Eternal Security of the Believer
This brief work consists of a message delivered in the D. L. Moody Memorial Church on a Lord’s Day morning and the substance of two Friday meetings when questions were submitted and then answered from the platform. Careful editing might have eliminated everything that looks like repetition. But inasmuch as it is by constant re-affirmation that truth is lodged in the mind and heart, I have not pruned the answers as much as I otherwise might have. Let me say that my object was not controversy nor the besting of an opponent, but rather the edification and enlightenment of the people of God, so that the knowledge of the truth might deliver from legality and give true liberty.
April 24, 1934
Henry Allan Ironside, one of this century’s greatest preachers, was born in Toronto, Canada, on October 14, 1876. He lived his life by faith; his needs at crucial moments were met in the most remarkable ways.
Though his classes stopped with grammar school, his fondness for reading and an incredibly retentive memory put learning to use. His scholarship was well recognized in academic circles with Wheaton College awarding an honorary Litt.D. in 1930 and Bob Jones University an honorary D.D. in 1942. Dr. Ironside was also appointed to the boards of numerous Bible institutes, seminaries, and Christian organizations.
“HAI” lived to preach and he did so widely throughout the United States and abroad. E. Schuyler English, in his biography of Ironside, revealed that during 1948, the year HAI was 72, and in spite of failing eyesight, he “gave 569 addresses, besides participating in many other ways.” In his eighteen years at Chicago’s Moody Memorial Church, his only pastorate, every Sunday but two had at least one profession of faith in Christ.
- A. Ironside went to be with the Lord on January 15, 1951. Throughout his ministry, he authored expositions on 51 books of the Bible and through the great clarity of his messages led hundreds of thousands, worldwide, to a knowledge of God’s Word. His words are as fresh and meaningful today as when first preached.
It has been announced that I will speak to you on a subject which has occasioned a good deal of controversy among the people of God. I want to take as a starting point–not exactly as a text, because we shall be looking at a good many Scriptures—Romans 8:38-39: “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor power, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” This is the inspired answer to the question of verse Romans 8:35 – “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” That is, once we have been justified by faith, who is there, what power is there, that can separate from the love of Christ? And the answer, how full, how clear, not a shadow, not a doubt, not a question left, when the apostle says that neither death nor life shall separate! Can you think of anything which is neither included in death nor in life? Neither death nor life shall separate!
No unseen powers can separate the believer from Christ, “neither angels, nor principalities, nor powers.” These terms are used again and again in the New Testament, particularly in the Epistles, for angelic hosts, good and evil. When our Savior rose from the dead He spoiled principalities and powers, that is, He defeated all the hosts of evil led by Satan; and so we may take it that the angels referred to here are good angels, and the principalities and powers are possible evil angels. But there is nothing that good angels would do and nothing that evil angels can do which will result in the separation of the believer from Christ. And then further he says, “neither things present nor things to come.” Again let me put the question, Can you think of any experience through which a believer might ever go which is neither a thing present nor a thing to come? And the Holy Ghost says that neither things present nor things to come shall be able to separate us from the love of Christ. As though that were not enough, He speaks in a more general way when He says that neither “Height nor depth (nothing in heaven, nothing in hell), nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” It looks to me as though we are safe if we are believers in the Lord Jesus Christ.
When we speak of the eternal security of the believer, what do we mean? We mean that once a poor sinner has been regenerated by the Word and the Spirit of God, once he has received a new life and a new nature and has been made partaker of the divine nature, once he has been justified from every charge before the throne of God, it is absolutely impossible that that man should ever again be a lost soul. Having said that, let me say what we do not mean when we speak of the eternal security of the believer. We do not mean that it necessarily follows that if one professes to be saved, if he comes out to the front in a meeting, shakes the preacher’s hand, and says he accepts the Lord Jesus Christ as his Savior, that that person is eternally safe. It does not mean that if one joins a church or makes a profession of faith, is baptized, becomes a communicant, and takes an interest in Christian work, that that person is forever secure. It does not mean that because one manifests certain gifts and exercises these gifts in Christian testimony, that that person is necessarily eternally secure.
Our Lord Jesus Christ said to the people of His day, as recorded in Matthew 7:21-23: “Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of My Father which is in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name? And in Thy name have cast out devils? And in Thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from Me, ye that work iniquity.” Such people then may have been very active in what is called Christian work–they have preached, they have cast out demons, that is, their influence has been such that men and women have found deliverance from satanic power through their ministrations in the name of Jesus, they have professed with their lips, they have accomplished many wonderful works, but they are found in that day among the lost, and when they plead their great activity and their earnestness in Christian testimony, the Lord says to them, “I never knew you.” Notice, He does not say to them, “I used to know you, but you have forfeited My favor and I do not know you any longer.” He says, “I never knew you.”