29 January 2006

While reading about the persecution of Christians in a bygone era, we came across a gruesome account of one of the most atrocious and hateful crimes committed against them. According to the writer, the enemies of the Christian Church would torture their victims with such painful methods that they would, with their tongues, deny their faith and the Lord who bought them. This was their enemy's method of, supposedly, sending them, forever, to hell. The Apostle Paul was familiar with some of these methods. Prior to his regeneration and conversion he committed essentially the same torments to Christians: "And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities."( Acts 26:11). We believe that, for this reason, he wrote more about the security of the saints than any other writer. Hear his words concerning the security of the saints: "Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth ... Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?... For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:33,35,38). If words mean anything, Paul certainly believed: "Once saved, always saved", even when persecutors torture.

Consider another example of security. David, a man after the Lord's own heart, fell into great sin with Bathsheba. He committed the sin of adultery. Did he lose his eternal salvation for a time? Certainly not! But what did he lose? He lost the joy of it. That is what so many Christians lose when they fall into gross immorality. David lost his fellowship with the Lord, his source of comfort and peace. The only way to get it back would be through repentance and restoration. Listen to his repentance in Psalm 51: "Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit." Our Father is faithful. He brings His children back to Him. He never lets them go. The wicked, He leaves to enjoy their sin, until the day of judgment. Those who fall away into gross immorality, who never repent, were never saved in the first place! You can not lose something you never had. David never lost his eternal salvation because David's salvation, as well as our own, was in Christ, not in David. This is how we know that salvation does not come from what we say or what we do. It is not by our works. It is by God's grace which changes our hearts, places Christ within us and turns us from the world. Surely, common sense would tell us that if we did something to gain heaven, we could do something to lose it. If we believed that going through some ordinance at church, repeating some words, or performing good deeds would pay for sin, Christ need not have come. Besides, most churches have different methods and ordinances. If only one were right they would be the only ones in glory. If something we did could cause us to lose our salvation we would be in and out of our eternal destiny every moment, with every evil thought, with every act of obedience or disobedience, with every loss of temper or tongue. We are as little children, holding on to our Father's hand. Our security is not in our grip, but His! His grip is eternal. If we mess up, He will be faithful to apply the rod, but He will never throw us away. What kind of Father would that be? Every writer of the scriptures taught the security of the saints. But listen to the words of the Great Shepherd, the Chief Shepherd, who never has, or never will lose one single sheep: "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand."(John 10:27-29). –Neil M. Phelan, Jr., Pastor, Harmony Primitive Baptist Church, Donaldson, AR.