Eternal Security

Titus 3:5-7 “he saved us not by works of righteousness that we have done but on the basis of his mercy, through the washing of the new birth and the renewing of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us in full measure through Jesus Christ our Savior. 7 And so, since we have been justified by his grace, we become heirs with the confident expectation of eternal life.”

There is a strong debate between church denominations and scholars about eternal security. That is, how does salvation work? Is it once and for all, progressive, can it be lost? If you study the bible on this topic you may be confused about the large variety of differing scriptures on the subject. Scriptures that are clear and confirm that a believer can never loose their salvation and scriptures that suggest that somehow you must maintain it or else it will fail. I hope to explore some of the challenging verses on eternal security to properly understand them.

Being Born Again

It helps if we understand something about the nature of salvation. Often it is compared to being “born again.” Now a birth is not a continuos action, it is a special moment with irreversible consequences. The result is you live and exist and have a life of meaning because of that birth. It would be foolish to think you could somehow undo that birth, or at some point decide you didn’t want to be born and reverse it.

In the same way, our salvation is irreversible but it has lasting consequences in that you will live a life of meaning by the holy spirit as a result of that birth. And you will not die from that birth, because that birth is an eternal birth, and not a temporary physical one.

Let’s take the example of becoming “God’s son.” Now, I may refute my father and deny him, but can that change the fact that he indeed is my father? Nothing I will can undermine the permanent reality of being his son. Salvation is not a test, and if at the end of our lives we do well enough we pass. It is a gift, but it is a gift that can be seen, proven, and will produce evidence that it indeed is genuine.

Perseverance of the Saints

However some scriptures seem to suggest that if you fail to maintain your faith, your salvation is lost (Colossians 1:22-23) (1 Corinthians 15:2) (Matthew 24:13). Recently I have found a missing piece of the puzzle that seems to interlink these opposing scriptures.

You see, those of us who believe we are saved once and for all may have missed another factor about salvation. And that is that if you are genuinely saved, God maintains your faith so that you are guaranteed to endure to the end. I think it is popularly called, the doctrine of the “perseverance of the saints.”

Paul counts on the fact that God maintains the true believer’s faith and he uses it as a way to identify if a believer is truly saved or not. An unbeliever who merely professed christianity but does not have genuine faith does not have the endurance the holy spirit produces and his departure is a sign he never was truly saved to begin with, not that he lost it (1 John 2:19).

Jude 1:24 “Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault.”

1 Corinthians 1:7-8 “as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Jeremiah 32:40Philippians 1:61 Peter 1:5Hebrews 12:2Hebrews 13:20-211 Thessalonians 5:23-241 John 5:4-52 Timothy 1:122 Thessalonians 3:31 Peter 5:10John 6:39-40John 10:28

The picture behind these verses, is that God’s Spirit, who dwells in you works within to maintain your faith so that you stay firm to the end.

But what if a believer walks away?

I’m sure we’ve heard of stories about believers walking away from the faith, though I have not met that many. Were they never saved to begin with?

If they are walking away from the faith it can be a strong sign they were never saved to begin with.

1 John 2:19 “They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.”

However, you might also notice that some people who walk away later come back. This I believe it due to the Holy Spirit’s work in them. If a person genuinely has the Spirit living in them, the Spirit will eventually turn their hearts back to him even if for a time they stumble.

Hebrews 5:2 “He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness.” (Referring to Israel’s high priests of which Jesus has become akin to.)

Jude 1:22 “Be merciful to those who doubt.”

2 Timothy 2:13 “if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.”

We do not need to be quick to judge someone else’s faith, it is to God they must give account (Romans 8:33). We also know that God’s looks at the heart, not just outward appearances (1 Samuel 16:7). Sometimes we might look at an event such as Peter denying Jesus three times and say, “That person was never saved to begin with.” Yet God understands the heart and he understood Peter was doing that out of fear not because he was rejecting Jesus. His faith was real even though his works didn’t prove it at that moment.

If a person who is genuinely saved pretends for a while not to be, they are deceiving themselves, because deep down they still know it’s true, even if they don’t want to admit it. It would be like convincing yourself that you were never born.

Romans 11:29 “For God’s gifts and his call can never be withdrawn.”

People who are not truly saved do not have that kind of genuine, inward, undeniable faith. If they do pretend to believe, it is merely shallow and temporary.

It is also worth noting that most of the cases where I see people walking away from the faith is due to religion and law based preaching which is actually no gospel at all. The church teaches that if they cannot fully obey the law they can’t go to heaven and these young christians realize they can’t and give up. There is no grace to keep them holding to the faith. We may say they have walked away from the faith when really they are closer to it (because they have realized that they need grace).

So how do you explain those non-eternal security passages?

Another theme we find in the Bible concerning eternal security is about people standing firm to the end.

1 Corinthians 15:2 “and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.”

Paul assumes that these people will have enduring faith, but enduring faith is an indicator that that faith is genuine. It’s another way of saying, “if you are truly saved.”

“Unless you believed in vain,” is actually part of a larger point Paul is making. Tassos Kioulachoglou gives a great article on this verse illustrating from other verses in Corinthians that Paul was speaking in a hypothetical sense when he said, “unless you believed in vain.”

We can see this from the following passage.

1 Corinthians 15 “12 But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.”

Do you see the parallels?

“if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.”

What makes their faith useless? In the hypothetical sense that Christ was not raised from the dead. And that was what some of them were believing. So its not unusual that Paul would mock them saying, unless you’ve believed in vain! He is alluding to his argument that if Christ has not been risen, then none of this is worth anything.

1 Corinthians 15 “17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.”

Other translations emphasize this.

1 Corinthians 15:2 “It is this Good News that saves you if you continue to believe the message I told you–unless, of course, you believed something that was never true in the first place” (New Living Translation).

“and by which you are also being saved if you hold firmly to the message I proclaimed to you—unless, of course, your faith was worthless” (International Standard Version).

“through which also you are obtaining salvation, if you bear in mind the words in which I proclaimed it–unless indeed your faith has been unreal from the very first” (Weymouth New Testament).

What about shipwrecked faith?

Some people would suggest that since Alexander and Hymenaeus shipwrecked their faith it proves that true christians can fall away. However, there is a legitimate argument that these were not true christians, though perhaps professing christians.

1 Timothy 1:19-20 “holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith. Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme.”

In that day, “to hand over to Satan,” was a common term for “kicking out of the church.” The picture behind it was that Satan was the ruler of the world, but the church was under God’s protection and favor. So for Paul to remove him from the fellowship of believers was to leave him to the whims of the world.

These two men were the same ones in 2 Timothy 2:17-18 who were not teaching gospel truth and leading people astray. Also in 2 Timothy 4:14 they persecuted Paul during his stay and strongly opposed Paul’s message. He was also the spokesperson in Acts 19, by which there is no clear indicator he was a Christian. From the contents, it seems they may have heard the message of Christ but refused to listen. I think the text shows us that they were false prophets inside the church. One scholar says,

Gill’s Exposition of the whole Bible

Holding faith, and a good conscience….. By “faith” is meant, not the grace of faith, but the doctrine of faith, a sense in which it is often used in this epistle; see 1 Timothy 3:9 and the “holding” of it does not intend a mere profession of it, and a retaining of that without wavering, which is to be done by all believers; but a holding it forth in the ministry of the word, in opposition to a concealing or dropping it, or any part of it; and a holding it fast, without wavering, and in opposition to a departure from it or any cowardice about it and against all posers: to which must be added, a good conscience; the conscience is not naturally good, but is defiled by sin; and that is only good, which is sprinkled by the blood of Christ, and thereby purged from dead works; the effect of which is an holy, upright, and becoming conversation; and which seems to be chiefly intended here, and particularly the upright conduct and behaviour of the ministers of the Gospel, in the faithful discharge of their work and office: see 2 Corinthians 1:12.

Which some having put away; that is, a good conscience; and which does not suppose that they once had one, since that may be put away which was never had: the Jews, who blasphemed and contradicted, and never received the word of God, are said to put it from them, Acts 13:46 where the same word is used as here; and signifies to refuse or reject anything with detestation and contempt: these men always had an abhorrence to a good conscience among men, and to a good life and conversation, the evidence of it; and at length threw off the mask, and dropped the faith they professed, as being contrary to their evil conscience: though admitting it does suppose they once had a good conscience, it must be understood not of a conscience cleansed by the blood of Christ, but of a good conscience in external show only, or in comparison of what they afterwards appeared to have: and, besides, some men, destitute of the grace of God, may have a good conscience in some sense, or with respect to some particular facts, or to their general conduct and behaviour among men, as the Apostle Paul had while unregenerate, Acts 23:1 and which being acted against, or lost, is no instance of falling from the true grace of God, which this passage is sometimes produced in proof of:

concerning faith have made shipwreck; which designs not the grace, but the doctrine of faith, as before observed, which men may profess, and fall off from, and entirely drop and lose. Though supposing faith as a grace is meant, the phrase, “have made shipwreck of it”, is not strong enough to prove the total and final falling away of true believers, could such be thought to be here meant; since persons may be shipwrecked, and not lost, the Apostle Paul was thrice shipwrecked, and each time saved; besides, as there is a true and unfeigned, so there is a feigned and counterfeit faith, which may be in persons who have no true grace, and may be shipwrecked, so as to be lost.

Other Difficult Scriptures

There are other scriptures in the bible that seem to speak against eternal security.

Hebrews 6 – it is impossible to renew to repentance…

Hebrews 10 – for if we willfully continue to sin…

1 Peter 4 if it is hard for the righteous to be saved…

Ephesians 5:1-12 Will not inherit the kingdom of heaven…

But a broader context shows us that these verses are not telling us that a believer’s salvation can be lost. I have written thorough articles on each one.

David Cloud writes an amazing and convincing article for eternal security and thoroughly address other problematic scriptures, including the parables of Jesus. I do however disagree on a couple of his points about God’s punishment.

I have not begun to list all the verses in the bible that clearly speak for a secure salvation, but you will find those verses in every book of the New Testament and in the context of numerous statements. However, my favorite is Titus 3 and I will briefly describe it.

Titus 3:5-7 “he saved us not by works of righteousness that we have done but on the basis of his mercy, through the washing of the new birth and the renewing of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us in full measure through Jesus Christ our Savior. 7 And so, since we have been justified by his grace, we become heirs with the confident expectation of eternal life.”

Paul describes salvation as a new birth, which is known to be an irreversible process, and the renewing of the Holy Spirit in full measure, which is stated in John to be with us always. Being justified is also an irreversible process in the same way that a court may not try the same case twice in the case of double jeopardy. It also says that we become heirs of an inheritance, which we know from Colossians and Ephesians can never perish. And that we may have a confident expectation of eternal life. The greek word for confident expectation literally means, “an expectation of something that is sure (certain); hope.” So this passage wants us to have confidence in our salvation and tells us that it is certain or sure. When we fear that we may do something one day to loose or forfeit that salvation, we don’t have the confident expectation he speaks of.

Hebrews 6:18-19 “God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain”

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4 thoughts on “Eternal Security

  1. Pingback: Conversations with God – Eternal Security | Revelations in Grace

  2. This is the right blog for anyone who wants to find out about this topic. You realize so much its almost hard to argue with you (not that I actually would wantHaHa). You definitely put a new spin on a topic thats been written about for years. Great stuff, just great!

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  3. Very helpful. Faith in Christ and all the assurance that gives produces strong grace based full of faith in God Christians. If we turn back from mercy and grace to our own abilities and works then that faith or assurance is lost. Some are weak in faith Rom. 14. Some turn from it and set up another system of salvation . They
    speak of Christ but are relying on how sound peoples works are. As you receive d Christ so walk in HIM.
    may talk about Christ but they base their continuing salvation on themselves. The struggle of faith is to have confidence in Christ and His gift. Those who do have mature faith are those who believe God and His assurances and have confidence of what God has promised. Don’t run off or get trapped in another religion with other emphasis other than the love and grace of God. You are not personally strong and able. Always walk in faith and believe in God.

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