The Reign of the Servant Kings
By Joseph C. Dillow
Chapter 21—Eternal Security
This chapter will present specific biblical evidence for the eternal security of the believer. The Arminian denies that the child of God is eternally secure, and the strict Calvinist insists that, if he does not persevere in holiness, he was never saved (regenerated) in the first place. The Partaker, however, teaches that, if he is a child of God, he is “obligated” to persevere (Paul’s word, Romans 8:12), but he many not. If he does not, he does not forfeit salvation but faces divine discipline in time and loss of reward at the judgment seat of Christ.
This doctrine is called eternal security, or the preservation of the saints. While strict Calvinists prefer the term perseverance, Partakers favor “preservation.” The former implies that ultimate arrival in heaven depends upon man’s faithfulness; the latter upon God.
Yet some points of clarification should be made regarding the doctrine of eternal security:
The only way a person could ever lose his salvation is if it was dependent upon him, i.e., his self-efforts (good works) and perseverance therein. But if this was the case, it would nullify the value of Christ’s sacrifice (His payment for sin). The entire Bible presents salvation as a “work of God.” God the Father purposes, calls, justifies, and glorifies those who believe in Christ. God the Son became incarnate that He might be a Kinsman-Redeemer and die a substitutionary death to affect (provide the legal basis for) salvation. God the Holy Spirit administers and executes the purpose of the Father and the redemptive process. All three persons of the Godhead have their share in preserving to fruition that which God has determined. Since salvation depends upon God, it cannot in any way depend upon man.
Eternal Security Depends Upon God the Father
From eternity past God’s firm purpose has been established. Scripture establishes that before the foundation of the world God elected and predestined to glory those who accept Christ by faith. Therefore the Christian’s eternal security depends, first of all:
Upon God’s Sovereign Purpose
God’s eternal purpose is declared in the following scriptures:
Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved. (Ephesians 1:4-6)
In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. (Ephesians 1:11, 12)
If Christians have been predestined to adoption as sons and to an inheritance, it is therefore not possible that they can lose it. Otherwise God’s predestination will fail. As His plan is unchangeable, so must be its execution.
Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 6:17-20)
God wanted to show the unchangeable (immutable) nature of His eternal purpose to give us an anchor behind the veil and confirmed it by an oath. Now if He purposed before the foundation of the world to save His elect, His elect will be saved.
Even if the election of God was based on the foreseen knowledge of the believer’s faith, the same argument applies. If God knew that individuals would believe and be saved, then they cannot do otherwise than believe and be saved. If they do believe and then for some reason unknown to God are not saved, then God did not know, and His foreseen knowledge was false. If God does not certainly know that an event will take place, then He does not know it at all. But if He knows certainly that an event will occur, then the occurrence of that event must be without failure.
For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. (Romans 8:29, 30)
These verses describe an unbreakable chain consisting of five links:
The same group that was foreknown will also ultimately be glorified. The call is the efficacious call to come to Him. Jesus said, My sheep hear My voice and they follow Me (John 10:27). All those who are foreknown are predestined. All those who are predestined are called, and all of those who are called are justified. This calling is an effectual calling. And all those who are justified will be glorified. This refers to the redemption of the believers’ bodies at the last day (Romans 8:23). The two-verse chain with its five-fold unbreakable links is a clear statement of the eternal security of the saints.
All that God has purposed, He unconditionally promises to His elect. Their salvation depends upon His promise, and not their faithfulness:
Therefore it is of faith [nothing on man’s part] that it might be according to grace [everything on God’s part], so that the promise might be sure . . . . (Romans 4:16a)
If the intended end depended at any point on human ability to continue to believe, then the promise could not be sure. The promise that those who believe will be saved is found all over the Bible (Genesis 15:6; John 3:16; Acts 16:31; Romans 4:23, 24).
Upon God’s Infinite Power
If a believer can lose salvation, then it must be concluded that there is some sin that is sufficiently serious to cause him to forfeit it—perhaps adultery, drunkenness, or denial of Christ.
This assumes that he is less worthy of salvation after having committed this sin than before, and it reduces salvation down to human ability to merit it. But eternal security does not depend upon one’s moral worthiness. If it did, no one would be saved. Rather, it depends upon the fact that Christ’s death has rendered God free to save mankind in spite of moral imperfection and that God’s power is capable of keeping believers saved.
Although Arminians claim that “normal” sins are insufficient to “unsave” a person, the impossibility of adequately answering which ones can leaves generations of Arminians turning in the wind regarding the final outcome of their lives. Because Christ is the propitiation (satisfaction to God) for man’s sins (1 John 2:2), God is not only able to keep Christians saved, but He is free to do so in spite of the moral problem of the imperfection in each Christian.
All Christians have imperfections. If salvation can be lost because of a high degree of imperfection, then arbitrary lines of difference between sins that can and cannot damn must be drawn. And this is an impossibility.
This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:39, 40)
But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father's hand. (John 10:26-30)
The phrase “shall never” is a double negative in Greek. It is very emphatic! Arminians who attempt to make the word “follow” in verse 27 as a condition of a “life of obedience,” miss the context of the passage. The condition of “faith” is the sole means of receiving the gift of eternal life, as is illustrated in the first words of verse 26. The act of “following” is the act of reliant-trust. The use of “hear and believe” in John 5:24 confirms this interpretation:
Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. (John 5:24)
“Hearing and believing” in John 5:24 result in eternal life. “Hearing and following” in John 10:27 result in eternal life. Therefore, they are equal in meaning and the conclusion is that “to follow” is another of John’s metaphors for “to believe;” just as he uses the metaphors “to look,” “to taste,” “to eat,” and “to drink”—all meaning “to believe.”
Peter affirms that Christians are kept by the power of God through faith:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:3-5)
Upon God’s Infinite Love
The preservation of the saved flows from the free and unchangeable love of the Father. It was God’s love and not the Christian’s worthiness that was the reason for man’s salvation in the first place. Scripture makes it clear that God saved no man because He observed some good, attractive, or meriting attribute in an individual. Rather, He saved man for reasons independent of and outside of man. God was motivated by His electing love, and not by observing any good in sinners.
And not only this, but when Rebecca also had conceived by one man, even by our father Isaac (for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls), it was said to her, “The older shall serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.” (Romans 9:10-13)
Since the cause of the sinner’s salvation has nothing to do with any imagined merit or goodness in the sinner, neither does the Christian’s self-efforts have anything to do with the preservation of his salvation. God knew when He saved man that he was totally depraved, and therefore any new manifestation of sin in a person after conversion cannot be any motivation for God to change His mind and withdraw salvation. God knew about all of a person’s subsequent sinfulness before He saved him.
For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. (Romans 11:29)
He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? (Romans 8:32)
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 created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38, 39)
That God’s intent to bring His elect to glory is grounded in His infinite love for them, which is clearly brought out in Romans 5:6-10:
For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. (Romans 5:6-10)
If God did this for man when he was God’s enemies, God will surely do much more now when man is His friends.
Upon God’s Answer to the Prayer of His Son
The saved are called many things in Scripture: saints, believers, sheep, Christians, partakers of the heavenly calling, etc. But the title most dear to the heart of Christ is repeated seven times in His high priestly prayer as those—“You have given Me” (John 17:2, 6, 9, 11-12, 20, 24). This designation, according to John 17:20, includes all who would believe in Him throughout the ages:
Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. (John 17:11, 12)
Christ kept them from perishing, and He prays to the Father to continue to keep them.
Reviewer comment: Although the author states that Judas was the exception because “he was never one whom the Father had given Him,” it is the reviewer’s contention that Judas was in fact “given” to Christ but not in the same manner as those of the elect. Judas always a “son of perdition” and was given for the specific purpose of fulfilling Scripture.
Even if the Father had no personal interest in keeping them saved, which He does, He must respond to the prayer of His Son, whose prayers are always answered (John 11:42). Jesus prays that Christians will be kept from hell (John 17:15) and that they will be with Him in heaven (John 17:20, 24). It is thus the prayer of the Son of God to the Father that becomes one of the major factors in the believer’s security. To deny the safekeeping of the believer is to imply that the prayer of the Son of God will not be answered.
Eternal Security Depends Upon God the Son
Paul in concluding his argument in Romans 8 states: What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. (8:31-33)
Paul’s argument is that, if God has already justified the man who believes in Jesus (Romans 3:26; 8:30), how can He lay anything to the charge of His justified one? God, of all persons, sees the Christian’s failures and imperfections. He does not shut His eyes to these failures but disciplines His children because of them. However, His justification comes from the imputed righteousness of Christ and is legally binding. It is not a subject of merit, and its loss cannot be a subject of demerit. Like a human father, God can and does correct His earthly children, but they always remain his children.
God, having justified the ungodly (Romans 4:5) will not and cannot contradict Himself by charging them with evil—to do so amounts to reversing their justification. Christ has either died for man’s sins and has paid the penalty or He has not. The Arminian cannot have it both ways. God is the only one ultimately who could bring a charge against His elect, and as Paul says, God has already rendered His verdict—justified!
Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. (Romans 8:34)
In Paul’s answer to the second question concerning “who condemns,” he gives four answers. Each of the answers affirms the absolute security of the believer as unconditionally safe forever: (1) Christ died, (2) He is risen, (3) He advocates, and (4) He intercedes. Because of these, “nothing will be able to separate the Christian from the love of God” (Romans 8:39), that is, cause the Christian to forfeit his justification. These four facet pertaining to Christ are taught elsewhere in Scripture, but all are gathered together in this one verse to support the unconditional security of the believer.
Upon Christ’s Substitutionary Death
Paul’s first answer is “Christ has died!” Who can condemn the believer when the penalty for his sins has already been paid? The greatest proof of eternal security is justification by faith, because God sees the believer as “justified” as the result of Christ’s penalty-payment on the cross. Justification is a forensic action; it is entirely a legal matter. Because of Christ’s death holy God was freed to pardon every sin that was or ever will be, with respect to its power to condemn.
In Colossians 2:14, Paul refers to the accumulation of sin as a “certificate of debt”:
And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements [lit: certificate of debt] that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. (Colossians 2:13, 14)
In the ancient world when a prisoner was incarcerated, a “certificate of debt” was nailed to the door of his prison. Written on it was the crime he had committed and the duration and nature of his punishment. When the prisoner had paid his debt, the prison guard would write on the certificate the Greek word tetelestai, meaning “It is paid in full.” After Christ had suffered a 3-hour spiritual death (separation from the Father) on the cross and just before voluntarily relinquishing His physical life, He looked to heaven and cried out to the Father, “It is finished” (John 19:30)—the Greek word tetelestai, “It is paid in full.”
Either Christ’s (spiritual) death for sin actually paid sin’s penalty or it did not. If it did, then the believer cannot be condemned for the very sins for which Christ died. All sins of believers who lived subsequent to the cross were “future” to the cross. If any of these sins are a ground of judgment against them, then Christ’s death was not propitious (satisfactory to God). If it was propitious, then their sins no longer provide grounds for condemnation. It is either one or the other, and the Bible is quite clear that Christ has paid the penalty. Christ paid the penalty-price recorded by the certificate of debt for all sins—it was an eternal redemption.
Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. (Hebrews 9:12)
But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God . . . For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified. (Hebrews 10:12, 14)
When Christ our Priest finished His sacrificial work, it is declared that He “sat down.” The notion of a seated priest was foreign to the Jewish economy. In fact, there were no chairs in the tabernacle because a priest’s work was never done. But here is a Priest who has finished His work. He sat down! There is nothing more to do as far as paying the penalty for sin is concerned. The believer has an eternal redemption. His sins have been paid for all time, and he has been perfected forever!
Upon Christ’s Substitutionary Life
Paul does not bring in this aspect of Christ’s substitutionary work in Romans 8:31-34, but it is the subject of a large body of Scripture. Christ was man’s Substitute by His death, His passive obedience; and He was also man’s Substitute by His life, His active obedience.
Reviewer’s comment: Here the author diverges somewhat from his four-point outline, which at this juncture is “Christ is risen.” Certainly the statement refers to a “living Christ” but the substitutionary life to which the author refers to here is Christ’s life of perfectly keeping God’s laws prior to His death on the cross. Nevertheless, it is important that the reader understand that the resurrection of Christ was the validation of both His divinity (He was God incarnate) and His message (salvation only through Him).
The law required both a penalty for disobedience and a standard of perfect obedience. This was necessary because to merely atone for sin would not be a complete salvation. It would save a person from hell but not make him fit for heaven. Man could not fulfill either of these requirements, but Christ fulfilled both of them. Christ fulfilled the law for the believer with His sinless substitutionary life, as well as paying the penalty-price for his sins by His sacrificial substitutionary death.
Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. (Romans 5:9, 10)
For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man's obedience many will be made righteous. (Romans 5:19)
For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. (Romans 10:4)
Whereas man’s sin was imputed (placed to His account) to Christ; His righteousness was imputed (placed on their account) to man, which may only be appropriated by faith.
For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
And you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power. (Colossians 2:10)
If only Christ’s passive obedience (substitutionary death, penalty-payment) is imputed to the believer, then the believer must produce sufficient works on his own in order to be finally saved. But Christ’s active obedience (His righteousness established by His sinless life) was also imputed to the believer. Because Christ has already obeyed for the believer, he has a right and guarantee to eternal life. The believer’s own obedience secures only rewards in the after-life.
Upon Christ’s Priestly Ministry of Advocacy
The ministry of Christ encompasses both of the last two points, that of His advocacy and intercession on behalf of the believer (Romans 8:34). Jesus continually pleads the believer’s case as his Advocate or Defense Attorney before God the Father.
My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world. (1 John 2:1, 2)
Jesus the Righteous has satisfied (the meaning of propitiation) every claim against the sinning Christian in so far as eternal judgment is concerned. His advocacy is presented under the picture of His entrance into the heavenly sanctuary in Hebrews 9:24-26:
For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another—He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. (Hebrews 9:24-26)
It is obvious that, while God will exercise parental discipline (Hebrews 12:3-15), His child will never be condemned because his Advocate has satisfied the claim of justice against him. Satan can never again bring a case to the bar of justice that will win. It is Christ who bore man’s sin and who appears in heaven on the believer’s behalf, and Christ is the very righteousness by which the Christian is accepted before God. There is therefore no sin a believer can ever commit that will cause him to lose his salvation because of the advocacy and propitiation (satisfaction) made in his behalf by Jesus Christ the Righteous One:
Also there were many priests, because they were prevented by death from continuing. But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. (Hebrews 7:23-25)
He is able to save forever, or to the “uttermost,” because He lives forever to pray for believers. Their eternal security rests upon the advocacy and intercession of Christ, both of which are totally efficacious. Through Christ’s offering for sin and His intercession in behalf of saints they are “perfected forever” (Hebrews 10:14).
Eternal Security Depends Upon God the Holy Spirit
The ministry of the Holy Spirit pertaining to the believer in Christ also insures that he will be saved forever. Three specific works of the Holy Spirit are related to the issue of eternal security, as follow:
Upon the Holy Spirit’s Ministry of Regeneration
The ministry of the Holy Spirit in regeneration results in the birth of a new man and the gift of eternal life. Both of these effects imply irreversible change and a permanent new condition.
When Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3, you must be born again, He taught that there are certain similarities between physical and spiritual birth. In each a new entity is created.
Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit. (Titus 3:5)
When this happens, a new creation is formed:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
This new creation is the Holy Spirit’s workmanship, which unites the believer with the divine nature, i.e., with God Himself:
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus . . . . (Ephesians 2:10)
Arminians point out correctly that there are important differences between spiritual birth and physical birth. But as the subjects of spiritual birth, partakes of the nature of God share experience aspects of the spiritual birth that are indeed analogous to physical birth. The fundamental idea of the creation of a new thing, a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) called a “son” (Galatians 4:6) and who is an heir of God (Romans 8:17), allows the believer, indeed requires the believer, to stress that a son cannot become a non-son and a created person cannot be uncreated. New birth is clearly irreversible.
In the case of human generation a being comes into existence who did not exist before, and this being will go on living forever. An earthly parent imparts a nature to a child, and that nature endures forever. Thus, to a much higher degree, the divine parent similarly creates a new man in Christ who will live forever. The earthly nature that is inherited from earthly parents never dies but endures forever. Logic requires that the inherited divine nature from the heavenly parent will also endure forever.
Can a man be unborn? Of course he can die, but this in no way reverses the fact of his sonship and his birth. Both physical and spiritual births are one-time events with permanent consequences. Even death does not reverse it. A person’s conscious existence never ends, and one day all will be raised from the dead (John 5:28, 29).
The son of a human parent may rebel and disobey, but he is still of the nature of his parent. That never changes. God similarly has created a new man; He gave birth to the believer. The believer may rebel, and God may disinherit him, as an earthly father can; but believers will never cease to be God’s children.
There is nothing then that can be done to reverse regeneration. Even if a believer decided he no longer wanted to be God’s child, it would not change his union or relationship with God. Spiritual and physical birth cannot be reversed. Furthermore, the believer cannot give salvation back. Is it not obvious that one cannot give his physical birth back to his human parent? Neither can he give his spiritual birth back to his divine parent. If that were possible, then the gospel promise would be contradicted. Then a person who had believed in God’s Son would perish and not have everlasting life after all (John 3:16). Then a person who possesses eternal life would come under judgment in direct contradiction to John 5:24.
Not only is the believer born into God’s family, but through regeneration he receives the gift of eternal life—a life (not mere existence) that is owned permanently the moment it is given. It is a characteristic of the new creation. Jesus Himself argued that eternal life was first of all the promise that a believer will rise from the dead after he physically dies. Christ also said that a Christian has eternal life now and this means he cannot cease to eternally live:
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. . . .” (John 11:25, 26)
Christ says the believer has eternal life now and as a result (1) he will rise from the dead in the resurrection, and (2) he will never die. For Jesus, at least, the gift of eternal life meant far more than sharing the life of God now. It was a guarantee of endless existence with Him. The believer will never die! Over and over again the Savior stresses the permanent nature of the gift of eternal life. He told the woman at the well that, after drinking the water He would give, she would never thirst (John 4:14). He said I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst (John 6:25). Eternal life is permanent. All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out (John 6:37). The Christian will “certainly not” be cast out! How else could the Lord say it? Eternal life is not only “without cost,” but it is permanent!
Upon the Holy Spirit’s Baptizing Ministry
Through the baptizing ministry of the Holy Spirit a person who accepts Christ by faith is brought into organic union with Christ, and Christ’s history becomes permanently the believer’s history:
For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:13).
Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? (Romans 6:3)
Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:8-11)
Because of the baptizing work of the Holy Spirit, uniting the believer to Christ, what is true of Christ becomes true of the believer. One thing that is true of Christ is that He died to sin once for all and that He dies no more. Paul specifically reveals that this is true of believers as well, in verse 11.
Upon the Holy Spirit’s Sealing Ministry
There are three references to the sealing ministry of the Holy Spirit, as follow:
Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who also has sealed [Gk. sphragizo] us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee [Gk. arrabon].
(2 Corinthians 1:21, 22)
In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed [Gk. sphragizo] with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee [Gk. arrabon] of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory. (Ephesians 1:13, 14)
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. (Ephesians 4:30)
Two things stand out in these verses: (1) the Holy Spirit has sealed (sphragizo) the believer, and (2) the Holy Spirit is his pledge or guarantee (arrabon). The ancient practice of using seals is behind the figurative use of the word here. A seal was a mark of protection and ownership. When the Holy Spirit seals the believer, He presses the signet ring of the heavenly Father on his heart and leaves the permanent mark of ownership. The believer forever belongs to God. God certifies this by His unchangeable purpose to protect and own the believer to the day of redemption.
In Ephesians 1:13, 14 it is stated that the Holy Spirit Himself is the seal. He is impressed upon the believer, so to speak, and His presence in his life is thus a guarantee of God’s protection and that he is owned by God. A broken seal was an indication that the person had not been protected. The Holy Spirit cannot be broken. He is the seal of ownership. In Ephesians 4:30 it states that the believer is sealed for the day of redemption. This sealing ministry of the Spirit is forever, which guarantees that the believer will arrive safely for the redemption of his body and his entrance into heaven (Romans 8:23). The Holy Spirit is the seal that the believer is both owned and protected by God until the day of redemption.
Christians are forever protected from wrath. They cannot lose their salvation any more than they can break the seal. They would have to have greater power to lose salvation than the Holy Spirit has to keep them saved. Of course there are various experiential ministries of the Holy Spirit that the believer can refuse to accept such as His filling (Ephesians 5:18), and the believer can in fact grieve the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30); but, as stated, these are all experiential and have nothing to do with the Spirit’s non-experiential ministry of sealing and baptism. Nowhere are believers asked to allow the Spirit to baptize them into the body of Christ, or to seal them and become their guarantee. These actions happen to all believers at the point in time when they believe in Christ.
One other point regarding the Holy Spirit as the believer’s guarantee or pledge. The Greek word arrabon is a legal term that obligates the contracting party to make further payments. It is a legal concept from the language of business and trade. In Romans 8:23 Paul speaks of the “first fruits” of the Spirit, a down payment to be followed by more. The believer awaits the redemption of his body. He is sealed unto that day.
God has legally bound Himself to the believer’s eternal security. The choice of the legal term (arrabon, “earnest”) implies that God has legally and morally obligated Himself to bring His child to heaven.
If one person who was born again in Christ ever fails to enter into heaven when he dies, then God has broken His pledge—God’s word of honor has been voided. No human conditions are mentioned. This, like other aspects of security is a work of God and depends upon Him alone.
If the believer’s eternal security depends upon anything in or by him, then his eternal security is indeed uncertain and unsecured. However, the Scriptures teach that his final entrance into heaven is guaranteed by the work of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Since it depends upon and infinite Person, who is faithful and true, it is inconceivable that the salvation of any child of God can ever be lost.