God’s Unbreakable Chain of Salvation

Dr. John Ankerberg: What’s going to happen when you die? The Bible says you can know for sure that you are going to spend eternity with God. That’s the good news. But along the way people have said, “You know what, I’ve got doubts.” Everyone says, “Well, if you accept Jesus into your life, what’s going to happen?” And some people have had some doubts in their mind as well as in how they act in their life. And some people have said, “You know, I accepted the Lord, but, Dr. Erwin, I fell back into sin. And I don’t know what’s the matter with me. What can I do?”

Erwin Lutzer: Well, the simple fact is this, John, that there are some people who have doubts; and it’s a good thing they do, because they aren’t really saved.

John Ankerberg: Right.

Erwin Lutzer: And so, what we need to do is to encourage the doubters who doubt their salvation to continue to doubt, if they are unbelievers. But on the other hand, there are those who follow Christ who also have doubts. You know, Thomas, he had his doubts; John the Baptist had his doubts.

John Ankerberg: That’s right.

Erwin Lutzer: So, what we have to do is to help people to understand that not all doubt is wrong or unhelpful. But for those who have truly believed, what we need to do is to give them reasons why they need not doubt.

John Ankerberg: Let me just get this down to the real level where people are at in our audience. Because we get thousands of letters, both of us; you in your ministry and ours in ours, we have all kinds of people that will say things like this. “You know, I’ve been saved 99 times, and it still hasn’t taken.” Or letters like this. This is a woman that was brought up in church said that “I was taught,” wrongly, “that you could lose your salvation.” And she said, “I lost my salvation almost every day.” And she said, “What can I do?” 

And then there was another one who was in a little church and the pastor that was there. And every Sunday night he would get saved again, okay? And Monday he would get drunk, and so he thought he lost his salvation. And so he’d be drunk all week, then he’d come back to the church and he got saved again. And this happened so many times that finally the pastor said, “You know what we ought to do? On Sunday night after you get saved, we ought to just shoot you so you go to heaven.”

Now, the thing is, none of that is good theology. And the fact is, we can know for sure that we are in Christ, and there’s something in us that can change. God puts His Holy Spirit in us, and we can change. The habits that we’ve had, I don’t care what the habits are that you’ve got, God can change those habits because He’s God, alright? But the question is, how can we know for sure that we are secure in Jesus Christ and we are going to be spending eternity with God? That’s what we want to be talk about.

Erwin Lutzer: First of all, the situation that you described would be horrible. Could you image living that way? “I received Christ on this Sunday; I sinned during the week; have to receive Him again.” I was on a plane one time talking to a man just like that. And he said, “I gave up on the Christian faith. And I’m going to wait until just before I die to receive Christ, because I constantly am sinning.” Let me say categorically that that is not the gospel. That is not good news. 

John Ankerberg: Right.

Erwin Lutzer: But for those who have savingly trusted Christ, they may also have doubts. But I want to us to turn to the 8th chapter of the book of Romans where the apostle Paul shows us that if you genuinely believe in Christ you will be saved, and you will be saved forever. 

John Ankerberg: Right.

Erwin Lutzer: We want to give assurance to those who know that they are in Christ because they have savingly believed.

John Ankerberg: Yes, and in essence Paul, what he’s going to do is he’s going to say, look, before you ever got saved, God has a plan. He’s thought this thing out. Let me lay out the plan for you and show you what God’s got in mind, and you won’t have any doubts. 

Erwin Lutzer: You know, when you stop to think of it, even a builder doesn’t build a building unless he has a plan; unless he’s worked out the details. So, let’s just kick back for a moment and think of the greatness of God and His eternal salvation, and the fact that He created in order that He might show His glory in redemption. So, let’s go back in time.

John Ankerberg: Let’s look at what Paul says.

Erwin Lutzer: I’m in the 8th chapter of the book of Romans and it says, God “works all things for the good of those who love Him.” But I’m skipping to verse 29, for “those whom He foreknew.” Now, I want to warn those who are watching, there are five important verbs here that are linked together in a chain. And I’m going to explain these verbs. And what you are going to find is they do begin, as John indicated, in eternity past, and they go all the way to eternity future.

John Ankerberg: And this is the plan that Paul is laying out.

Erwin Lutzer: Right. It says, “For those whom He foreknew He also predestinated.” So, let’s take this slowly.

John Ankerberg: Yes, let’s talk about “foreknew.”

Erwin Lutzer: To foreknow doesn’t just mean to know ahead of time. Obviously, God knows all things ahead of time. But He says in the Old Testament regarding Israel, “Only you have I known from all the families of the earth.” Well, doesn’t God know everything? Of course. What it means is to forelove. That’s why some translations there in the Old Testament say, “Only you have I chosen.” So, if you’re saved today, you were loved from before the foundation of the world. 

And then the second word is predestinated. And that word basically means what it indicates: to predestinate means to plan ahead of time. It was sometimes used of surveyors who wanted to have a city built, like Washington, DC, that was laid out in terms of its avenues and its streets. It was laid out ahead of time. 

God predestined you “to be conformed”; it says He foreknew, He predestinated, “to be conformed to the image of His son.” That’s God’s purpose. If you wonder what God is doing in your life, He is conforming you to the image of Christ. And that’s why life is so hard and so difficult, is because He wants to use trials to shape us and to increase our faith. 

And then it says in order “that he might be the firstborn among many brothers,” that is, we should be like Christ; that He, that is Jesus, might be the firstborn among many brothers. “And those whom He predestinated, He called.” 

Now, we have two big words. Those whom He foreknew, He predestinated, He called them. That’s the calling by which you receive Christ as Savior. For me it happened at the age of 14 when I knew that I was called by God and I responded to that call. So, that happens in time. And then He goes on to talk about the future. “And those whom He called, He justified.” That justification means that God declares us to be righteous. And then, this is breathtaking: “Those whom He justified, He glorified.” Imagine! In God’s mind, John, you’re already glorified. 

John Ankerberg: That’s right.

Erwin Lutzer: It’s a done deal. 

John Ankerberg: Which means He’s taking me to heaven.

Erwin Lutzer: Right. It takes us from eternity past to eternity future.

John Ankerberg: Right.

Erwin Lutzer: Now, let’s look at these verses again. First of all, God is always the subject. God does this; He predestines, He calls, He justifies, He glorifies. And then, the other exciting thing is, it’s all in the past tense. You know, it’s already done. Even the word glorified. Well, you and I know that we’re not glorified yet.

John Ankerberg: Right.

Erwin Lutzer: We could check with our wives and they would certainly agree with that.

John Ankerberg: Right.

Erwin Lutzer: But the fact is, God said, “In my mind you are glorified.” Now, here’s the exiting thing. For those believers who doubt, notice that the same group that He began with—namely, those whom He foreknew—is the very same group that He ended with—namely, those whom He also glorified. And so, what you have is this unbreakable chain of events that brought us to salvation and will keep us all the way home.

(Extracted from our series “How You Can Be Sure You Will Spend Eternity with God – Part 2.”

About Dr. John Ankerberg interviews Dr. Erwin Lutzer

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