What About Eternal Security?
B. Hodge, Biblical Authority Ministries, March, 16, 2021
When you get saved—are you always saved or can you lose your salvation and have to regain it from time to time? Whole churches have been split on this since the Reformation and is still a hot button issue 500 years later.
There are several passages of Scripture that discuss eternal security. Here are a few:
"You are My
witnesses," declares the LORD, "And My servant whom I have chosen, So
that you may know and believe Me And understand that I am He. Before Me there
was no God formed, And there will be none after Me. "I, even I, am the
LORD, And there is no savior besides Me. "It is I who have declared and
saved and proclaimed, And there was no strange god among you; So you are My
witnesses," declares the LORD, "And I am God. "Even from
eternity I am He, And there is none who can deliver out of My hand; I act and
who can reverse it?" (Isaiah 43:10-13 NASB)
"But you do not believe because you are
not of My sheep. "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow
Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one
will snatch them out of My hand. "My Father, who has given them to Me, is
greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. "I
and the Father are one." (John 10:26-30 NASB)
Do not love the world nor the things in the
world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all
that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the
boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The
world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God
lives forever. Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that
antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we
know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not really
of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they
went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us. But you have
an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know. (1 John 2:15-20 NASB)
"All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. "For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. "This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. "For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day." (John 6:37-40 NASB)
Do not be surprised,
brethren, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed out of death into
life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death.
Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has
eternal life abiding in him. We know love by this, that He laid down His life
for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has
the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against
him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love
with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth. We will know by this that we
are of the truth, and will assure our heart before Him (1 John 3 NASB)
The Doctrine of Eternal Security
The doctrine of eternal security is essential for the Christian to better understand God’s grace. The Bible teaches that salvation is of God (Ephesians 2:8) not of us. Before we are saved, we are dead to sin. “And you were dead in your trespasses” (Ephesians 2:1). Some may want to claim that we were drowning in sin and we reached out our hand for God to save us, and He reached down and saved us.
Actually, as the Scripture records, we were more rightly dead, not drowning, already lying on the bottom of the lake. He had to come down and resuscitate us—like Lazarus dead in the grave—only Christ could bring life back into him (John 11:14-45).
And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.
God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,
even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with
Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us
with Him in the heavenly places
in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing
riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you
have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a
result of works, so that no one may boast.
Please note clearly, there is nothing we add to our salvation. God found us spiritually discerned (1 Corinthians 2:14) and dead in our transgressions. We were dead to sin and Christ made us alive. Because our salvation is entirely of God, we can do nothing to add to it or take away from it. Are we mightier than God? Absolutely not.
Since God has “made us alive” there is nothing we can do to make ourselves spiritually dead, otherwise we control our salvation, not God. If this were possible, we can add salvation and remove it when we want based on our thoughts and actions.
Allow this illustration to help explain it: being born into a physical family mirrors being born into the family of God. The family you were born into will forever be your family. There is nothing you can do to exit that family. As long as you live you will have the genetic makeup of your parents. You can move across the earth, deny them, you can even murder them, and they are still your family. You can do nothing in your power to erase the fact that you are part of that family.
So it is in the family of God. Once you are born into the family of God, you have no power or ability to remove yourself from it. Why? Because you don’t have the power to do so in the same way you had no power to get into it (this is not to deny man’s responsibility though which is a different topic). It was the Holy Spirit prompting and convicting you (2 Thessalonians 2:13, John 16:7-8, Titus 3:3-5, 1 Corinthians 12:3).
It is so important to understand this point because if one does not recognize that salvation is totally a gift from God and nothing of oneself, it reduces the concept of grace and there are implications. If salvation is of one’s doing, it is not a free gift. Therefore, if one can lose and gain it based on their thoughts and actions, it is a work, and that is not in accordance with the clear teaching of Scripture. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9, see also Titus 3:5-7)
Therefore, believing that one can lose salvation can, but doesn’t always lead to a road of salvation by works. Though this doesn’t negate one’s salvation, so please do not confuse this issue. Further reading of Romans 8:38-39, Ephesians 1-2, 1 Corinthians 1:12-14, and Titus 3:3-7 would be of great help.
Objection: What about Hebrew 10:26?
For if we go on
sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer
remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and THE
FURY OF A FIRE WHICH WILL CONSUME THE ADVERSARIES. (Hebrews 10:26-27
This doesn’t say that those who are in Christ will lose their salvation but says that if they willfully sin after knowing not to, the Law’s sacrifices can’t help. God will still judge his peoples’ sins and all of us will give an account of our sins. This is the culmination in the context if we continue reading to Hebrews 10:30. This is also confirmed in Romans 14:12. Thank the Lord that Christ’s righteousness has been imputed to Christians.
Objection: What about Hebrews 3:6-14?
But Christ was
faithful as a Son over His house — whose house we are, if we hold
fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end. Therefore,
just as the Holy Spirit says,
"TODAY IF YOU
HEAR HIS VOICE, DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS AS WHEN THEY PROVOKED ME, AS IN THE
DAY OF TRIAL IN THE WILDERNESS, WHERE YOUR FATHERS TRIED Me BY TESTING Me, AND
SAW MY WORKS FOR FORTY YEARS. "THEREFORE I WAS ANGRY WITH THIS GENERATION,
AND SAID, ‘THEY ALWAYS GO ASTRAY IN THEIR HEART, AND THEY DID NOT KNOW MY WAYS’;
AS I SWORE IN MY WRATH, ‘THEY SHALL NOT ENTER MY REST.’"
Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called "Today," so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end. (Hebrew 3:6-14 NASB)
Note that those who turn away from the living God are unbelievers in verse 12. There is no reason to propose they believed prior to this. They may have tasted the heavenly blessing, but it was never theirs. If Christians follow after these sinful unbelievers, then they run the risk of being hardened or stagnant in their Christian faith, but not a loss of salvation. But Christians should recognize that these are sinful and want to turn from such things.
Objection: What about
And this we will do, if God permits. For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame. (Hebrews 6:3-6 NASB)
This is a passage where the writers of Hebrews draw a comparison with a more mature topic (Hebrew 6:1-2). And clearly this is referring to people who have been saved “enlightened”, “tasted the heavenly gift”, “partakers of the Holy Spirit” and so on. But the key is given in verse 3. Verse 3 indicates the following verses (4-6) are a hypothetical situation as indicated by “if God permits”.
The point is simple, if one could lose their salvation, then they can never be saved again because Christ would have to die on the cross and put Him to open shame again for them, which will never happen. So the hypothetical resolve concludes that one cannot lose their salvation and is consistent with other passages in the Bible.
This has strong implications. Consider if one does lose their salvation and fall away even in a minute manner of momentary doubt. In keeping with such a philosophy, then that person would be lost forever with no possibility of salvation. This would mean that someone of the vilest and evilest of intentions would have a better possibility of entering into the kingdom of heaven than a person who has been trying and yet stumbled briefly in their faith. But the key in this passage is that this was a hypothetical to show that salvation really is eternal life, and not temporary life.
Objection: What about Matthew 7:21 where it says “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven”?
"Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. "You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? "So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. "A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. "Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. "So then, you will know them by their fruits. "Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. "Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ "And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’ (Matthew 7:15-21 NASB)
The context clears this up easily. It is referring to false prophets who do not bear good fruit. See Matthew 7:15. So they were never saved it the first place.
Objection: What about 1 Corinthians 9:24-27?
I do all things for
the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it. Do you
not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize?
Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games
exercises self-control in all things.
They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:23-27 NASB)
Paul is pointing out a contrast between the race being run for the Gospel and a physical race by runners. With runners, they all run and yet only 1 receives a prize and it is it will be forgotten in time anyway (perishable). But in contrast, Christians run for an imperishable crown—and there is no uncertainty about it. This crown being eternal life and one can be certain of it as Paul says in verse 26.
Also in contrast to a physical race, those running toward an imperishable crown all win, not just one. So Paul sets the example, that if you know what you are running for and know you will win, then run the race the race like you mean it, and that is what he is doing. So he disciplines himself to run race to win, not sitting around on his laurels and failing to try (i.e., be disqualified). And this discipline leads to his preaching.
But take note of the phrase “when I have preached to others”, which immediately precedes becoming disqualified. So what would Paul be disqualified from? Is it the imperishable crown or the right to preach the Gospel? This is the crux of the issue. This phrase, “when I have preached to others” is placed perfectly to reveal that the disqualification in reference is to preaching, not to eternal life.
And this makes sense of the context. If Paul is slack about running the disciplined race when preaching, then he would not be qualified to be their preacher. But he does it for the Gospel’s sake to be fellow partakers with those he is preaching to (verse 23).
Objection: What about Luke 13:24?
And someone said to Him, "Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?" And He said to them, "Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. "Once the head of the house gets up and shuts the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock on the door, saying, ‘Lord, open up to us!’ then He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know where you are from.’ "Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets’; and He will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you are from; DEPART FROM ME, ALL YOU EVILDOERS.’ "In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but yourselves being thrown out. (Luke 13:23-28 NASB)
In verse 24, it reveals that there will be many who seek the Lord but will not enter. But take note that seeking the Lord is not the requirement for salvation, whereas a saving belief in Jesus Christ is. For example the Bible says:
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:16 NASB)
The Bible does not say:
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever SEEKS Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:16 NASB)
The Bible says:
And after he brought them out, he said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"
They said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household." (Acts 16:30–31 NASB)
The Bible does not say:
And after he brought them out, he said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"
They said, "SEEK the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household." (Acts 16:30–31 NASB)
So the people in Luke 13:24 were not saved in the first place, so they did not fall away from salvation, since they never had it.
John makes a powerful statement when he wrote:
These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life. (1 John 5:13 NASB)
How could anyone know they have eternal life if it could be snatched from them at any time? The fact is, if a person could lose their salvation at any moment, then they can’t know for sure that they have eternal life. If they could walk away at anytime, then this would presents a serious problem for John’s statement. For such a guarantee could not be decreed unless one stood firmly until the end of their life, without doubt; but John, speaking by the power of the Holy Spirit, said they could know well before the end of their life.
When the Lord says eternal life, He means it; it is eternal, not to be taken away at any moment. So to reiterate Isaiah: "And I am God. "Even from eternity I am He, And there is none who can deliver out of My hand; I act and who can reverse it?"