Eternal Security IS NOT Biblical!

John_Wesley_by_William_HamiltonThe issue of salvation is a tricky area to navigate. The issue that will be discussed here is whether or not a believer can lose their salvation.

Eternal security is a view which teaches that believers are able to trust in Jesus and walk with God through the power of God as He perseveres their faith through His unwavering faithfulness and this means that because salvation is rooted in a constantly pursuing God, salvation cannot be lost[1]. I like to call this view the “Free Pass Theology” because it seems to give Christians a free pass to do whatever they want in their walk with no eternal consequence for their actions and this seems to cheapen the power of God’s grace[2].

The Doctrine of Assurance is similar to the eternal security view[3]. The similarity is largely implied by the names. Eternal security views the believer as being eternally saved while the Doctrine of Assurance assures the believer that they are saved while both instances of “knowing” seem to present a false sense of security in themselves. However, this doctrine does seem to present conditions which salvation is dependent upon.

There are three witnesses that help the believer recognize where they stand with the first being Christ who said that those who trust Him and rely upon Him would have eternal life[4]. Here, two clarifications must be acknowledged. First, one must acknowledge that they are full of sin and helpless without Christ whose work on the Cross was sufficient atonement for sin[5]. Second, faith must be directed to Christ alone with the recognition that neither baptism, Mass, nor good works can save a person[6].

The second witness is the Holy Spirit and as Romans 8:16 demonstrates, the Holy Spirit dwells within each believer and regenerates them[7].  When a new believer converts, they are energized by the Holy Spirit and spiritual growth begins and the sense of the Holy Spirit’s presence accompanies the gift of salvation and provides an element of certainty in the believer’s heart[8].

The third witness is the fruit of the new life which are works that accompany salvation[9]. Salvation is not gained by works, but salvation does produce good fruit bearing works. This distinction must be made here. Some experience growth that is dramatic through proper teaching and desire for a personal knowledge of God and Christian fellowship and some may be wandering in a spiritual wilderness without guidance in their faith while others may simply just fall away[10]. Regardless, there is an outer change brought on by the spiritual change within a believer and if no change is present, a believer should examine themselves to gauge whether they have savingly believed[11].

The opposing view regarding salvation is known as the conditional security view (or the need to persist in faith[12]). This view is best represented by the concept of a personal relationship which people enter into freely and freely choose to maintain and is also biblically sound as the Bible seems to present salvation in conditional terms, constantly warns against believers falling away, and identifies certain people who had lost their salvation[13]. This is the view that I identify with and feel is the most biblical.

To begin, Scripture shows the believer that salvation is eternal from God’s side of it, but it is conditional from the human side meaning man should be concerned with whether they are doing what is asked of them through Scripture and by God and not whether God is doing His part because He always is loving believers, pursuing them through the sacrifice of Jesus, and refining their faith[14]. While this area of God’s role does reflect the idea of being eternally secure, the conditional element comes in the human decision to choose it as God will not override man’s freedom (2 Peter 3:9) and this means that believers must make a constant choice to trust Christ and walk with God[15].

There are different examples in Scripture which support the argument for a conditional nature in salvation. First, God frequently tested His covenant partners to see if their faithfulness would endure (Gen. 22:12; Deut. 8:2 and 13:1-3; 2 Chron. 32:31) and those who do not pass the tests are no longer viewed as covenant partners and are cut off from Him until they repent and return to Him (Heb. 3:7-10; Rom. 11:17-24)[16]. Second, Jesus says in Matthew 10:22 that the one who endures in their faith will be saved and Paul also alludes to this in 2 Timothy 2:12 when he suggest that endurance allows the believer to reign with Christ while denying Him will cause Him to deny the believer[17].

Continuing, Scripture implies it is possible to fall away from God’s grace as it frequently warns against falling away[18]. The most powerful example of this comes from 2 Peter 2:20-21 in which Peter teaches that it is possible for those who were once made righteous through Christ to choose to reject the salvation later and pretty much wreck their lives eternally[19]. This leads into the idea that salvation hinges on continual obedience and faith which is best shown by the example of the Israelites in Romans 11, Galatians 5, and 2 Timothy 2:17-18 as they denied future resurrection, salvation for the Gentiles, and Christ Himself[20]. Hebrews 6:4-6 also shows that a believer can fall away and choose to persist in sin as they reject Christ thus losing their salvation[21].

As a Methodist I identify with the teachings of John Wesley and Arminianism. This disclosure is important as qualifications are now set for how I view a believer can lose their salvation. Wesley taught that God does indeed give the believer the grace to persevere, but it is up to the believer to accept or reject this grace meaning the believer can choose to be against God and deny Christ at any time and be lost[22]. Most Arminians such as myself do not support the notion that a believer loses their salvation each time they sin and have a more moderate approach to the issue[23]. A person can only lose salvation when they commit a sin willfully which requires being knowingly disobedient, refusal to confess the sin (thus continuing in disobedience), and an action is carried out instead of a simple thought about a sin[24].

It becomes apparent that God is not handing out a free pass to believers. There is no security in regards to salvation on the human end, rather the security comes from God’s end. The Doctrine of Assurance is noble and does an effective job of comforting a believer, but the only true assurance a believer has is that Christ’s sacrifice was sufficient for their sin and they must live in such a way as God has revealed through Scripture. Believers can be assured in their walk as the Holy Spirit witnesses to them and they produce fruit bearing for God as their lives take a change in direction.

The answer is clear. To deny God either before or after conversion has eternal consequences. A believer can believe in their hearts passionately that Christ died for their sins just as passionately as they can come to the conclusion that He did not. Free will is such a murky gift the believer must wrestle with. God does not desire for the believer to fall away and He is willing to help the believer preserve their faith in difficult times, but it is up to the believer to accept or reject that help.

There still remains the idea that one cannot say they are a Christian and live as they did prior to accepting Christ. Paul writes in Romans 12:2, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”[25] Living in spiritual rebellion to the ways of the world is a requirement of all believers. All believers struggle with this and must continue to seek repentance and the assistance of the Holy Spirit. To continue these actions with no notion of repentance or acknowledgment of the sins committed can and will cause a believer’s salvation to cease.

The question is now: How does this change your life? Have you been living under the assumption that you have a free pass because of the sacrifice of Christ? Do you see that salvation is conditional and not eternally secure? Here is the main point in all of this and is something all believers must recognize. God gave us free will for our entire life. That means that we freely choose to accept Christ and follow God and do as He has taught. That also means we have the option to freely walk away at any time. God cannot force anyone to either come to Him or continue in a walk with Him. He can help us if we call on Him, but we must make the decision daily to continue with Him. We are ultimately responsible for every choice we make in our lives.

 

[1] Gregory A. Boyd and Paul R. Eddy, Across the Spectrum:Understanding Issues in Evangelical Theology, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2009): p. 185.

[2] Gregory A. Boyd and Paul R. Eddy, Across the Spectrum:Understanding Issues in Evangelical Theology: p. 194.

[3] Erwin Lutzer, The Doctrines that Divide, (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 1998):  p. 237.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Erwin Lutzer, The Doctrines that Divide: p. 238.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Gregory A. Boyd and Paul R. Eddy, Across the Spectrum:Understanding Issues in Evangelical Theology: p. 190.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Gregory A. Boyd and Paul R. Eddy, Across the Spectrum:Understanding Issues in Evangelical Theology: pp. 190-191.

[15] Gregory A. Boyd and Paul R. Eddy, Across the Spectrum:Understanding Issues in Evangelical Theology: p. 191.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Gregory A. Boyd and Paul R. Eddy, Across the Spectrum:Understanding Issues in Evangelical Theology: p. 192.

[20] Gregory A. Boyd and Paul R. Eddy, Across the Spectrum:Understanding Issues in Evangelical Theology: pp. 192-193.

[21] Gregory A. Boyd and Paul R. Eddy, Across the Spectrum:Understanding Issues in Evangelical Theology: pp. 193-194.

[22] Erwin Lutzer, The Doctrines that Divide: p. 226.

[23] Erwin Lutzer, The Doctrines that Divide: p. 227.

[24] Ibid.

[25] NIV.

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charlestinsley

My name is Charlie Tinsley and I blog about The Bible. In particular, I post my thoughts, commentaries, and Bible Study teachings I have done. I hold a Bachelors Degree in Science in Religion Summa Cum Laude with a Biblical Studies Minor. I am currently studying for a Masters In Divinity at Eastern Mennonite Seminary with PhD ambitions in the study of Theology. I am married and have been for several years and I currently reside in Virginia.

2 thoughts on “Eternal Security IS NOT Biblical!”

  1. My salvation rests in the fact that God is holding on to me not me holding on to God. I can walk away but not merrily and I don’t want to walk away walk away to what?

    1. I agree Jay. God does indeed hold His end of His His eternal promise. Your faith and recognition of your need for God and Christ’s saving work is certainly desirable. However, there is a growing trend of people falling away from the faith be it apathy or other means. The advancements of science, philosophy, and technology have all contributed to a decline in religious adherence. This is in part due to two important factors. First and foremost, the ability of the church to embrace these advances and effectively use them to point to God’s existence is minimal and lacking greatly. Second, people are turned off by the idea of accountability. People want a Jesus and God who are similar to Santa Claus and just give away things freely. It is clear from Scripture that Jesus calls us to bear good fruit or be cut away from the Vine regardless of whether we accept His sacrifice or not. Man cannot live blissfully and without remorse in light of God’s condemnation of sin. Sin without repentance is as bad as apathy and can lead to the loss of salvation.

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