“When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD” (Josh. 4:6b–7a).- Joshua 4:1–9
Disagreements about the security of salvation persist within Christendom. Roman Catholics and Arminians consistently maintain that genuine faith can be lost and that few if any Christians can be assured of their salvation. Reformed Christians vigorously assert that true believers will persevere in their faith and that all true Christians can be sure of their salvation. Since several biblical passages might call the Reformed understanding into question, we will now look more closely at the doctrine of perseverance by using Dr. R.C. Sproul’s audio series Eternal Security as a guide.
“Perseverance,” not “eternal security,” is the traditional Reformed term used to convey the truth that a true Christian will remain true to the faith. The term perseverance takes seriously the fact that the Christian life is a struggle. We struggle against sin and doubt over the course of our lives in order to remain in faith. The term perseverance is also less susceptible to perversion than eternal security. Many believe eternal security means that if a person has confessed faith at anytime in his life, that person is saved even if he later falls into unrepentant sin or repudiates Christ. This perversion denies Jesus’ teaching that if we love Him we will obey Him (John 14:15).
An advantage of the term eternal security is that it reminds us of our existential need for stability. The changes associated with human existence create in us a desire for security. Undoubtedly, salvation is the arena in which we most need to feel secure. When professing Christians fall away, we often fear that the same will happen to us.
In the end, any confidence in our security has to come from the One who does not change. In Joshua 4:1–9, the children of Israel have just crossed a flooded and deadly Jordan river because God had caused the waters to divide (Josh. 3:14–17). Joshua tells them to erect two pillars of stone, one in the river and one at Gilgal so that they would be reminded of God’s mighty work. God knew that the troubles ahead might cause them to doubt His promise to preserve them. In times of trouble they could look at these monuments and remember how God had fulfilled His promise to save. And just like the Israelites, when we remember how God has fulfilled His promises in the past, we can be confident that He will do so in the future.
God promises that those whom He foreknew and predestined He has also glorified (Rom. 8:30). God’s mighty acts of redemption show us that when God promises something, He always fulfills that promise. Remember the ways in which God has been faithful in your life, and thank Him for giving signs that He will be faithful in the future.
Passages for Further Study
2 Tim. 2:8