does Romans 8:28-39 teach about eternal security of the believer?
This passage reads as follows:
And we know that in all things God works for the good
of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the
likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also
justified; those he justified, he also glorified. What, then, shall we
say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who
did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not
also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any
charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who
is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was
raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for
us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or
hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it
is written: "For your sake we face death all day long; we are
considered as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all things we are
more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that
neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present
nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything
else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God
that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
This is one of the strongest passages in Scripture
concerning the eternal security of the believer, and we would encourage
readers to read it and study it carefully in many different translations.
These verses are far too pregnant to discuss in detail, but we may note
• Verses 29-30 are all in the aorist tense in the
Greek. As far as God is concerned, they have already happened. What this
means is that as a believer you are already foreknown by God, and
therefore, you are already predestined. If predestined, then you are
already called, if called, then you are already justified. If you are
justified, then you are already glorified. There is a logical,
successive link extending from foreknowledge to glorification that
leaves no room, no room whatsoever, for failure. Why? Because the
completion depends on God, not upon us. It couldn’t be any other way.
"If God is for us, who can be against us?"
• In verses 31 and 32 the argument is as follows: If
God did the very most He could do for us before we were saved
(when we were even His enemies, Rom. 5:10), then He certainly
could not do less for us now that we are His own dear children.
If He loved us enough to save us when we ignored and despised Him, will
He not keep us saved once we become His own dear children?
• In verses 33-34 God asks, Who can possibly condemn
the one whom He loves and has died for? God has justified the believer
and someone greater than God would be needed to "unjustify"
them. Further, the very one who died for us is the very one who
intercedes for us.
• In verses 35-39 we are told that literally nothing
can separate us from the love of Christ. Notice the verse does not speak
of our love for Christ, but the love of
Christ—i.e., Christ’s love for us. Even in the greatest
tribulation we are said to be overwhelmingly conquerors. Certainly that
victory doesn’t come from our power or strength!
Neither death nor life (that is from the moment of
conversion through our physic a l death), nor the mighty power of angels
or demons, nor anything happening at present, nor anything to occur in the
future, nor anything in the height and depth of the universe, nor any
other created thing—which certainly includes us as individuals—can
separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus.
By quoting parts of these verses in other translations,
we again see the force of their power:
We are assured and know that (God being a partner in
their labor), all things work together and are (fitting into a plan) for
good to those who love God and are called according to (His) design and
purpose. For those whom He foreknew, of whom He was aware and loved
beforehand—He also destined from the beginning (foreordaining them) to
be molded into the image of His Son…. And those whom He thus
foreordained He also called; those whom He called He also
justified—acquitted, made righteous…. And those whom He justified He
also glorified…. If God be for us, who (can be) against us?
What can we ever say to such wonderful things as
these? If God is on our side, who can ever be against us? Since He did
not spare even His own Son for us but gave Him up for us all, won’t He
also surely give everything else? Who dares accuse us whom God has
chosen for His own? Will God? No! He is the One who has forgiven us and
given us right standing with Himself. Who then will condemn us? Will
Christ? No! For He is the One who died for us and came back to life
again for us….(Living Bible).
The problem with the idea that a true believer can ever
lose their salvation is that it flies in the face of Scriptures like
these. If it is really possible for a believer to lose their salvation,
how should we interpret verses like these and many others?
What does Romans 5:8-10 teach about the believer’s
In his letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul shows the
strength of God’s love for His own children by again appealing to an
argument from the lesser to the greater. "But God demonstrates
His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ
died for us. Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much
more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him! For if, when
we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the
death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we
be saved through his life!"
These verses teach that if Christ died for us while we
were yet sinful—when we were His very enemies—deserving only God’s
wrath—how much more will we be saved from God’s wrath now
that we have been justified, or declared righteous, by His precious blood?
This is why the Living Bible renders this verse, "For since by His
blood He did all this for us as sinners, how much more will He do for us
now that He has declared us not guilty? Now He will save us from all of
God’s wrath to come" (Rom. 5:9).
In essence, if Christ died for us while we were His enemies,
while we were dead to Christ, and yet still we were reconciled to
God by the death of His Son, how much more will we now continue to
be saved by Christ’s life?
Note the tenses in these verses. We have been
justified! We have been saved from the wrath of God! Just as Paul
writes elsewhere that Jesus will deliver us from the wrath to come
because God has not destined us for wrath but for salvation (1 Thes.
1:10; 5:9), he now emphasizes that because of our justification we will
be saved from God’s wrath by the life of Christ. Thus, in verse 17 he
stresses that Christians are much more assured of reigning in
Could it be possible that God would so love an
individual as to give His only Son to die for him and still love him to
the extent of following him with the pleadings and drawings of His grace
until He has won that soul into His own family and household and created
him anew by the impartation of His own divine nature, and then be
careless as to what becomes of the one He has thus given His all to
procure?… The testimony of the Bible, then, is that the attitude of
love and care of God for those whom He has saved will be much more
than the attitude of love, surpassing knowledge, for enemies and sinners
as it has been manifested in the cross….16
The eternal purposes of God in grace can never fail
since He has anticipated and provided for every emergency that could
arise…. His power, which is supreme, is ceaselessly engaged in keeping
of His own unto the realization of His eternal purpose…. Not only is
God able to do according to His eternal purpose, but His love as a
supreme motive will never fail…. ‘Much more’ than His love for the
‘enemies,’ which drew out the unspeakable gift of His Son, is His
love for His own who are now ‘justified’ and reconciled.17
What does 1 John 4:16-18 teach about the believer’s
The apostle John emphasizes in his epistle that he wants
every believer to "know that you have eternal life" (1 Jn.
5:13). Because the apostle is certain of the believer’s final
perseverance into glory he emphasizes that we can now have
confidence in the day of judgment. "And we have come to know and have
believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who
abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this, love is
perfected with us, that we may have confidence in the day of
judgment; because as he is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear
in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves
punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in
Assuming we can lose our salvation at some point in the
future, how would it be possible that years before this we could have had
such confidence concerning the day of judgment? It would not be possible.
If the apostle John tells us that we do have such confidence, now, as a
present possession, this must imply that we cannot lose our salvation in
the future. If we understand the infinite love of God for us, we will
understand that God will never eternally punish us. Indeed, He can never
punish us eternally because Jesus took all our punishment on the cross.
Consider how another translation renders these verses:
We know how much God loves us because we have felt His
love and because we believe Him when He tells us that He loves us
dearly.... And as we live with Christ, our love grows more perfect and
complete; so we will not be ashamed and embarrassed at the day of
judgment, but can face Him with confidence and joy, because He loves us
and we love Him too. We need have no fear of someone who loves us
perfectly; His perfect love for us eliminates all dread of what He might
do to us. If we are afraid, it is for fear of what He might do to us,
and shows that we are not fully convinced that He really loves us"
What these verses teach us is that those who still fear
eternal punishment from the God who has loved them eternally don’t yet
understand the magnitude of the love God has for them.
In conclusion, the verses we have been discussing are
only a few of scores of verses which teach the eternal security of the
true believer in Christ. We stress again that once this doctrine is
established to be true, no other verse can be found to conflict with it.
Let us say that once more. The truth is that if the security of the
believer is finally established, then nothing in Scripture can finally
conflict with it. In other words, once security is established, there
really are no "problem passages." There are only
Scriptures to properly interpret in light of an already established
As a result, we should not give undue weight to unclear
or ambiguous passages. And regardless, should it really disturb us if
there exists a few Scriptures which we cannot yet adequately explain to everyone’s
satisfaction? No more so than any other situation where one truth is
clearly established and yet problems remain solely due to a lack of
sufficient information. In this sense, the truth of the matter has been
established. Now, it is only a matter of personal belief in the truth, for
if security is not proven by the above passages, language is meaningless.
Of course, we are aware of the passages cited by those
who reject this doctrine, and in our next article we will begin to address
this in a general sense.
16. Chafer, Salvation, pp. 119-120.
17. Chafer, Grace, pp. 66-68.