Studies on Eternal Security (2): Gifts

The God Who gave His Word, Who gave His only Son, Who gave us physical life and Who gives us every breath we breathe (Dan 5:23) has proven Himself to be a giving God. To believers living in this age of His grace, He has given even more.

The Gift of Eternal Life

God promised to give eternal life to those who believe in His Son, Christ Jesus. The most famous text containing this promise is John 3:16. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” If everlasting life indeed lasts forever, how could it ever end once it is received? God’s Word tells us it is received the moment we believe on the Lord Jesus. It is often argued by CSAs (Conditional Security Advocates) that the present tense of “believe” in John 3:16 (as well as in John 3:15,18; 5:24) indicates continuous, uninterrupted action. In other words, one must continue to believe on Christ in order to continue to have eternal life. The implication is that if one does not continue to believe, eternal life is lost.

First, if this could happen, it could never truly be called eternal life. Second, there are texts that use the verb “believe” in the aorist (point in time) tense providing similar promises. Paul and Silas told a troubled jailor, “Believe (aorist tense) on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.” (Acts 16:31, ESV) They did not tell him to continue to believe (present tense) on Christ in order to keep his salvation. The use of the aorist tense is instructive in Mark 16:16-17. Jesus promised signs would follow those who believed (aorist), not those who continue to believe. Other insightful uses of the aorist tense of “believe” can be found in John 8:24, Rom 10:9, Gal 2:16, Heb 4:3, and 1 John 5:10. Third, this is an oversimplification of the meaning of the present tense. The use of it can mean continuous, uninterrupted action, but not exclusively. An example from ordinary English should be enough to prove this. If I said, “I work (present tense) on a farm,” does the present tense imply that I am continuously working at the farm location 24 hours a day? No. I might even be vacationing in another country, yet I can still use the present tense to truthfully convey where I work. The reason why the New Testament writers preferred to use the present tense of “believe” (Greek, pisteuo) is that it is the normal practice of a genuine believer to manifest a living, active, ongoing faith (Greek, pistis).

The Gift of the Father to the Son

The Lord Jesus referred often to those whom the Father gave Him. In some instances, it appears that He is referring to at least the 12 disciples (John 17:11,12; 18:9). In other texts, believers in general seem to be in view (John 6:37,39; 10:29; 17:2). The number of believers given as a gift from the Father to the Son must indeed be staggering. A consideration of the last two millennia of history would indicate how great a number comprise those whom God has given to His Son. Yet scripture only indicates that one of that vast number has been lost. Jesus said in John 17:12, “those that Thou gavest Me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled.” The only person to have ever been lost was Judas, and that because scripture had prophesied it already. To argue that because this happened to Judas, it could happen to someone else is going beyond scripture. Additionally, Judas demonstrated by his actions that he was never truly regenerate to begin with. How wonderful to know that we are a gift from the Father to the Son and that He will keep us!

The Gift of the Holy Spirit

Before Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven, the Holy Spirit had a temporary relationship with God’s people. The book of Judges records often that “the Spirit of the Lord came upon” certain individuals (Judges 3:10; 6:34; 11:29; 14:19). The Spirit indwelt King Saul, but then left him (1Sam 16:14). It was King David’s fear, after his sin with Bathsheba, that the Spirit would depart from him (Psa 51:11). But since the day of Pentecost in Acts 2, the Holy Spirit began permanently indwelling believers.

The many NT references to the Spirit of God being given to us include Acts 5:32; 11:17; 15:8; Rom 5:5; 1 Thes 4:8; 1 John 3:24; 4:13. Especially helpful is the promise of the Lord Jesus in John 14:16-17. “And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever, Even the Spirit of truth….” Christ was only with them for a little while, but He promised that the coming Holy Spirit would be with them forever. This precious gift cannot be returned.

The Gifts (Plural) of the Holy Spirit

In addition to the gift of the Holy Spirit received at conversion, the New Testament believer also receives gifts of the Spirit (spiritual gifts) as indicated in Romans 12:6, 1 Corinthians 12:7, Ephesians 4:7, and 1 Peter 4:10. Some of these include teaching, evangelizing, serving, giving, mercy-showing, ruling and encouraging. The question must therefore be asked, “If a believer can lose the gift of salvation, then with it does he not also forfeit the gift and gifts of the Holy Spirit?” According to CSAs, one can repent and receive eternal life again. So does the repentant person also receive the Holy Spirit again? Does that person receive the exact same spiritual gift(s) possessed before? Can someone have the gift of teaching and lose it in a moment of sin? Sadly, we have witnessed gifted men preaching effectively while at the same time they were involved in sinful activities. Why did God not revoke their spiritual gift? Gifts are given in grace. No works of ours could secure these gifts and no works of ours could surrender them either. In Romans 11:29 (ESV) we read, “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” Admittedly, this text is referring to Israel and God’s promised blessings, but the principle concerning His promises remains. God gives graciously, permanently, without conditions, and without accepting any returns! Enjoy His good gifts today.