by John MacArthur
God’s love for His own simply has no parallel in human experience. It is a powerful, immutable love that extends from eternity past to eternity future. It is a love that is not deterred by our race’s sinful rebellion against God. Because of this love, God pursues and redeems us even when we are morally and spiritually reprehensible and unworthy of His love in every way: “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
In other words, God’s love is so great that He would stop at nothing to redeem those whom He loves—even though it meant giving His own beloved Son. In fact, the love of God is the supreme guarantee of the believer’s security. Of the many passages of Scripture that explicitly teach this, Romans 8 is perhaps the most spectacular.
The Pinnacle of Paul’s Greatest Epistle
All the writings of the apostle Paul are didactic and doctrinal. Most of his epistles begin with a section of pure doctrine and culminate with a section of practical application. The book of Romans follows that pattern, as Paul’s great treatise on justification by faith. The doctrinal section of this book is a full, systematic, logical exposition of the doctrine of justification. It reaches its pinnacle at the end of Romans 8, where Paul discusses the security of the believer:
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. (Romans 8:31–34)
One of the main themes of Romans 8 is that salvation is entirely God’s work. Verses 7–8 declare the hopeless state of every unredeemed person: “The mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:7–8). The sinner is therefore trapped in his own insurmountable lostness, unless God intervenes to save him.
And as Paul states, that is precisely what happens. God Himself orchestrates salvation from eternity past to eternity future:
Those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. (Romans 8:29–30)
Every stage of the process is God’s work. There’s a tremendous amount of security in that. If our salvation is God’s work, not our own, we can be sure that He will see it to full fruition. “He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6). Believers are “protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:5). God is both the author and the finisher of our salvation, and He personally guarantees that we will persevere in faith to the end.
That does not mean, incidentally, that believers will never fall into sin. We know from the lives of saints such as David and Solomon that it is possible for believers to sin in shameful ways. But what is guaranteed is that no true believer can ever fall away totally and finally from the faith. Genuine believers cannot lapse into unbelief. They cannot turn from Christ completely. God will discipline His children who sin (Hebrews 12:7–8), but even that discipline is a token of God’s love, not His wrath: “For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives” (Hebrews 12:6). True believers can never be separated from the love of God. God Himself guarantees it. As Jesus said, “I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand” (John 10:28–29).
Professing believers who do fall away only prove that their faith was never genuine to begin with: “They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us” (1 John 2:19). That verse speaks not of people who fall into temptation and sin, but of those who fall away totally and finally from the faith. These are people who utterly abandon the faith. True believers are not capable of such spiritual treachery. God graciously and lovingly ensures their perseverance. Like Peter, we can be sifted like wheat, but if our faith is genuine, it will not fail (cf. Luke 22:31–32).
Here in Romans 8, Paul declares that God’s love is the greatest guarantee that every true believer will persevere in the faith. He uses a succession of arguments, all based on the truth that salvation is solely God’s work—and we’ll consider each of them in the days ahead.
(Adapted from The God Who Loves)
Available online at: https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B200120
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