Questions related to the scriptural interpretation of eternal security are not easily answered because the terminology involved has been a point of heated debate within theological circles for many centuries now.
Therefore, my best attempts here to settle such debate might only add to the already murky waters. But I will share what I know, from a deep abiding personal conviction, which I believe is the result of the anointing of the Holy Spirit & godly discernment, decades of experience as an ordained minister and expert in biblical languages, and is further substantiated by a sound and balanced scriptural foundation.
The idea of losing one’s salvation is definitely nothing new to Christianity. However, as far back as 429 AD, Augustine wrote about the subject of eternal security, calling it then the doctrine of the “perseverance of the saints”.
The first extensive discussion of this is found in Augustine’s Treatise on the “Gift of Perseverance”. Augustine believed it was possible to experience the justifying grace of God and yet NOT persevere unto the end. Although Augustine did believe that God’s elect would certainly persevere to the end, he denied that a person could know that they were in the elect, and he also warned it was possible to be justified, but not be among the elect.
1100 years later, in 1536, John Calvin connected unconditional election, permanent regeneration, and certainty of final perseverance into a cohesive doctrine. Unfortunately, while much of Calvin’s scriptural insight is beneficial, there are several misconceptions.
Admittedly, this poses a potential problem, even for those of us who claim that they take their teachings exclusively from scripture – namely: “How could a doctrine this important – if true – remain completely undiscovered for the first 1500 years of church history?”
After all, most important doctrines have been known all throughout Christian history. Christians always knew for example, (even when heretics denied it), that Jesus Christ is God Incarnate; that He is fully man, as well as fully God. Christians also always knew, (even when heretics denied it), that they were saved purely by God’s grace, not of works, lest any man boast.
So when it is established that Christians never knew that true beleivers can never ultimately fall away, and then suddenly 1500 years later someone introduces the revelation, we’re compelled to ask, who is conveying the true teaching of the Word of God, and who might possibly be teaching heresy.
My personal reseach led to a good relevant source: “A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs: A Reference Guide to More than 700 Topics Discussed by the Early Church Fathers” published in 1998 by Hendrickson Publishers. Under the topic heading of “Salvation,” the question “Can those who are truly saved ever be lost?” is addressed.
After several Scriptural passages are quoted [2 Chron. 15:2; Ezek. 33:12; Matt. 10:22; Lk. 9:62; 2 Tim. 2:12; Heb. 10:26; 2 Pet. 2:20-21], five pages of quotes are given from the writings of early Christian leaders. These quotes give evidence that the early church did NOT believe in “once saved, always saved.” They thought that it was possible for a genuine believer to reject God and wind up eternally separated from God in hell [pp. 586-591].
However, what the Christian Church historically believed about the security of the believer is not the ultimate test for determining a proper stance on this issue today, even though the lack of historical precedent should usually serve as a warning. Before John Calvin, the teaching of unconditional eternal security was not a doctrine that was taught by the universal church through the centuries. Therefore, while the Scriptures are the ultimate test for truth on this issue, “once saved, always saved” teachers need to acknowledge that their doctrine is historically an anomaly.
I fully acknowledge that I’m going against most church tradition by embracing this doctrine, but as I said already, it’s not men that have persuaded me – I believe that it is God revealing insight through His Word, both spiritually and in written form, under the anointing of the Holy Spirit. I also have my own personal experience as a full time minister that condradicts traditional ideas about a believer losing their salvation. While this article may not convince all objective and truly non biased readers, I know that a real personal experience is never at the mercy of the best of mere arguments.
In addition to that, it should also be understood that while church history is important for establishing genuine evidence necessary to apologists, it is never the final authority of proper Biblical interpretation. In fact, many serious misinterpretations exist in several doctrines due to tradition being rendered superior to scriptural evidence. As with most doctrines, until competently challenged by reliable results of systematic theology, the masses naively accept them as truth.
The entire reformation period (15th – 17th centuries) during which John Calvin, and notable others like Martin Luther, John Wesley, and Erasmus to name a few, were led by God to revive and change errant doctrines, was primarily a movement away from church tradition and centered instead on sound scriptural interpretation. I believe that the “reformation” has continued to this present generation; further progressive revelations will provide a more concise and proper understanding of scripture whenever the focus shifts from defending dogma, to a sincere search for pure scriptural truth. It was during this time (1456) that the Bible was first translated into the vernacular languages. Prior to this, only Roman Catholic priests who were fluent in Latin had regular access to the Scriptures.
The only exception to this was a few rare copies of the original Greek manuscripts that were preserved by a small group believed to have been secluded somewhere in northern Europe. According to some traditions, for centuries they hid the documents fearing the Church of Rome would destroy them. But much of this story relies on tradition, rather than substantial historical fact or any scriptural foundation.
What is obvious from historical records is that for many centuries, commonly referred to as the dark ages, the printed Word of God was virtually inaccessible to the common people. So, it is not so strange to understand and to acknowledge that corruption slipped into the church, along with many false doctrines and misinterpretations of the scriptures, which is indeed quite scriptural [2Pt. 2].
Martin Luther’s break from Roman Catholicism was one catalyst for reform, based upon his discovery of scriptural passages that teach that Christians are saved by grace through faith alone [Eph. 2:8], and that no amount of works (including the Catholic practice of the purchase of indulgences) or observance of any other ritual make any difference at all.
Unless you’re familiar with Roman Catholicism dogma, the reference to indulgences may be a bit precarious. Basically, what they are is purchased time off from future purging in Purgatory (another doctrine peculiar to Catholicism, with absolutely NO scriptural foundation).
The point is, that just because the early church was silent about, or even in disagreement regarding a particular dogma, it doesn’t mean that a more perfect revelation given to a more contemporary Biblical scholar isn’t legitimate, and suitable to edification and further enlightenment of the whole Body of Christ. Modern theologians certainly have today more than ever before, a much wider base of related materials both secular and eclesiastical by which to conduct a proper systematic research into the scriptures.
Indeed, in my lifetime alone, many doctrines have been more carefully scrutinized and have resulted in new factions and denominational splits. One example is regarding Eschatology (study of the end times), in which interpretations have changed, been rescrutinized, and some denounced as heresy, as clearer evidence has come to light. In fact, the Dispensational View of Scripture is a fairly recent phenomenon, only introduced about 150 years ago. This example, although quite well accepted throughout the world of evangelicals today, is not only relatively new, but is also inconsistent with scripture on several levels (a topic of another article).
So, just because most of the earliest believers didn’t hold to a certain understanding, should be no reason that more contemporary evidence suggesting a change in doctrine is due, should be rejected. Admittedly, any changes must endure rigid scrutiny.
To determine whether or not a suggested change is valid, there must be first and always, an agreement regarding the terminology. Basically, we need to be sure that we are “comparing apples to apples”, because all things are not necessarily equal when it comes to popular vernacular.
The very term “saved” requires very definitive qualification. What do we agree this term to mean? What is it to be saved? How exactly does one get “saved”, and is salvation a completed work of grace, or must we also contribute something to it? [See my earlier article “Biblical Salvation”]
Consider some popular contemporary ideas. Are we “saved” by responding to an alter call, and repeating a “sinner’s prayer” inviting Christ into our hearts? Is it instantly “official”, or must it be followed up with adherence to rituals like water baptism or continued submission to acts of repentance and performance of liturgical ordinances, as some church doctrines demand?
Is being saved a one time event, or an ongoing process, the end result being determined ONLY at some future point after death? Is it possible to KNOW if you are saved or not, while still alive? If I’m “saved” today, only to be lost again tomorrow, how is that consistent with God’s mercy; why not “take”me while saved, rather than allow me to go on living only to eventually end up damned?
More to the point – does salvation take place in a specific moment of time somewhere within this phenomenological realm which we presently inhabit, or is it entirely transcendental – occurring in another plane of existence, namely a spiritual realm?
Give careful consideration to these important terms. We often say that “I invited Jesus into my heart”. But do we really believe that He lives in the physical organ beating inside our flesh? If not, where then does He live “in me”? Does the spiritual control the physical, or is my flesh in control?
We regularly use such terminology in modern vernacular to suggest by analogy a spiritual experience. Although salvation is mystical in its reality, we must relate to it in some tangible form in order for us to grasp hold of it – at least conceptually – and presuming such a revelation is actually given to mortal beings.
But the grasping hold of a spiritual reality in some three dimensional form is problematic. Are we able to, or even expected to, accept intellectually and with rational cognizance any spiritual revelation; aren’t such things relegated to matters of faith – the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen [Heb. 11:1]?
It’s like grasping at the wind, which is ironically exactly how Jesus described the phenomenon:
“No one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit” [Jn.3:5-8].
Jesus then continued to enlighten Nicodemus, the religious elder to whom He was speaking, about the mystical union that occurs when God’s plan of salvation is revealed to a person . . .
“You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, still you do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who BELIEVES may have eternal life in him” [Jn. 3:10-15].
Jesus explained that salvation is not something to be attained by adherence to the Law, or any other standard or set of rules, as Israel’s elders had been teaching. It is instead a BELIEF, acquired only through acceptance of what God has planned for those who receive the Savior’s completed work on their behalf. It is the result of actually being born again, becoming alive unto the Spirit, becoming a new creation, and having God the Holy Spirit take up permanent residency in a true believer. [Jn. 14:17].
Jesus also points out, that part of the problem in rightly understanding salvation has always been, that teachers have emphasized the deeds of the flesh when attempting to define goodness and morality. But God has concluded ALL FLESH as SIN, and SIN is impossible to eradicate through any deeds thereby [Ro. 3:23; 5:12].
God has provided a remedy though, a heavenly formula that can only be applied through grace by faith. Just as in the wilderness, where people were miraculously healed by merely looking upon the snake lodged on a pole held up by Moses (our modern medical symbol), so now, everyone who looks at Christ raised upon the cross (that is, accepts by faith that this is God’s GIFT and intended ONLY provision for the complete elimination of our sin), shall be saved.
“For God so loved the world that he GAVE his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly what they have done, has been done in the sight of God” [Jn. 3:16-21].
Notice that Jesus summed up the matter of who will receive eternal life in terms of spiritual awareness – NOT physical actions! Salvation is clearly a result of proper BELIEF contrasted by the ineffectiveness of DEEDS. He clearly draws a sharp distinction between those who will perish (because they are already perishing) and those who have eternal life. There aren’t any other options – you either continue to perish, or you have received God’s GIFT of eternal life.
Now, here’s where a proper definition of terms is of utmost importance!
Eternal life is a state of perpetual being. You either have it, or you don’t. If you have it, because it is perpetual, it NEVER ceases. Hence, you can NEVER lose it. Any ceasation of perpetuity is a contradiction of terms.
Since salvation grants you eternal life, how then can it ever be possible that once you have attained eternal life, it can ever cease? How is it then possible to lose your salvation, when what salvation is, is spiritual birth through an imperishable seed [1Pt. 1:23]?
Jesus said that being born again is the ONLY way to be saved. And being born again is to be born of the Spirit, which NEVER perishes.
“Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which lives and abides for ever” [1Pt. 1:23].
Now consider this Scripture also:
“Even when we were dead in sin, He has quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved😉 And has raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus” [Eph. 2:5-7].
There are three things I’d like you to take special note of regarding this passage.
First, look at the word “quickened“. It means “to make alive; vitalize”. God has caused a spiritual birth to take place in you, that did NOT exist before your acceptance of the revelation of salvation through Christ. But to further emphasize that it is a GIFT of God through GRACE, this ocurred when we were “dead in sin” (past tense), NOT awaiting a yet future date to prove that we’ve “endured to the end” or faithfully obeyed His commandments.
What will live forever in eternity is the “new creation” that has been “quickened“. Note again that the verbage indicates what has already happened (past tense). The term “together with Christ” is a reference to Christ’s resurrection, and means that we have been raised to new life (eternal life) by the same Spirit that raised Jesus’ body from the dead [Heb. 9:14].
True believers, born again, Spirit filled individuals are no longer perishing, destined to the second death, but are destined instead to eternal life with Christ. It’s already a done deal for those who truly BELIEVE.
You can’t “unbirth” what has been born. That was what Nicodemus was so hung up on. His thinking made him so world grounded that he couldn’t perceive the spiritual realm, and he failed to comprehend that just as every physical birth requires the miracle of conception, so spiritual birth (being born again) is a miraculous transformation from spiritual death to eternal life, conceived by the Holy Spirit (the impersihable seed).
No, Nicodemus, a man cannot enter his mother’s womb a second time. The birth canal is ONE WAY, and irreversible. There is no being born again, only to be lost again, then born again – again. The process is NOT circular, but lineare. The whole purpose of salvation is to secure our eternal life, not to tease us with a mere hope of it, but to absolutely SECURE it at delivery! Anything less would be considered “still-born”.
Secondly, notice the tense of the verbs. It starts in the past tense: “were dead in sins“; moves to the present tense – “has raised us“; and concludes with the future: “in the ages to come“. This shows that what was done ONCE, is continuing as a vital reality of a predestined future.
Only God can assure what will be, but He has wrapped that assurance into what He has revealed through Christ’s sacrifice. Once you are born again, God perpetuates your existence – forever – through the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit.
Lastly, notice where our salvation is being perpetuated: “in heavenly places with Christ“. That’s transcendent! What goes on here in this earthly realm can’t contaminate that which is in heavenly places with Christ! In and through the Holy Spirit, we can share a perspective from heavenly places. Someday, in the not too distant future, we will remain there forever [Ro. 8:22-39].
As for now: “we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known” [1 Co. 13:11-13].
Notice that Paul understands that he is KNOWN. He uses the perpetual present tense verb of being – “am“. When you are born again, you are KNOWN by God – FOREVER.
Compare this to a verse often used to deny eternal security, Matthew 7:23.
“And then will I profess unto them, I NEVER KNEW you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity“
It has been argued that some will be lost, and we are to assume that they are true believers that have lost their salvation from the previous verses:
“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 who is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy by thy name, and by thy name cast out demons, and by thy name do many mighty works? And then will I profess unto them, I NEVER KNEW you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” [Mt 7:21-23].
But have they missed that Jesus clearly replies to them, “I NEVER KNEW you”. The original Greek is quite clear about the use of the term “NEVER“.
“Never” emphatically means – “NEVER, at ANY time FOREVER“.
These aren’t one time true believers who somehow fall away. No, these are those who are deceived into accepting a false belief system. They believed a lie, thinking it was truth, but NEVER really KNEW Jesus, and more importantly – were NEVER known by Him.
In other words, they may have had some religious knowledge and ritualistic experience, but NEVER had a right personal relationship with Jesus through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. They were NEVER truly born again believers.
There are many false doctrines that could account for who these people may be. Members of Jehovah Witnesses, Mormons, and Church of Christ all adhere to damnable doctrines that would have them thinking they were doing things “by thy name“. But they were never truly saved only to then some how lose their salvation.
To further emphasize that true salvation is a right relationship with God through the atoning sacrifice of Christ, NOT a reward for right living, including all good works; it is the GIFT of God , NOT something that can ever be earned in any way. A right relationship implies the relational aspect of salvation; God KNOWS us, and we KNOW God.
Many will rightly identify Jesus Christ as the Messiah, a godly prophet, a miracle worker, but NEVER really know Him. The same way that most of us recognise the president and rightly acknowledge his office, but NEVER know him personally. There is a vast difference between knowing ABOUT a person, and actually KNOWING them in an intimate relationship.
Jesus is the AUTHOR and FINISHER of our faith [Heb.12:2]. It is entirely on Him, NOT us. He completed (or finished) what he started (authored). He will fulfill all his promises to those who are indeed born again. He is absolutely trustworthy, and has been given absolute authority in the matter and therefore completely able to keep us [Heb. 7:25].
God is not an “Indian-Giver” – a term of slang meaning one who takes back what he formerly has given. (The term originated when the U.S. Government took back land they had formerly given the Indians. Ironic, since the land was the Indians’ to begin with).
I remember asking the Holy Spirit what I was to believe about eternal security. He asked me if I truly believed that God was my Heavenly Father. I affirmed that I did and he led me to this Scripture:
“What man is thereamong you, whom if his son asks for bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Heavenly Father give good gifts to them that ask him?” [Mt. 7:9-11]
As I read this, the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart reminding me that I am a father. I was then given a vision of walking with my daughter (who was a toddler at the time). We came to a busy intersection where we waited to cross the street.
Then the Lord asked me, “Do you expect your child to hold on to your hand, or will you grasp firmly onto hers, to ensure that she safely makes it to the other side of this busy boulevard?”
Of course, I realized that I would NOT merely trust her strength to hold on to me. I would be responsible to hold tightly on to her as I led her across the traffic, safely to the other side.
“Neither do I leave it to your ability to complete the journey”, was my Heavenly Father’s response.
I have never doubted that revelation from God. I have been absolutely convinced of His power to save me, His desire to keep me, and His promise to never leave, nor forsake me. Even if I momentarily “LET GO” – – – HE IS FOREVER FIRMLY HOLDING ON TO ME !
Luke’s account of the same teaching gives additional information related to the GIFT of the Heavenly Father. “how much more shall your Heavenly Father GIVE the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?” [Lk. 11:13]. It is the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit that “seals” us and preserves us [Eph. 1:13; 4:30], and that binds God’s promise to born again believers, “I shall NEVER leave thee nor forsake thee” [Heb. 13:5].
Then I also read this:
“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 image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified” [Ro. 8:28-30].
Notice the use of the word “predestined“. Many have wrongly concluded this to mean that God has already chosen who will be saved or not, and so our free-will decisions don’t matter.
I disagree, and I see something altogether different, and far more wonderful here. God is the only Eternal, Omniscient being. As such, He already knows the future and in that knowledge, He sees NOW, what shall be; therefore he “predestines” (because He already knows the end) those who do receive his gift of salvation.
Basically, while He doesn’t guarantee that anyone will accept his free gift of salvation, He does guarantee the end result for those who do – eternal life.
Note “predestination” doesn’t mean he decides beforehand and then makes you believe or not (although He does know who will or will not believe). But it does mean that once you have believed and received, assuming what you believe and receive is truly what God has revealed as SALVATION, then that salvation and everything accommodating it (the package deal if you will) is predestined by design and the perfect will of God to absolutely result in your eternal security!
Notice again the verbs tense: “called”, “justified”, and “glorified”. All are in the past tense! It’s already been done! Just as “eternal” equates with “perpetual”, so “predestined” is a “predetermined destination”. Although it is possible for man to wrongly predict the future, God’s attribute of Omniscience absolutely prevents it, rendering it an impossibility for any change in that which He has already predestined.
Think of it from a slightly different perspective. Do you beleive that anyone will ever be cast out of Heaven after arriving there in the after-life? Is entrance into the Eternal Kingdom of God in danger of reversal? Will anyone be lost at the Bema Seat of Christ or is eternal life secured for all who appear there?
“Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved” [1Cor. 3:13, 14].
I challenge anyone to find scriptural evidence of “predestination” ever being reversed. Once determined by God, it’s a done deal. So, once saved, always saved. The important question is, are you saved?
Another difficulty determining this issue requires an understanding and much more specific scriptural interpretation of exactly how one would go about losing their salvation, if such was actually possible.
After all, if we have been recipients of a work of grace as the Bible declares:
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” – Eph.2:8,9,
then what “works” can we do to reverse such grace? If you didn’t do anything to earn your salvation, what can you do to lose it, once you’ve been predestined to be glorified? In other words, if works didn’t qualify you, how can works can afterward exclude you?
I’ve heard a rebuttal to this that says we virtually “earn” salvation by accepting it. Since what can be accepted can conversely be rejected, you can indeed lose your salvation by later rejecting it. While the logic employed with this view may be accurate when applied to most gifts within the natural realm, it is illogical to expect the that rejection of salvation is possible for these reasons.
God’s universal laws govern the natural realm as even secular science has shown. Gravity cannot be defied; what goes up, must come down. Try “accepting” that understanding , then “rejecting” it after jumping off a thousand foot cliff.
Hopefully, the example illustrates how once committed to the jump, there’s no “rejecting” the decsion that will reverse the fall. Just as the universal laws of physics are irreversible, so too is salvation. Rejection will not reverse it.
There is another plausible argument if we eliminate the spiritual reality of needing to be born again. It is absolute truth that whatever you can be intellectually persuaded to accept can ultimately be easily rejected when a better argument is introduced. But Biblical Salvation isn’t based upon a decision made because some explanation makes sense. In fact, such is the case of many false conversions. Intellectual persuasion is NOT being born again. Salvation is receiving spiritual birth, NOT an exchange of carnal knowledge. Eternal life is not void by a change of mind.
Salvation is a completed work of God, evidenced in your life by the existence of a new creation, attainable only by being born again. My former statements about this should be sufficient to eliminate any doubt regarding this miracle at some later date as merely an hallucination, and therefore unreliable as proof of salvation, and so easy to discard.
Even if such rejection occurred for those reasons, such a one would clearly have NEVER been truly saved to begin with.
Strangely, no one has ever given a plausible answer that is supported by sound Scriptural interpretation. Like when Jesus argued with the scribes and religious rulers of his time, sadly today many leaders are teaching as the oracles of God things that are merely the traditions of their elders.
At the beginning of this article I referenced a work published In 1998 – A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs: A Reference Guide to More than 700 Topics Discussed by the Early Church Fathers.
Under the topic heading of “Salvation,” the question, “Can those who are saved ever be lost?” Several Scriptural passages are quoted [2 Chron.15:2; Ezk. 33:12; Mt. 10:22; Lk. 9:62; 2 Tim. 2:12; Heb. 10:26; 2 Pt. 2:20-21].
I’d like to examine these verses that are listed in support of the idea that one can lose their salvation and offer my insight.
The first two quotes are 2Chron.15:2 and Ezk. 33:12:
“The Lord is with you when you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you.”
“‘If someone who is righteous disobeys, that person’s righteousness will count for nothing. And if someone who is wicked repents, that person’s former wickedness will not bring condemnation. The righteous person who sins will not be allowed to live even though they were formerly righteous.”
These certainly seem to indicate that one’s standing with God can change. Right standing can be lost, and the way you treat Him will be the way He responds to you. However, these are both Old Testament verses and the recipients of these proclamations were under the Law, not grace – they certainly weren’t born again believers.
Part of the benefit of Christ’s sacrificial death on our behalf was that it frees us from the curse of the Law. Indeed Jesus fulfilled all the Law for us, by taking our sin upon Himself. The “righteousness” of the individuals in those passages was based upon works. Truly born again individuals are NOT relying on their righteousness, but completely trust and rely upon the righteousness of Jeus Christ – an absolutely different covenant. Therefore these verses cannot be applied to New Testament saints, who are born again believers, sealed with the Holy Spirit, predestined to eternal life.
The five remaining quotes are from the New Testament, but what do they really teach us?
Mt. 10:22 = “You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved“.
I’ve formerly mentioned the conditions for salvation, which do not include standing firm to the end as a requirement. The trouble with this verse is it has been taken out of context, and so standing alone it seems to indicate that endurance is a requirement of salvation, with the related assumption that if you don’t endure, you’ll be lost.
Hopefully you’re not persuaded by this, based on evidence to the contrary already formerly posted. But this is a great example of how so many remain confused and why critics of our faith always complain that there are so many contradictions.
Within the context of this passage, it is clear that Jesus isn’t giving a doctrinal statement regarding qualifications for salvation. Rather he is delivering marching orders to a specific group of men (the disciples) who are about to depart on their first mission alone. He warns of the many difficulties that they will encounter along the way and as a reminder of what lays beyond whatever sufferings they may be forced to endure, he assures them that there’s a better life awaiting them in the future.
Obviously, ALL those who are truly saved shall endure to the end, because it is the Holy Spirit enabling them; true believers DO NOT depend upon their ability to endure, they trust absolutely Christ’s ability (like my story of holding my toddler’s hand).
Next up is Luke 9:62 = “Jesus replied, ‘No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
Jesus said, I believe it, and that settles it. Although I fully agree with this verse, I’m not at all convinced that this supports an idea that you can lose your salvation. Quite the contrary, I believe it supports my afore mentioned statement about those who merely embrace a false belief system, thinking they have attained salvation through it.
I have yet to meet (nor do I believe in the existence of) anyone who has entered into a vital right personal relationship with Christ through regeneration (being truly born again) who has ever looked back at their former life and regretted having encountered God in Christ. Life without Jesus can simply never measure up, in any way, to new life in Him!
Remembering also that “we are saved by grace and not of works, lest any man boast”, this cannot be talking about literal plowing or our works. The reversal of line of sight (looking back) has to refer to a condition of heart, similar to the Israelites in the wilderness wanting to return to Egypt where they had more variety.
Jesus is saying that the kingdom of God is not built upon whim or fancy. Those that will inhabit it will do so because they have come to the end of themselves and have chosen God’s way over their own. Because they are convinced of God’s goodness and superiority in matters of righteous judgment and provision, they would never be inclined to look back.
Similar to my earlier example of jumping off a cliff, no one truly born again would ever hope for a reversal of the process or reject God’s gift after having received and enjoyed the accompanying new birth and liberation from the bondage of sin.
Like I said, I’ll never meet anyone who really has been saved that would even think about actually going back. This is more of a litmus test, like what Jesus had to say about fruit – good trees produce good fruit – you’ll know them by their fruit. We’ll know who is a real believer by their fruit – and looking back isn’t the fruit of a true believer. It’s not in the DNA of a truly born again child of God.
The next verse is 2Tim. 2:12 = “if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we deny him, he will also deny us”
This is quite similar to Mt.10:22 and my argument is, also. Again it’s been taken out of context and I beg to question why the verse immediately following (2:13) has not also been cited.
“if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself.”
Who disowns Christ who is truly owned by Christ? No one, in my experience. However, the follow up verse clearly brings us back to my conclusion – even when we are faithless, He remains faithful!
Remember, being truly born again makes you a new creature IN CHRIST. “He cannot deny Himself” means that truly born again believers have become part of the Body of Christ. True believers are FOREVER a part of Him, and He cannot deny any part of Himself.
Notice too, that it doesn’t say that He won’t deny, but that He can’t. It is impossible because it goes against God’s nature and promise. And God cannot lie, nor forsake His immutable image.
Heb 10:26 warns, “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left,”
Again, I absolutely agree, but let’s put this into context to see if our understanding can be improved any. Prior to this in the same text, we are given an indication of who this is specifically addressed to. Verse 10:19 says, ” Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence . . ” Clearly these are true believers who “have confidence”.
A reading of the full paragraph shows what their confidence is, and where it comes from. Its a discussion about all the benefits of being born again, and a reminder that it’s all about Jesus, not about us – or our actions.
Now the particular verse quoted out of context contains that suspicious word “IF” and just like I formerly explained, this introduces another hypothetical situation. It doesn’t imply that anyone ever does deliberately keep on sinning, it conversely establishes that there is absolutely NO other remedy for sin – believer or not – sin is sin and there exists ONLY one remedy. Again, it’s all about Jesus. Without Jesus, there’s absolutely no hope. That’s the real point – Jesus is salvation!
The last verse of this text (39) concludes:
“But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved“.
This text was intended to be a spiritual pep-talk and encouragement, not a doctrinal statement about the danger of possibly falling away.
The final quote comes from 2Pt. 2:20-21.
“If they have escaped the corruption of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known of the way of righteousness, than to have known of it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them.”
Again I must start by complaining that this is another verse taken out of context. The entire second chapter of of Peter’s epistle is referring to false prophets. It is a warning not to heed their doctrine, to avoid them, and how to identify them.
Peter devoted 19 verses prior to this entry explaining exactly what I’ve formerly mentioned about people who mistakenly follow false belief systems, confusing them with sound doctrine, and then embracing an intellectual persuasion that results merely in false conversion.
Obviously, anyone who would escape the corruption of the world by knowing Jesus only to return, are doomed. But this doesn’t mean that they were ever truly born again believers. Remember my comments on Mt. 7:21-23 about Jesus NEVER knowing them?
There is the spiritual element that has been entirely ignored in the view that thinks this passage supports losing one’s salvation. Salvation is new birth into spiritual life. It is NOT the result of our choice, but that God has chozen us! A return to corruption would require a free will choice that is NOT possible for the same reasons formerly presented with the cliff jumping example – its an irreversible experience because it is initiated and sustained by God’s will, not man’s.
“Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain” [Jn. 15:16].
Judas knew Jesus, but he didn’t believe in him. He escaped the corruption of the world while he traveled with Jesus, but he returned when he betrayed the Lord and then hanged himself in hopelessness. He was never born again.
Remember, this text is written by Peter, who also denied the Lord. But instead of giving up hope like Judas, he knew Jesus well enough to entertain the possibility of being forgiven by Him, and went on to become born again, and was truly saved.
Peter’s text is a first hand eye witness account of dealing with false believers. It is these imposters that he’s speaking of – NOT true believers who are always eligible for renewed relationship with Jesus, because He makes constant intercession for them and His forgiveness towards them is eternally secure.
That concludes my rebuttals, but that’s not all I have to say about this topic. Continue reading in Romans 8 31- 39:
“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? 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 then is the one who condemns? No one. 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 then shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it I s written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these 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.“
Well, that certainly convinces me! Nothing can steal or spoil the salvation Christ died to provide for me. Praise God!
But we know, that there are many who still don’t believe this. They continue to say that it is possible to lose one’s salvation. So then again, I ask, “How”?
After the long list above of “all things” in which “we are more than conquerors”, apparently Paul must have missed something? Perhaps it is our own selfish rebellion or stubborn will power? Can the free will of man over-ride the will of God regarding salvation?
I believe that it can PRIOR to being truly saved. I believe a person can make a free will choice to follow the teachings of Christ, join a church, adhere to certain eclesiastical practices, perform rituals, and therby believe that they are saved – WITHOUT becoming truly born again.
I believe many such individuals frequent our fellowships and do things that convince many of us that they are saved. Then, as the parable of the sower warns, when the trials of life begin to frustrate them, they begin to long for Egypt and forsake fellowship, and ultimately deny the faith they feigned from the beginning.
Just as the devil is able to masquerade as an angel of light, so do many nominal Christians appear to be our brothers and sisters in Christ – but are NOT!
The difference between such false conversions and the truly saved individual is that a willing exchange of wills is made in true conversion. Here, and ONLY here, is where man’s free will choice determines his eternal destiny. The true convert absolutely, unconditionally surrenders forever to the Spirit of God, “No longer my will, but yours, LORD”. The true convert has come to the absolute end of his ways and acts in true repentance – a literal final change of direction, a permanent change of heart, a lasting change of attitude – an exchange of his will for God’s.
True confession unto salvation is a sincere comprehension that God is right and I am wrong. We “put on Christ” ONLY when we completely let go of self. The Holy Spirit fills ONLY completely empty vessels. He knows whether or not a person is truly sincere and wanting new life, or merely “testing the waters” but not ready to fully get out of the boat.
Neither death nor life can separate us from Christ once the Holy Spirit has taken up residency. So what could we do in life to lose our salvation? Neither angels nor demons can interfere, so apparently no demonic influence or possession could seduce you into falling away. He says also “neither the present nor the future” could separate us, so if you’re presently saved, what in your future can change that?
He also says, “neither powers“, which rules out one’s will power or free will, the power of persuasion, or the power of influence. Not even your power (ability) to change your mind can pull you away from God’s love and desire to keep you.
Finally, “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.” Just in case he forget or missed anything Paul added this . . .
“nor anything else in all creation“
But some still imagine, because their doctrine teaches it, that they can lose their salvation.
There’s another related topic I’d like you to consider: the classic rituals regularly celebrated in evangelical based churches today surrounding the return of the “prodigal”.
I’m referring to the practice of asking so-called “backslidden” Christians to respond to an alter call. Why? – – – to get re-saved, because they presumably have lost their salvation!
I find this in direct contradiction to what we read in Hebrews 6:4-6:
“It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted of the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance...“
Now many have argued these verses as indications of the notion of one losing their salvation, but again I question their interpretation of the terminology. While they were searching for Scriptural support of an idea of salvation lost, the central point may have been totally over looked.
The text indicates “IF” they fall away (it doesn’t say anyone ever has) – but if they do, they could never be redeemed again because the only remedy, (the sacrificial act already accomplished by Christ ONCE – Ro. 6:10) is sufficient FOREVER, and there would be no other remedy for sin than that for which they were already eligible, therefore not needing repentance again!
The original Greek makes clear that this is a hypothetical situation being posed, to emphasize the point that is made later in the same passage (vs.6:9) = “Even though we speak like this, we are confident of better things in your case – things that accompany salvation“.
The author understood the term salvation to encompass a COMPLETED work granted by GRACE, and therefore NOT subject to corruption or reversal by some failure in our flesh, or change of heart.
Elsewhere in Hebrews (7:25) we find this:
“Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them“.
How do you interpret “uttermost“? Webster defines it as: “the greatest amount or degree possible”.
So, I conclude that the “greatest degree” would be thorough and complete, with absolutely NO chance of failure. Since I believe that my salvation depends upon Christ’s completed sacrifice for my sin, coupled with his “continued intercession” for me, not my own works (good or bad), how can I lose it? I trust Him to save me, not my ability to keep believing or performing.
I first brought up the question when a student of mine objected to my statement of personal faith regarding the eternal security of a truly born again believer. I was rather surprised and a bit disappointed by his former pastor’s reply. He refused to settle the matter with a definitive answer. Instead he merely told my student that in God’s mind we are secure forever, but we have no way of being sure while still living in this earthly realm. (Augustinian theology)
A few years later I was taking a course in Systematic Theology at a college operated by an international mainstream denomination when I received a second surprise, and even greater disappointment regarding the subject. Inserted between the pages of the text book written by renowned theologian Harold Theisen, I found a disclaimer written by the academic dean of the college. It stated that doctrine held by the college opposed the stipulations made by Dr. Theisen in support of eternal security.
Right there in the middle of the greatest argument for assurance of our eternal security in Christ, the dean had placed a rebuttal to completely refute it!
I raised objection with my professor, and then the dean himself, and eventually wrote a letter of grievance to the leaders of the denomination. I felt it an outrage to endorse a particular text book by making it required reading for the related course, only to impose a statement of doctrinal position opposed to that most incredible thesis written on the subject.
The result was most disappointing. My elders, leaders at the highest level of the international church, could only state that the tenets of their faith (dogma) insists that one can lose their salvation, but they could offer no substantial scriptural support for their stand.
To say that I am strongly opposed to such a doctrine is putting it mildly. But I am convinced of my eternal security by the Holy Spirit, not as the result of any doctrine of man. I believe God has confirmed it and I’ve more than ample scriptural support as I have studied and searched original translations. I am an eternal member of the Body of Christ, not merely a member of some church organization.
Perhaps it has been my own personal spiritual journey that has provided me with such a strong conviction about this. I was raised by a very devout (although not born again) catholic mother. I attended catholic school through ninth grade and was preparing to enter their priesthood.
All that to say, that I was well indoctrinated into their religious system, but never knew God through it. Years later when I did encounter Christ, and became born again, I was given an inner peace that has never left.
Under catholic doctrine, a person can never know if they are saved. Their system requires adherence to their rituals, sacraments, and intervention of their priests. But even the most exemplary catholic, even eligible for posthumous canonization as a “saint”, must still spend time in purgatory after death, to further purge their sins. Time spent there is proportionate to the amount of sins, but living loved ones can offer indulgences on behalf of the departed to get their souls released.
Being born again opened the door to heaven where I have access to God through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. I don’t need a priest because Jesus is my High Priest [Heb. 4:14] and He has assured me that I am saved. Not only that, but eternal life has already begun in me, having been already passed from spiritual death unto eternal life.
Having experienced the frustration of a religious system that offered only meaningless ritual and empty hope, by contrast, the Holy Spirit has confirmed and sealed these truths in me. That seal locks tight inside me all the benefits of salvation. No contamination can get in, and nothing can leak out [2Cor. 1:22; Eph. 1:!3 & 4:30].
It is frequently argued by those who believe that one can lose their salvation, that if every believer is eternally secure, then why would we need to be holy in conduct; why not just have a so-called good time in this world? Those who raise this objection show that they do not grasp the true nature of regeneration and the exact nature of the doctrine of perseverance.
Regeneration is a total change in the inner nature, and the “new life” that results is eternal life. This is the true view of regeneration.
Similar to the metamorphosis experienced by the caterpillar who changes into a butterfly, regeneration of our inner being transforms the true believer into a new creation. Such new creations know no corruption because, unlike their old nature born in sin, this new birth is born of the Spirit – free from sin and eternally alive unto God!
However, unlike metamorphosis, there is no vacating or exchanging the old body for a new one. The old sin nature continues with us, and it is destined to die. Becuase being born again is being bithed into a new spiritual life, that formerly was non existent, true beleivers have two natures. The new is forever alive unto God and desires to fulfill God’s will; the old remains self centered and wars against the spirit to fulfill it lustful pleasures, knowing it has but a predestined time before meeting the grave.
Remember, sin is separation from God. The unfortunate problem that has confused people for thousands of years is that they have rarely been exposed to effective teaching regarding the difference between what the Bible refers to as “sins” (willful acts of disobedience) and “SIN” meaning the curse imposed upon all mankind as a result of the first man’s (Adam) fall.
Catholics are taught something that attempts to explain this difference. But sadly, they have spun off many heresies related to the doctrine, rendering it meaningless rhetoric to most of the rest of Christendom.
What they teach is that “SIN” (the curse) is original sin, and we are all born under it. This is the “SIN” Christ died to save us from. On this point, I agree.
Additionally, they teach that there are also multiple “sins” that are committed by acts of our flesh. They have various classifications of these “sins”, and there are “sins of commission” (what you purposely do wrong), as well as “sins of omission” (things you don’t do, but should). There are “mortal sins” such as murder (which can not be resolved and will keep you out of heaven). There are lesser “venial sins” (like lying, cheating, or envy), for which you can receive “absolution” (forgiveness conferred on God’s behalf) from a priest.
The concept of lesser “sins” (volitional wrong actions) is basically consistent with scripture, but NOT that some “sins” can never be forgiven. Scripture indicates that there is ONLY one such SIN. (a topic for another article).
The reason I mention these doctrines of Roman Catholicism is because until the Reformation Period, these doctrines are what every nominal Christian followed and was expected to believe.
It should be easier to understand then, how if this is what the church elders were teaching for over 1500 years, as theologians began to receive a more perfect understanding of the scriptures, that the general enlightenment on certain issues has been slow in coming and deliberately opposed by many church leaders.
You might find that to be a harsh criticism of church leadership, but even in the days of Jesus, the religious authorities were notorious for sealing up the truth from the general public.
“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you cross land and sea to make one convert, and then you turn that person into twice the child of hell you yourselves are!” (Mt. 23:14-16)
Nothing corrupts faster than a little authority, and absolute authority in the hands of hypocrites – corrupts absolutely.
Read the full chapter of Matthew 23 for a Scriptural record of Jesus renunciation of the religious leaders of His time. Then compare His rebukes with what’s happening today.
Another reason that I believe in the eternal security of born again believers is what Jesus said referring to His true church in Matthew 16:18.
“upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
As I’ve cautioned before in this message, there must be an agreement of what we mean by the use of certain terminology. The term “church” is one such very misunderstood idea. In the passage above (Mt.16:18) many have believed the visible organization called “church” is the current manifestation of what Jesus built. However, this is only partially true.
There are actually two, distinctly different churches in the world today. One is the result of the efforts of man, attempting to construct and maintain a religious organization. The other, is the creation of God and is a living organism, comprised of millions of truly born again individuals, also known as “the Body of Christ.” And just as Christ is “alive forever more” [Rev. 1:18], so are the members of His Body [Ro. 12:4; 1Cor. 12:12-20].
One of the reasons the organization known as the church may want people to believe that they can lose their salvation, is because they are in the business of making converts. The Catholic church makes millions of dollars selling (in the name of “contributions”) indulgences (absolution). Likewise, many Protestant churches make money by building big congregations of followers who continue to lend monetary support to their exclusive programs of charity, performed in “the name of Jesus”.
But membership in neither of these types of institutions necessarily requires that a person be born again. Indeed, too few churches these days even understand what being truly born again really is, much less regularly teach and believe in it.
Instead, in order to perpetuate their numbers, they keep their flocks tuning in, ever fearful that they might lose their salvation. Those that have been taught that they can lose it, frequently think that they may have, and continually respond to alter calls “to come back to the Lord”.
This may shock you, but I once discovered as a pastor that the number of “salvations” being reported in our church actually exceeded the number of regular attendees, by a three-to-one margin. When I investigated the reason, I found that the numbers came as a result of the ushers counting responses to alter calls. The majority of the respondents were repeat respondents. Actual new converts (first time responders) were very few and far between.
Furthermore, contrary to what some critics argue, the doctrine of eternal security does not imply that a man can do wrong and go unpunished. It does state, however, that the man who is “born again” will seek to live a new life. He doesn’t need to try to be holy – he is holy by virtue of the presence of the Holy Spirit within.
The Apostle John writes about this,
“No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God” [1 John 3:9].
This means that he does not habitually sin; and it is certainly true that the experience of the new birth is here represented as resulting in an overcoming life. One valid proof of your salvation is victory over sin – we are known by our fruit.
Now by “sin” in this context, we means “that which separates us from God”. In other words, man’s fallen nature. Or as formerly alluded to, “SIN”.
Since this is precisely what Christ gave Himself as sacrifice to remedy on our behalf, when He declared from the cross, “it is finished” – whatever needed to be accomplished was accomplished completely – ONCE and for all. If you believe that, then the issue of SIN (that which separates you from God) has been completely settled forever.
You may still stumble into wrong actions (“sins”) from time to time, but when God looks at you, He now sees no SIN – He sees only the blood of Christ covering all your SIN. The very fact that you’re troubled about the subject of sin is proof positive that the Holy Spirit is actively working within.
Here’s a little secret I’ve learned about discerning sin. When thoughts of sin are condemning, know that such accusations are from the enemy of your soul, who is always an accuser and a liar! When the Holy Spirit convicts you of sin, it always draws you close to God, because it reminds you of what Jesus paid for your victory over it.
While the lost may see themselves as wretched sinners (because the devil tells them so), born again children of God rejoice in their Savior, secure in the knowledge that He has saved them from their sin.
The Apostle Paul understood this enigma and wrote about it in the seventh chapter of his epistle to the Romans – vs.7:14-25 . . .
“I know there is nothing good in my sinful nature. I want to do what is good, but I can’t. I also don’t do the good things that I want to do. I keep on doing the evil things I don’t want t o do. I do what I don’t want to do. But I am not really the one who is doing it. It is sin living in me.
Here is the law I find working in me: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. Deep inside me I find joy in God’s law. But I see another law working in the parts of my body. It fights against the law of my heart. It makes me act as if I am still a prisoner of the law of sin. Then that law controls the parts of my body. What a terrible failure I then feel I am! Who will save me from this sin that is killing my body? I give thanks to God. He will do it through Jesus Christ our Lord. So in my heart I am a servant of God. But in my sinful nature, I am a slave to the law of sin.“
One thing I find fascinating about this epistle is that it is one of the last epistles written by Paul. What he shares about his struggles in his flesh come late in his Christian walk. It makes me realize that if even an accomplished servant of God, as Paul certainly was, still struggled with his flesh to do good, then it shouldn’t be much of a mystery that we experience similar frustrations.
But the great thing about his candid message is that he came to an important realization, and he shares it with us as a footnote! Consider my paraphrase of the last two verses of Romans 7:
[Even though I often times feel like a total failure and wonder if there is any hope for me to be saved from wrong doing, I thank God that He has done it for me through Christ. So that even though I may continue to be weak in my flesh, in my heart I am obedient to God]
I am further comforted by this constant reminder . . .
“For it is God which works in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13)
When a person wholeheartedly embraces this understanding of salvation, God the Holy Spirit immediately takes up residency in the inner being of such a person in what Peter describes as an “imperishable seed”. This fulfills Jesus promise:
“I will ask the Father and He will give you another Counselor to be with you FOREVER – the Spirit of Truth” [Jo. 14:16-1]).
This is also as a “down payment” of Christ’s departing commission . . .
“Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” [Mt. 28:20].
Obviously, we shall be with Him forever in eternity (or Heaven), so this statement must refer to His intention to remain always with us in this present age, in this three dimensional realm.
“You have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God” [1Pt.1:22].
Understand that the spiritual seed that has germinated in your inner being is incorruptible, it CANNOT be corrupted, nor will it ever perish. Couple this with what Paul states in Romans 8:1-4:
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, GOD DID by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”
As wonderful as this is, many religious teachers unfortunately confuse the doctrine of salvation (what God has provided through Christ’s sacrifice) with the issue of holiness (which is the believers natural response to becoming born again).
What I mean by that, is simply that they have mistakenly interpreted what the Bible teaches as the expected moral level of believers as a litmus test to the validity of ones salvation. They confuse “holiness” with pure moral behavior. In this they are dead wrong.
Jesus told us in Lk. 18:19, there is only one who is good, namely God!
“And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, even God.”
Neither do they properly understand GRACE – which is God’s unmerited favor, (it can’t be earned, because by its very nature – its freely given). They confuse the natural abiding fruit of the imperishable seed, as works that are contrived by, and the result of, one’s attempts through their flesh.
Herein is a profound difference between the attitude that trusts God’s plan of salvation completely, and those who misunderstand and think it possible to fall away from God. Religious observance has always been mans attempt to appease God and thereby gain His acceptance and/or approval.
In contrast, God has revealed Himself to man in Christ and freely given to those who believe the revelation new life and a share in His eternal glory.
And so the Word clearly declares:
“Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Eph. 2:4-10)
Therefore, if a man habitually lives in sin, we must conclude that he has NEVER been saved at any time (Rom. 6:1; 2 Tim. 2:19; 2 Pet. 1:10; 1 John 2:3, 29; 3:14; 5:4).
Assurance of a right relationship with God brings with it a joy and praise that naturally seeks expression in devoted service. Whereas the soul that is never sure of its security is timid and halfhearted, the believer who has the confidence that he is eternally secure in God’s keeping is impelled to do something for others, and more importantly – he actually can – because to really perform the works of God, we must be empowered by the Spirit of God, which is only given to born again believers.
Scripture declares that in service as in morality . . .
“My sheep hear My voice, and I KNOW them, and they follow Me.” (John 10:27)
This is not an exhortation, but a statement of fact. All these verbs are in the present tense; his sheep habitually, always hear His voice; He continually knows them, and they habitually follow him.
Now, we must understand these terms as perpetual states of being, NOT misunderstanding by assuming breaks in time. In the spiritual realm (in heavenly place with Christ), God is always speaking to us, and we (that is or spiritual nature) are always hearing. God is always saying, “You are my child” and we always “hear” this in our spirit and respond, “ABBA, Father” (Daddy!).
The sense in which we always follow Him, is NOT always in the actions of our flesh, but in the deepest desires of our spirit; in our regenerated, new nature. While it is true that the more spiritually mature one becomes, the more the actions of their flesh will be godly, but too often times spiritual immaturity results in questionable behavior, and is then considered a sign that one has lost their salvation.
I’ve been telling people since the early seventies to be careful not to judge a brother or sister too harshly, because Jesus called us to be fishers of men, and what fisherman doesn’t catch his fish first, then clean them.
So, it is also not by a man’s mere professions, but by his fruits that we know him (Matt. 7:16). Fruit is a natural growth from what’s inside (the imperishable seed).
So how could what comes forth be anything but GOOD fruit?
We’ve all heard that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Unfortunately, some see fruit as rotten or spoiled, when to the more trained eye, it merely needs a little cleaning!
At this point, I’d like to give my slant on Augustine’s theory that a person can never know if they are part of God’s elect.
I believe quite differently. Because the first thing that God impressed upon my heart when I accepted Christ as my Savior was that I am saved, and I have continued to KNOW that I am ever since. I KNOW Jesus, and more importantly, He KNOWS me. That makes me part of the elect, and I KNOW that.
Conversely, I do not believe that I can know for certain whether or not someone else is also a part of the elect. I can exchange spiritual ideas and assume by virtue of comparison whether or not a person agrees with my theology, but I can never be truly certain that he or she is saved unless God reveals such information to me.
Sadly however, very many people I’ve encountered in religious circles seem to think that they can tell if a person is saved by their fruits (meaning their actions). I disagree, but will remind them here to be careful for Jesus has said:
“For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged . . “ (Mt. 7:2)
It has also been argued that the teaching of eternal security makes man merely an automaton, that he no longer is conceived of as having the power to choose. But such a view reveals an erroneous conception of freedom.
Freedom is not necessarily the ability to choose between right and wrong, but the ability to DO right. God is perfectly free, but he is unable to choose or to do wrong. The new life in a born again believer impels him to choose right and reject wrong. But (as we have already seen in Romans 7) this doesn’t always “flesh-out” in perfect behavior.
Paul asked the Philippians to work out their salvation with fear and trembling, but bases that exhortation on the fact that “it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to do according to His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13).
The doctrine of perseverance does not rob a man of his freedom; it rather recognizes that a saved man has a freedom to do what he ought to do that an unsaved man absolutely does not possess.
In conclusion, I realize that this is in no way an exhaustive study of Scripture related to this controversial subject. I do hope however, that my intentions to present a balanced (although admittedly biased) insight with sufficient Scriptural support to allow a personal opinion to result in a lasting conviction, will come to fruition.
I don’t ask that you accept my view on eternal security, but I sincerely hope that you do come to a personal conclusion about this. I believe that it is imperative for ones’ spiritual growth that we build solid foundations of our personal faith.
God has provided a glorious life for those who come to Him through Christ. It has many benefits both in the here and now, as well as whatever awaits us in heaven. One of the gifts bestowed upon us for this present age includes knowledge of the truth, which sets us free.
God’s desire is for us to live as liberated people, no longer under the Law and slaves to sin, but freed from both, to live life more abundantly.
“The thief comes to steal and to kill and to destroy. I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly”. (John 10:10)
God also desires that you KNOW everything pertaining to your salvation and personal relationship with Him. He willingly holds nothing back when it comes to your spiritual enlightenment. You should realize however, that He places great expectations on the operation of your faith in maintaining a steady diet of godly wisdom.
“If any of you need wisdom, ask God for it. He will give it to you. God gives freely to everyone. He doesn’t find fault. But when you ask, you must believe. You must not doubt. People who doubt are like waves of the sea. The wind blows and tosses them around. A man like that shouldn’t expect to receive anything from the Lord. He can’t make up his mind. He can never decide what to do.” (James 1:5-8)
We should all know that God places an incredible premium on faith. So, ask yourself this: does it take greater faith to trust that God has saved you forever by a one time sacrifice of Christ, or is faith better expressed by your trusting in your continued belief that God will some day receive you into heaven because you endured until the end?
“But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Heb. 11:6)
In my personal experience, I find that those who don’t make a positive stand based on sound doctrine, easily fall for almost any new wind of heresy. Just how important it is to learn these things and develop a proper discernment regarding them is delivered in the form of exhortation in the following passages. I chose to leave you with these as my final statement regarding the need for you to decide, once and for all, where you stand in this great debate.
“For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.” (Heb. 5:12)
“Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.” (Heb. 6:1,2)
“ . . . and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks you for a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (1Pt. 3:15)