ETERNAL SECURITY AND PROBLEM PASSAGES
Updated December 18 2001 (first published via the Fundamental Baptist Information Service September 20, 2001) (David Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061, 866-295-4143, email@example.com; for instructions about subscribing and unsubscribing or changing addresses, see the information paragraph at the end of the article) -
The following study is from the Way of Life Encyclopedia of the Bible & Christianity, copyright 1994:
Eternal security is the Bible confidence that every born again believer has perfect, complete, eternal salvation in Jesus Christ. As soon as a sinner receives Christ, he possesses full, unending salvation. To have Christ is to have a secure position before God (1 Jn. 5:10-13). Though the Bible does not use the term “security” to describe the believer’s relationship in Christ, it leaves no doubt that the child of God is eternally safe in Christ. Eternal security refers only to those who are born again through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. It does not refer to hypocrites or to those who are merely dabbling in the things of Christ. Those who permanently fall away have never been born again.
HOW WE CAN BE SURE TRUE CHRISTIANS ARE ETERNALLY SECURE.
1. Because of the terms used to describe salvation. “eternal life” (Jn. 3:16; 1 Jn. 5:11); “full assurance” (He. 6:11; Col. 2:2); “strong consolation” (He. 6:18); “hope ... sure and stedfast” (He. 6:19).
2. Because of what we are. All of the following are spoken of in the present tense; this is the present condition of each true believer (1) Forgiven (Ro. 4:7; 1 Jn. 2:12). (2) Justified (Ro. 5:1,9; Tit. 3:7). (3) Reconciled (Ro. 5:10). (4) Risen with Christ (Ro. 6:3-6; Col. 3:1,2). (5) A child of God forever (Ro. 8:15; Ga. 4:4-7; 1 Jn. 3:1). (6) Sanctified in Christ (1 Co. 1:2). (7) New creation (2 Co. 5:17). (8) Accepted in the beloved (Ep. 1:6). (9) Saved (Ep. 2:8,9; 2 Ti. 1:9). (10) Light in the Lord (Ep. 5:8). (11) Made fit for Heaven (Col. 1:12). (12) Complete in Him (Col. 2:10). (13) Citizens of Heaven (Ph. 3:20). (14) Children of light (1 Th. 5:5). (15) Elect (1 Pe. 1:2). (16) Born again (1 Pe. 1:2,23). (17) Sanctified once for all (He. 10:10). (18) Perfected forever (He. 10:14). (19) Passed from death unto life (1 Jn. 3:14).
3. Because of where we are. (1) In God’s family (Ga. 3:26; 1 Jn. 3:2). (2) Brought near (Ep. 2:13). (3) In the heavenlies with Christ (Ep. 2:5-6). (4) Translated into the kingdom of His dear Son (Col. 1:13).
4. Because of what we have. (1) Eternal life (Jn. 3:16). (2) Peace with God (Ro. 5:1). (3) An Intercessor in Heaven (Ro. 8:34). (4) All spiritual blessings (Ep. 1:3). (5) Forgiveness of sins (Ep. 1:7; Col. 1:14; 2:13). (6) Sealing of the Holy Spirit (Ep. 1:12-14). (7) Access to God (Ep. 2:18). (8) Everlasting consolation (2 Th. 2:16). (9) Eternal glory (2 Ti. 2:10). (10) Eternal redemption (He. 9:12). (11) Mercy (1 Pe. 2:10). (12) An Advocate with the Father (1 Jn. 2:1-2).
5. Because of what is past. (1) Condemnation (Jn. 5:24). (2) The law of sin and death (Ro. 8:2). (3) Death and wrath (Col. 3:3; Ro. 6:11; 1 Th. 5:9). (4) Night and darkness (1 Th. 5:5).
6. Because of our promises. (1) Never perish (Jn. 10:27-28). (2) Shall never die (Jn. 11:26). (3) The glory of God (Ro. 5:2). This speaks of Christ’s kingdom glory. (4) Shall be saved from wrath (Ro. 5:9). (5) Glorious liberty of the children of God (Ro. 8:21). (6) Redemption of the body (Ro. 8:23-24; Ph. 3:21). (7) Predestinated to be conformed to the image of Christ (Ro. 8:28-29). (8) Cannot be separated from God’s love (Ro. 8:31-39). (9) God shall confirm you unto the end (1 Co. 1:8). (10) He that hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ (Ph. 1:6). (11) Shall appear with Christ in glory (Col. 3:3-4). (12) Delivered from the wrath to come (1 Th. 1:10). (13) Not appointed to wrath but to salvation (1 Th. 5:9). (14) Eternal inheritance (He. 9:15). (15) Incorruptible inheritance (1 Pe. 1:4).
HOW DO WE KNOW THESE BLESSINGS CANNOT BE LOST?
1. The blessings of salvation cannot be lost because of the nature of salvation: (1) Salvation is eternal (Jn. 3:16,36). (2) Salvation is a present possession (Ro. 5; 1 Pe. 2:24-25). (3) Salvation is by imputation and substitution (2 Co. 5:17; Ga. 2:20; He. 9:10; Ro. 3:24). (4) Salvation is positional (Ep. 1:3 -- “in Christ”; Ro. 6:7; Col. 2:10; 3:1-4,12). (5) Salvation is not of human merit; it is a free gift of grace which cannot be mixed with works (Ep. 2:8-9; Tit. 3:3-7; Ro. 3:19-28; 4:4-5; 11:6).
2. The blessings of salvation cannot be lost because of the results of salvation: (1) Eternal life (Jn. 3:16). (2) Justification (Ro. 5:1; 3:19-28). (3) Peace with God (Ro. 5:1). (4) Sure possession of future glory (Ro. 5:2; Col. 3:1-4). (5) Salvation from future wrath (Ro. 5:9). (6) Raised up with Christ (Ro. 6). (7) Blessed with all spiritual blessings in Christ (Ep. 1:3). (8) Sealed with the Holy Spirit (Ep. 4:30). (9) Passed from darkness to light (Col. 1:12-14).
3. The blessings of salvation cannot be lost because of the teaching of election: Election does not destroy human responsibility (2 Th. 2:10-13; Ac. 13:46,48), but election does promise security for the believer (Ro. 8:28-39; Ep. 1; 1 Pe. 1:2-7).
4. The blessings of salvation cannot be lost because lack of good works involves loss of rewards and fruitfulness, not loss of one’s eternal relationship with Christ (1 Co. 3:15; Tit. 3:14; 2 Jn. 8).
5. The blessings of salvation cannot be lost because of the believer’s union with Christ. The believing sinner is placed “in Christ” and stands or falls with Him (Col. 1:14; Eph. 1-3 -- “in Christ” mentioned 25 times; He. 9:10; 1 Pe. 1:18-23; 2:6,24-25).
DOES ETERNAL SECURITY MEAN ANYONE WHO PROFESSES CHRIST IS SAVED, REGARDLESS OF WHETHER THEY GIVE EVIDENCE OF GENUINE FAITH?
1. No, salvation demands repentance (Lk. 13:3-5; Ac. 2:38-42; 17:30-31). Repentance means a change of mind resulting in a change of life (2 Co. 7:8-11). The person who has never changed his mind about God, sin, Christ, the Bible, etc., and who has never evidenced this changed mind with a changed life, has never repented and has never been saved. The Thessalonian believers exemplify biblical repentance. They “turned to God from idols, to serve the living and true God” (1 Thess. 1:9-10).
2. No, salvation requires the new birth, and the new birth always changes a man’s life (2 Co. 5:17-21; Mt. 18:3-4; Jn. 3:1-18; 1 Jn. 3:10; 3 Jn. 11).
3. No, salvation is evidenced by perseverance (Jn. 10:27-28; Col. 1:21-23; He. 3:12-14; 10:38-39; 1 Jn. 2:19; 3:3). According to these Scriptures, the one who is truly born again will persevere in Christ; or it could be better stated that Christ will persevere in him!
4. No, saving faith always produces works (Eph. 2:8-10; He. 11:4, 7, 8; Jam. 2:14-26). If one claims to have faith in Christ, but his life does not reflect the works of Christ, that one does not have biblical faith. A fruitless profession of fruit cannot lay claim to God’s promises of eternal security.
DOES ETERNAL SECURITY CAUSE PEOPLE TO LIVE CARELESSLY?
Eternal security does not cause people to live carelessly. The very opposite is true. The Bible teaches that the grace of God actually motivates believers to serve God with a thankful heart (Ro. 2:4; Ep. 3:14-19; Tit. 2:11-14). The more a believer understands the unfathomable love God has for him in Christ, the more he wants to please God.
WHO HAS ETERNAL SECURITY?
It is important to further emphasize the fact that the doctrine of eternal security does not promise safety for anyone who merely professes Christ. In the following study we see that the Bible connects eternal security only with the true believer, the one who has been born again, and differentiates him with the mere professor. Who has eternal security -- (1) Those who continue in the word (Jn. 8:31,32). (2) Those who follow Christ (Jn. 10:27-28). (3) Those who bring forth fruit (Jn. 15:2; Lk. 3:9). (4) Those who are led by the Spirit of God (Ro. 8:14-15). (5) Those who have been born again (2 Co. 5:17; Ep. 2:10; Ga. 6:15). (6) Those who are sanctified from an unrighteous way of life (1 Co. 6:9-11). (7) Those who have demonstrated their election (1 Th. 1:4-10). (8) Those who depart from iniquity (2 Ti. 2:19). (9) Those who maintain their confidence in Christ (He. 3:14). (10) Those who have an undivided, convinced faith (He. 4:10,11). (11) Those who evidence the “things that accompany salvation” (He. 6:9-12). (12) Those who are looking for Christ’s return (He. 9:28). (13) Those who remain patient and steadfast in tribulations (He. 10:35-39). (14) Those who are in the truth and continue in the truth (1 Jn. 2:19-21; 2 Jn. 1-2). (15) Those who are purifying themselves (1 Jn. 3:1-3). (16) Those who love the brethren (1 Jn. 3:14).
WHO DOES NOT HAVE ETERNAL SECURITY?
(1) Those who profess but do not repent (Lk. 3:7-14; Acts 26:20). (2) Those who have mere intellectual assent (Jn. 2:23-25; Jam 2:17-20). (3) Those who have self-willed faith, only believing what they want to believe rather than the testimony of the Scriptures (Jn. 6:60-66). (4) Those who have religious zeal apart from the gospel (Ro. 10:1-4).
IF THE DISOBEDIENT CHRISTIAN DOES NOT LOSE HIS SALVATION, WHAT DOES HAPPEN TO HIM?
(1) The sinning Christian is out of fellowship with the Lord and his people (1 Jn. 1:3-7). (2) The sinning Christian is helped and loved by the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Jn. 2:1-2). (3) The sinning Christian is chastened by the Father (He. 12:5-11). (4) The sinning Christian loses irreplaceable opportunities for service and fruit (Ep. 5:14-17; Mt. 9:36-38; 1 Th. 5:4-10). The sinning Christian can be forgiven, but he cannot regain the lost opportunities and the hurt he has caused by his sin. (5) The sinning Christian will suffer loss at the judgment seat of Christ (1 Co. 3:11-15; 2 Co. 5:10; 1 Ti. 6:17-19; 1 Jn. 2:28).
ETERNAL SECURITY AND PROBLEM PASSAGES
The following introductory comments offer a background for dealing with the “problem passages.”
First, the few passages which present apparent problems with the doctrine of eternal security must be interpreted carefully in light of the context. It is a fact that the New Testament promises eternal security to the true believer. I do not believe God would have given so much plain and simple teaching on the eternal nature of salvation only to overthrow it with a couple of relatively obscure passages. We interpret the less clear passages in light of those which are crystal clear. This is a working principle which I believe is honoring to the Word of God, and it is the proper way to handle it. False teachers, on the other hand, delight in using the more obscure portions of Scripture to overthrow the plain. To interpret any of the passages you mentioned as saying that a born again child of God can lose his salvation flies in the face of hundreds of clear passages of Scripture. When the context of a Bible passage is plainly directed to the subject of salvation, there is never a question about the security of the believer.
Second, a key problem in this matter is reading the doctrine of insecurity into various passages. This is called eisegesis (reading into the Scriptures), as contrasted with the proper method of exegesis (interpreting out of the Scriptures). Most passages which are put forth to support the idea that salvation can be lost have absolutely nothing to do with such a thing if approached without preconceived ideas.
Third, many who teach eternal security do so in an unbiblical manner. To fail to emphasize the necessity of repentance, to fail to warn the casual “professor” that profession is not the same as possession, to comfort and impart security to a professor who has no evidence of regeneration is to do injustice to the biblical doctrine of eternal security. The Bible frequently warns about the possibility of appearing to be saved while actually being lost, about coming close to salvation without actually being saved. Those of us who teach eternal security must not ignore the solemn charges of the Word of God such as John 8:47 and 1 John 3:10.
An example is the soul winner who leads an unbeliever in a sinner’s prayer after a short presentation of the “Roman’s Road,” then gives him assurance right then and there, before there has been any evidence that the person is genuinely born again.
Now to some of the passages most frequently used to undermine eternal security:
MATTHEW 7:21. This has nothing to do with a believer losing his salvation. To do the will of the Father is certainly not the way to Heaven. It is the evidence of genuine faith in Christ; it is the proof of regeneration.
MATTHEW 8:11-12. The “children of the kingdom” here are the Jews in the nation Israel. One of the key teachings of the Gospels is the rejection of Jesus Christ by His own people, the Jews. Time and again Christ warns and rebukes the Jews and their leaders, but most of them reject him. The first half of Matthew, in particular, documents this fearful situation.
MATTHEW 25:1-13. The parable of the ten virgins is given in the context of Christ’s coming and of the establishment of the kingdom of God in Israel (see Matt. 25:31-34). The foolish virgins are not true believers but are unbelievers who knew about Christ’s return but did not act on it. (1) They didn’t have any oil (vv. 3,4), but the oil is symbolic of the Holy Spirit. (2) They wait until it is too late to obtain salvation (v. 9). In light of everything the New Testament promises to the child of God, the foolish virgins MUST be those who are unsaved. To interpret this otherwise is to throw multitudes of clear Scriptures into confusion.
MATTHEW 25:14-30. (1) The man’s concept of the Lord shows that he is a lost man. He considered the Lord “an hard man” who reaped where He had not sown. It is obvious that he did not know the blessed Lord Jesus Christ! The Lord is exactly the opposite of how this man described Him. He is gracious and merciful and patient and meek and lowly in heart; He gives us MUCH more than we deserve. The fact that this man is called a servant does not mean necessarily that he is saved. The Jews are called the Lord’s servants, but they were not all saved (Is. 43:10). (2) The man’s destiny also shows that he is a lost man. He is cast into outer darkness, which is a description of hell (2 Peter 2:17; Jude 13). Nowhere in Scripture is a child of God said to be in outer darkness. The Bible says believers are children of light and are not of darkness (1 Thess. 5:5). (3) Further, the weeping and gnashing of teeth are associated with eternal damnation and Hell (Matt. 13:42,50; 22:13; 24:51; Luke 13:28). It is not wise to establish doctrine upon parables. The parables have one central point, and if you try to push every detail of the parable you can have all sorts of doctrinal problems.
JOHN 15:6. This passage does not say that a true believer will be cast into Hell; it says that the person who proves not to be a true believer will be cast into Hell. Those who teach that this applies to a true believer read that interpretation into it. The rest of John’s Gospel makes this matter very plain. Consider John 1:12,13; 3:14-18,36; 4:14; 5:25; 6:37,40,47; 10:27-30; 11:25; 17:2,3; 20:31. Whatever, therefore, the meaning of John 15:6 in reference to the child of God, it CANNOT mean that the true believer will be rejected and cast into Hell. That would make the promises of Jesus Christ to the believer into a lie. Christ is referring here to the difference between sincere and insincere, true and false believers. He mentions such a thing in other passages in John’s Gospel. Consider John 2:23-25 and 6:64. John 15 is a warning that the evidence of true faith in Christ is to bear fruit for His glory.
ROMANS 11:19-23. Consider the context: Paul is not addressing the subject of personal salvation. He is addressing the matter of the Jews and their place in the program of God. Paul is speaking in a general sense of Gentiles and of the Jewish nation. Today God has turned temporarily from the Jews and is calling a people for His name from among the Gentile nations. The day will come when God will again turn to the Jewish nation to fulfill His promises to them. Verses 24-26 make this plain. Paul is speaking in a general sense, not in a personal sense. A careful reading of this chapter illustrates this.
1 CORINTHIANS 9:27. The context here is not Paul’s salvation, but his Christian service. Paul was concerned that he would be castaway in the sense that he would be put on a shelf in this life or that his service would be rejected or disapproved at the judgment seat of Christ. The same Greek word is translated “rejected.” Paul was not afraid that he would be lost. In the same epistle he taught that Christ preserves the believer (1:7-9). What he feared was falling short of God’s high calling for his life. The context makes this plain. He is talking about running a race and winning a prize. To confuse this passage with salvation is to misunderstand the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Salvation is not a reward for faithful service. The Bible plainly states that salvation is by grace, and grace is the free, unmerited mercy of God (Eph. 2:8-9). Anything that is merited or rewarded, is not grace (Romans 11:6). On the other hand, after we are saved by the marvelous grace of God, we are called to serve Jesus Christ. We are created in Christ Jesus “unto good works” (Eph. 2:10). If a Christian is lazy and carnal, he will be chastened by the Lord (Heb. 12:6-8), and if he does not respond, God will take him home (Rom. 8:13; 1 Cor. 11:30; 1 John 5:16).
PHILIPPIANS 2:12. This verse does not say that the child of God must work FOR or work UP his salvation; it says he must work OUT his salvation. These are very different things. To work up or to work for my salvation would mean that I have a part in my salvation and that unless I do my part, I will not be saved. On the other hand, to work out my salvation means God has given me eternal salvation as a free gift in Jesus Christ, and it is His will that I obey Him, not in order to save myself or in order to help God save me, but BECAUSE I am already saved. Verse 13 makes this clear, that it is God who provides the complete salvation. Obedience, holy living is the evidence of salvation. The Christian life is a miracle of God that is wrought from within. The power of the Christian life is the indwelling Holy Spirit, but the Christian is not passive. He is to be controlled by the Spirit (Eph. 5:18), to be led by the Spirit (Rom. 8:14), to walk after the Spirit (Rom. 8:4; Gal. 6:25), to mind the things of the Spirit (Rom. 8:5).
PHILIPPIANS 3:9-14. How do we know that verse 11 is not referring to gaining one’s salvation through diligent effort? (1) The context is referring not to Paul’s salvation, but to his calling. He endeavored to fulfill God’s perfect will for his life. Verses 10 and 14 leave no question about the meaning of the passage. To divorce it from the context, claiming that Paul was unsure that he possessed eternal salvation, denies the plain teaching of Scripture and throws the Bible into contradictory confusion. (2) Paul said he was trying to earn a “prize” (Phil. 3:14), whereas salvation is a “gift” to be enjoyed (Ephesians 2:8,9). (3) We know that Paul was not stating in Philippians 3 that he was unsure he would be raised from the dead, because in this very epistle and elsewhere he emphasized the certainty of resurrection and the eternal security of the believer (Ph. 2:20,21; 1:6; 1 Cor. 15:51-58).The Lord Jesus Christ promised resurrection to every believer (John 11:25,26). (4) Philippians 3:11 is explained in 1 Timothy 6:12 and 2 Peter 1:10-11, which teach that we “lay hold on eternal life” and prepare an abundant entrance into Christ’s eternal kingdom by our service for Christ in this world. It is speaking of rewards and crowns.
JAMES 2:24. Roman Catholics, Cultists, and others who deny the Gospel of the Grace of Jesus Christ, love to run to James 2:24 to “prove” that salvation is not by Christ’s grace alone through faith alone, but that works are necessary. Consider the following three observations:
First, context is crucial in understanding any Bible passage. To ignore context is to fill the Bible with contradictions. James was not addressing salvation; he was addressing the Christian life. Note verse 14 — “my brethren...” He is contrasting dead faith with true biblical faith (verses 14-17). “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone” (verse 14). He is saying that true faith is evident by works. Paul, on the other hand, addresses salvation directly in the book of Romans. The sinner must trust exclusively in the grace of Jesus Christ for salvation. “Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works” (Romans 4:4-6). There is no contradiction if one considers the context of each statement. Paul is addressing the unsaved sinner’s perspective. The sinner must trust Jesus Christ exclusively for salvation; he must reject his own filthy works (Isaiah 64:6) and all self-righteousness (Romans 9:30-33) and lean totally upon the Lord Jesus Christ, trusting wholly in His perfect and complete redemption. James, on the other hand, is addressing the Christian’s perspective. The Christian claims to have faith in Jesus Christ. He is therefore to diligently serve God and to walk in His commandments. Those who live in rebellion and who ignore the Word of God demonstrate that they do not possess true saving faith, that they are deceiving themselves.
Second, James and Paul are addressing two different events in Abraham’s life. Paul, in Romans 4:1-4, refers to Abraham’s salvation which occurred early in his life and which is recorded in Genesis 15:5-6. James, on the other hand, refers to Abraham’s testing which occurred 20 years later (James 2:21-24; Genesis 22:1-18). Abraham was saved by faith without works, but his salvation and his faith were EVIDENCED and DEMONSTRATED by his obedience.
Third, James’ teaching is no different from that of the other Apostles. They all taught that true faith produces works. Consider the classic passage in Ephesians 2:8-10 — “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. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” This passage puts faith and works in their proper order. It is faith alone which connects us with the free salvation offered in Jesus Christ. This salvation is a gift. Our works have nothing to do with it, and cannot add to the completed salvation in Jesus Christ. Works, rather, follow after salvation and are the product of it, being created by God in the believing sinner. Consider also Titus 3:4-8; Hebrews 6:9; 10:39; 1 John 3:6; 3 John 11. This is exactly what James teaches. He says there are two kinds of faith: saving faith and false faith. The devils have faith but not saving faith (v. 19).
Some will counter that it is not important how one puts these things together. One man says works follow salvation; another says works are a part of salvation. What is the difference? The difference is ENORMOUS. It is the difference between Saved and Lost, between Heaven and Hell. If I think that my works and my righteousness and my obedience and my law-keeping is a part of salvation, even a tiny part of salvation, I am denying the perfect sufficiency of Jesus Christ and of His Atonement. “For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified” (Hebrews 10:14). I cannot add one iota to this perfect salvation which is freely offered through Jesus Christ. “Being justified FREELY by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24). If works or church sacraments or law keeping are required in any sense whatsoever for salvation, it is not FREE and the Bible is a lie. To add anything to the gospel of the grace of Christ is to bring God’s curse (Gal. 1:6).
1 PETER 1:9. First, let us consider what this verse does not mean. It does not mean salvation is a process or that salvation is uncertain. The context overthrows such teaching. Verses 3-5 tells us that the believer’s salvation is settled and sure. The believer is born again, has a lively hope, possesses an inheritance that is already reserved in heaven, and is kept by God’s power. When the Bible speaks of the believer’s hope, it uses the term differently than the way hope is commonly used today. The believer’s hope has no element of uncertainty. In Hebrews 6:18-19 it is described as “a strong consolation” and “an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast.” The reason the believer has such confidence and security is that his salvation is completely dependent upon Jesus Christ and has nothing to do with his own works. What does the verse mean, then? Two of its wonderful teachings are these: (1) Salvation has evidence (Heb. 10:38,39). True faith works. Salvation is by grace alone through faith in Christ without works (Eph. 2:8-9), but salvation also produces the fruit of good works (Eph. 2:10). (2) Salvation has different aspects. There is a past, present, and future aspect to salvation. The believer has been saved from the eternal consequences of sin; he is being saved from the power of sin in this earthly existence; and in his future heavenly home he will have been saved from the very presence of sin. When 1 Peter 1:19 says the believer will receive salvation as the end product of his faith, this is what it is referring to. It does not imply that his salvation is uncertain until the end.
1 PETER 4:18. The righteous are scarcely saved in the sense that salvation is impossible apart from God’s free gift through Jesus Christ. If judged by our earthly lives, if judged by our works, we will all perish. Even the righteous lives of born again Christians fall far short of the glory of Christ and the holiness God requires of us. Our only hope is the righteousness of Christ which is offered to us as a free, unmerited gift (2 Cor. 5:21). Even the righteousness of the religious Pharisees was insufficient (Matt. 5:20). God requires perfect obedience to His law, and no man can attain to that. Thus salvation must be a gift of God’s righteousness provided through Jesus Christ.
2 PETER 2:20-22. Though this passage is often used to prove that eternal security is not true, it actually says nothing about losing ones salvation. The context is false teachers who promote damnable heresies and deny the Lord (v. 1). It should be obvious that it is not saved men who are the focus on this passage, but hypocrites and deceivers. Any interpretation which says these are saved men who lose their salvation flies in the face of the context. The fact that “the latter end is worse with them than the beginning” and “it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness” does not imply that they were saved and now are lost. They were dogs and pigs who were unchanged (v. 22). The fact that they return to their wickedness proves that they were never regenerate. When the context is taken into account, there really is no problem in this passage in regard to the doctrine of eternal security.
HEBREWS 6:4-6. This passage refers to false believers. How do we know? (1) They tasted but they did not drink and eat (contrast John 6:54). (2) Those who fall away cannot be saved again. This shows the error of those who teach that a believer can lose his salvation. (3) The difference between the true believer and the false is the fruit and the evidence (vv. 7,8). (4) Paul plainly states that he is not referring to true believers (v. 9).
HEBREWS 10:26-29. The willful sin in verse 26 refers not to sin in general, but to one particular sin which is described in the rest of the passage. The Bible plainly teaches us that Christians do sin after they are saved (1 John 1:8-10; 2:1-2). There is no sinless perfection in the Christian life. Our perfection and righteousness is in Jesus Christ positionally (1 Cor. 1:30; 2 Cor. 5:21). The sin for which there is no forgiveness is the sin of “counting the blood of the covenant an unholy thing.” This means to deny that salvation is by Christ’s blood and grace alone. In the immediate context to which the book of Hebrews was addressed, it refers to the Jews who professed confidence in Christ; but, because of pressure and persecution, returned to their dead religion and thus gave up confidence in Christ. False religion, both then and now, attempts either to replace Christ’s salvation with a manmade system, or to add to Christ’s salvation a manmade system. Catholicism is an example of the latter. It preaches Christ, but it intermingles its own sacraments and priesthood and sainthood with the grace of Christ. This is a false gospel which robs Christ of His glory as the sole Saviour and Mediator. If Christ is not Saviour wholly and exclusively, He is not Saviour at all. If grace is intermingled in any sense with works, the Gospel is perverted, and there is no salvation in a perverted gospel (Rom. 11:6; Gal. 1:6-9).
HEBREWS 12:15-17. To fail of the grace of God does not mean to lose one’s salvation; it means to fall short of being saved. The context makes this plain, as the example given is that of Esau. He was not a believer, though he was born into a believing family. He was a man of the world and cared nothing about the things of God. He thought a bowl of soup was more valuable that his birthright as the son of Isaac.
How the book of Hebrews teaches eternal security?
Some think the book of Hebrews poses unanswerable problems for the doctrine of eternal security, but the opposite is true. In the following ways the book of Hebrews strongly affirms this Bible doctrine:
1. Christ’s Purging promises security (Heb. 1:3).
2. Christ’s Rest promises security (Heb. 4:10).
3. Christ’s Hope promises security (Heb. 6:17-19).
4. Christ’s High Priesthood promises security (Heb. 7:25,26).
5. Christ’s Blood promises security (Heb. 9:12,26; 10:14). (1) We have eternal redemption through His blood (Heb. 9:21). (2) Sin is put away through His blood (Heb. 9:26). (3) We are sanctified once for all through His blood (Heb. 10:10). (4) We are perfected forever through His blood (Heb. 10:14).
6. Christ’s Covenant promises security (Heb. 8:12; 10:16-19).
I do not profess to be able to answer every question which can be raised on this subject. No man can. Eternal security, though, is a Bible doctrine that has satisfied and blessed my heart for 29 years. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
The Bible plainly teaches that those who are truly born again will evidence their salvation and will continue on with the Lord (John 10:27-28; 1 Cor. 15:1,2; Col. 1:21-23; Heb. 6:4-9; 10:38; 1 John 3:3). The one who permanently falls away demonstrates that he did not belong to the Lord in the first place (Heb. 12:5-8). If a professing Christian murders someone, it probably proves that he was not genuinely saved. Revelation 21:8 is similar to 1 John 3:9. These passages are not talking about an act of sin but a way of life of sin. If these passages are referring to an act of sin, no one can be saved. It is obvious from other passages that a Christian can commit any act of sin, including idolatry and adultery (1 John 1:8-10). This is why we are often warned not to commit these evils (1 Cor. 6:18; 10:6,14; 1 John 5:21). Salvation is to be placed into an entirely and eternally new position in Jesus Christ. The old flesh cannot be redeemed; it can only be condemned and crucified. Our new position in Christ is that our old man is dead and we rise to new life in Jesus Christ. The law can no longer condemn us. Please study Romans 1-8 very carefully, for it holds the key to understanding salvation properly, as well as the proper place of sin and the law in the Christian’s life. Salvation requires perfection, and the only perfection that we can ever have is that which we receive from Jesus Christ because of the Propitiation He purchased on Calvary. Even one sin will keep me out of Heaven, but, praise God, I do not have any sin in Christ. He has taken it all away forever.
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