By Joe Conaghan
My doctor said my symptoms were all indicative of possible colon cancer, so he ordered the tests. I was fifty years old. Was this short ride really about to end so soon? Faced with an uncertain future, I wanted some assurance that I would go to heaven after I died.
For reasons I can’t explain, it entered my mind to call a childhood friend who I heard had become a pastor, and with whom I hadn’t spoken since junior high school. I was afraid to even make the phone call. What if he told me something that was too difficult? I had to find out, so I called anyway. I’m so glad I did because Pastor Ryor walked me slowly and methodically through Eph 2:8-9, which reads, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
I had read these verses numerous times before, but until this phone call, I had never really heard them. “Joe,” he said after getting to the end of verse 9, “if you could do anything to earn salvation, you’d have a reason to boast. So it has to be a gift!” I was so excited and relieved to hear this that I actually started laughing because I couldn’t believe I had never heard this before in all my years among various denominations. He shared a few more things in relation to finding a good church and other matters that he indicated were separate from my salvation in Christ. Then Pastor Ryor prayed, and we said our farewells.1
That night we went out as a family to play Putt-Putt golf. I missed so many shots, even two-foot putts. My daughter looked at me quizzically, as if wondering, “Why is he so happy? Does he not know he’s losing!?” The happiness I experienced that night was really wonderful and I’ve never forgotten it.
However, only a day later, this thought entered my mind: “Can I lose my salvation for any reason? I mean, is that a possibility?” My heart fell into my stomach. Now my hopeful outlook turned into uncertainty, and my happiness into anxiety. This was too important to ignore so I set about to discover the truth, while praying to God for guidance.
Since Pastor Ryor was on the West Coast and I on the East, he had asked me to reach out to a certain local pastor after our phone call. I called this pastor up and told him I had questions, and he agreed to meet me at a coffee shop in Centreville, Virginia. The meeting was very pleasant, the discussion was stimulating, and although my question on eternal security remained unsettled in my mind, I thanked the pastor for his time and the coffee, and we said our goodbyes.
As I was driving home, I was reminded of John 3:16. I quoted the words slowly: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son” and when I got to the second half of the verse, “that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life,” I paused. Once more I replayed those words “but have everlasting life.” Suddenly, the scales fell from my eyes, and I saw it. I yelled, “Irrevocable! That’s what ‘everlasting’ means!”
I realized right then and there that my salvation was completely secure! I realized God, by His own words, was permanently stuck with me! As I pulled into the driveway, I knew everything had changed. I was finally completely secure in my salvation by grace through faith in Jesus because God has promised in John 3:16 (and many other places) that the life He gives by believing in Jesus will never, ever be taken back.
It’s been seven years since my new birth in Christ, and I now have the benefit of examining the entire experience, one which I’ve come to understand is not that uncommon among born-again believers today, in light of what the Scriptures actually teach. The truth is that the gospel that Jesus preached was always clear on eternal security. He was not sent to offer anything else. Over and over and over again, He repeated the same promise, that anyone who simply believes in Him has everlasting life (John 3:15, 16, 36; 4:14; 5:24; 6:35, 37, 47; 10:28; 11:26; etc.) Not temporary life. Not probationary life. Eternal life. As the One who is from everlasting to everlasting, it should not surprise us that He only offers this type of life.
So why, you may ask, do so many confess to similar experiences of not being clear on the eternal security of the believer until weeks, months, maybe years after first placing their faith in Christ? Well, it’s simple really. I would submit that the reason, in most cases, is that the gospel being preached is not the one that forever saves.2 Rather, it is a “capless gospel.” That is, it leaves open-ended the question of eternal security, treating it as a peripheral issue, when in fact it is the very nucleus of the atom of saving faith. For until we have been convinced that because we have believed on Jesus, we are secure, we are still working for our salvation. We’re still unsaved. Contrariwise, the moment we believe ourselves to be inextricably “trapped” in the mighty hand of God, with no possible way out, all inner striving comes to a screeching halt, and we are forever saved, ushering in a permanent peace that surpasses all understanding.
Let’s not proclaim a capless gospel. Eternal security should not be hidden when we share Christ. As ambassadors of Christ to a dying world, through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, let us make clear to each and every person that the only kind of life God offers them is His life that never ends. Let’s show people that the sin issue is done away with because Jesus paid it all on the cross, and that once they have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ for the free gift of salvation, they are saved and saved forever, with no possibility of God rescinding the gift, as it is written, “For the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable” (Rom 11:29).
Let us always remember to put the cap on.
Joe Conaghan works as an Architect at Microsoft. He lives in Northlake, Texas, with his wife, Linda, daughter, Christine, and dog, Daisy.
1 A final word on Pastor Chuck Ryor, my beloved brother in Christ who tragically passed away a few years ago in a motorcycle accident. I will always be grateful that he showed me Eph 2:8-9, explaining that salvation had to be received as a gift to prevent any boasting and ensuring God receives all the glory. He then introduced me to his friend in Centreville, VA who helped me to see the irrevocability of that gift. I look forward to thanking them both in heaven. To God be the glory!
2 People who give that sort of testimony are confused about when they were born again. They were born again when they believed that their by grace through faith salvation was irrevocable, not before. The great joy I had when Pastor Ryor shared Christ with me was fantastic. But at that time I did not yet see in Eph 2:8-9 that my salvation was final. Days later that hit me, and at that time I was born again.