with the keeping of it. It depends solely upon the work of another.
We know that if God did cause your salvation to depend upon your faithful walk, you must be lost; but instead of doing this, He bids you look away from self with its perpetual failings and imperfections to yonder glory, where the risen Christ is seated, and learn the fact of your eternal safety from the wondrous truth that He has already sustained, and exhausted the judgment, when bearing your sins on the Cross as your substitute, and now appears in glory as your righteousness. (1 Cor. i. 30; 2 Cor. v. 21.)
Oh, think of it, His BLOOD shed in death for your sins, HIMSELF in glory as your righteousness! Will you not see that God, by thus connecting your salvation exclusively with the death and resurrection of His Son, completely relieves you from the responsibility of keeping and the risk of losing it.
Again, has it never occurred to you, that by harbouring these base doubts, you reduce Christ's offering to the level of the Jewish sacrifices? We have seen that an Israelite obtained remission of his past sins, not because of any virtue that was in the blood of bulls and goats, but through the forbearance of God, who was looking forward to a more precious stream which should presently flow at Calvary.
Now if a Christian possesses no more than this—i.e. remission of his past sins, and is liable to judgment because of future sins, in what respect is he better off than a Jew?
But the blood of Christ was not shed merely to take away some sins, or to be effective, so long as the believer is faithful; it was shed to make an absolute and divinely perfect atonement for all the sins of those who should believe, and the gospel is the disclosure of the blessed fact, that the blood has been shed, that God is satisfied, and that the weakest believer in Jesus is by virtue of that atonement eternally saved, whether he knows the eternal character of his salvation or not.
Of this the Holy Ghost is never weary of testifying. For example, in Hebrews v., He speaks of the salvation secured to the believer of this dispensation as being ''eternal." What did a Jew know of this? We have seen that the very thought of future sins filled him with dread. He had no "eternal salvation''; his was only a temporary one. Again, in chapter ix., we read of "eternal redemption" as a result of Christ's sacrifice. In John iii. of "eternal life."
Grasp, reader, in those three passages, the wonderful word "ETERNAL.'' The work of Christ, with the enduring character of its results, is there presented in bright contrast with the offerings of the Old Testament, which were but symbols of that work—shadows, from which nothing tangible could spring. The solemn mystery of the incarnation and death of the eternal Son is there unveiled, and God is teaching thee the meaning of that mystery, and warns thee not to dim by thy doubts the lustre of that glory which irradiates the Cross of Calvary, which He Himself has made the sole ground and channel of thine eternal blessing, but commands thee to accept in simple faith the marvellous truth, that to the believing soul, there flows from that Cross a life, salvation, and redemption, which he can never, never lose, for the reason that in their nature and duration, they are ETERNAL.
“Simple Testimony” 1884