I discovered that eternal security is an issue in some parts of Russia. John Musgrave said there was an influence of Arminianism that puts an emphasis on individual effort. It was an issue with the Tsibanobalka class as the majority thought you could lose your salvation. One pastor raised both hands when I asked who thought they could lose/not lose their salvation. It was not an issue with the Elista group as only two people held that opinion. John & I discussed the difference between the two groups—the Elista group pointed to Scripture while the Tsibanobalka class asked, “But what about …?” which emphasized personal experience. The answer must always be, “What does Scripture say?”
I have long held to the belief that salvation is secure because it is based on God’s ability to keep his promises, not on my ability to be faithful. But after studying the issue before the trip and preaching the issue several times over the past two weeks, I am even more convinced.
Romans 8 is the key to unlocking the secret to eternal security. In fact, the chapter is bookended with the concept.
Romans 8:1 – There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Romans 8:38–39 – For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Those who are in Christ are no longer condemned. Those who are in Christ cannot be separated from God’s love. No condemnation. No separation. The chapter shouts, “SALVATION IS SECURE!”
As I read and contemplated those three verses, the phrase, “in Christ,” jumped off the page. Our salvation is secure because we are in Christ. Eternal security is not determined by my efforts. Salvation is secure because I am related to Jesus Christ.
In Elista, I explained that all of us know someone who claimed to know Christ and then walked away. I spoke about my brother who trusted Christ as a child, went to Bible College, served in ministry, but then dropped out of church for the last three years of his life. I shared about my best friend in college—we went to Bible College together, went to seminary, and participated in each other weddings. But he left his wife, had an affair, got a divorce, and claimed he was never a Christian to begin with. While both situations left me puzzled and heartbroken, I have to trust that God knows their hearts. I believe both were truly saved, but only God knows for certain. As Romans explains, God is a just judge.
I used an illustration and said that life is like a book. We are currently in one chapter of the story of our lives. As we look at other people, perhaps they walked away from God during one chapter of their life. But the final chapter has not been written yet. God may yet draw them back to himself in a later chapter. We can hope and pray that that is the case.
As an aside, I encouraged both classes to do a study of the phrase, “in Christ,” to discover the nature of their identity as a Christian. I shared that that is something I continue to pray for my children, that they will know what it means to be in Christ, that they will understand that they are bought with a price, that they will understand the blessings, power, riches, and resources available to them because they are in Christ. If we truly understand our identity IN CHRIST, we will live differently. We will say “No” to sin, present ourselves to God, stop relying on our own strength, and depend on the power of the Holy Spirit (which is the flow of Paul’s argument in Romans 6-8).