“When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant” (vv. 6–7). - Joshua 4:1-9
That Paul tells Timothy how some “made shipwreck of their faith” (1 Tim. 1:19) raises a question related to the security of salvation. Is Paul implying that followers of Christ can fall away from grace permanently? Roman Catholics and Arminians both maintain that genuine faith can be lost, while Calvinists assert that true believers will persevere in their faith until the end of their lives. Both sides appeal to Scripture in order to support their position, complicating matters even further.
Perseverance, not eternal security, is the traditional Reformed term used to encapsulate the truth that real Christians will not finally abandon their faith. This term captures the biblical picture of the Christian life as a struggle — a war against sin and doubt that lasts until death. The word perseverance is also less susceptible to perversion than eternal security. Too many people assume eternal security means that we are saved merely by professing faith in Jesus even if we later fall into unrepentant sin or repudiate Christ. Yet this assumption denies the inseparable link between loving Jesus and obeying Him (John 14:15).
On the other hand, an advantage of the term eternal security is that it reminds us of our need for stability amidst the many changes associated with human existence that can make us feel less than secure. We long for security especially when it comes to salvation, since the falling away of professing Christians can make us fear that the same thing will happen to us.
Ultimately, our security comes from the One who never changes. In Joshua 4:1–9, the children of Israel have just passed through the Jordan River because God divided the water (Josh. 3:14–17). Joshua tells them to erect one pillar of stone in the river and one at Gilgal to remind Israel of the Lord’s mighty work. In times of trouble these monuments could help them recall how God kept His promise to save. Similarly, we can be more confident that our Father will fulfill His Word in the future when we remember how He has kept it in the past.
In times of plenty, it can be easy to forget all of the blessings the Lord has showered upon us. Take a moment today to consider the ways in which God has shown Himself faithful to you in the past, and look upon them as signs that He will keep His Word to you in the future. Make sure to study His Word so that you will come to know what He has pledged and not expect things He has not promised.
Passages for Further Study
- Genesis 28:10–22
- Judges 6:11–24
- 2 Timothy 2:8
- Revelation 3:1–6