This is a continuation from two earlier posts. You might want to read them first. Just scroll down a little bit for the first two parts. Thanks.
Eternal Security is the biblical doctrine that affirms the unconditional nature of salvation. Once you’re in, you’re in. God does not kick kids out of his family. Ever. Nor does he permit them to “withdraw their membership.” There is no force or will one earth or in heaven that can separate a Christian from the love of God “which is IN Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 8:39). “In Christ” refers to Union with Christ. Once you’re in, you’re in.
But what about those pesky verses that seem to indicate otherwise? Let me mention a handful of them, the ones my friends most commonly ask me about.
“For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.” Hebrews 6:4-6, NKJV.
- Let’s suppose that this verse IS teaching that you can lose your salvation. If so, then it is also teaching that once you lose it, you can’t EVER get it back. It’s “impossible.” I have yet to hear or read a conditional-security teacher who deals effectively with this point. All of them that I know of teach that you can return to the Lord and be saved again. This verse is as much of a problem for them as for us.
- The verb “fall away” is not apostasia (apostasy), but parapipto (stumbling).
- The people here were never saved in the first place. The five descriptors apply to a person who has engaged the gospel, but not fully to the point of salvation. The falling away involves flirting with Jesus and then returning to their first legalistic love: religious self-righteousness. They have dated, and then JILTED Jesus.
- The impact of the jilting is a total disrespect for his sacrificial death. They put him to open shame–meaning, they disrespect the value of his death.
- The Impossibility in question is this: no outside human influence can change their minds and draw them back to Jesus. You can’t. I can’t. But God can.
- To use this verse to undermine very clear statements like Rom 8:38,39 etc., is to needlessly complicate the gospel.
“For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,” Hebrews 10:26, NKJV.
- The sin is singular, not plural. If the conditional-salvation people have their way with this verse, it puts us all on impossibly shaky ground. One sin, and you’re out. And you’re out for good.
- But the sin involved here is not any old sin. It is specific and singular: the sin of understanding the gospel of grace and then rejecting it. That sin.
- If you reject the sacrifice of Jesus, then what other sacrifice for sin do you have to offer? Answer: none.
- This verse is not teaching that you can lose your salvation: it’s teaching that if you don’t have Christ crucified as your only hope, then you don’t have ANYTHING.
““But he who endures to the end shall be saved.” Matthew 24:13, NKJV.
- Context, context, context. The context is Jesus’ sermon regarding the Tribulation and the return of the Lord.
- If this verse teaches conditional-security, then it makes your whole life with God a tightrope walk without a net.
- The word “end” (telos, in Greek) means “finish line” or something like that.
- You always have to ask “what end?” In this case, the finish line is the end of the seven year tribulation, and the salvation is deliverance from physical destruction. Compare this to…
“For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end,” Hebrews 3:14, NKJV.
- Context here includes a comparison. The Jews’ journey from Egypt to the Promised Land is like the seeker’s journey from unbelief to faith in Jesus.
- The word “end” (telos again) is a specific finish line.
- In this case it is the finish line of faith in Jesus as your Savior and only hope. Salvation does not occur until you cross the threshhold of faith, no matter how much you learn, study, debate… no matter how sentimental or emotional you feel. You need an act of the will: a volitional response called FAITH. That is the telos, that is the end, that is the finish line of the PROCESS OF SALVATION.
- And once you reach that finish line, you discover it to be a new starting line: one in which you have become partakers (the verb is in the Greek perfect tense, which indicates an action completed in the past with results that abide into the future) of Christ.
- If a person investigates Jesus and his claims, but never seals the deal with faith, that person was never saved.
“For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them.” 2 Peter 2:20, 21, NKJV.
- Ditto this verse with Heb 6 above.
- These people were never saved in the first place.
- They have knowledge, but it is not saving knowledge of Jesus. They have flirted with Jesus, but never embraced him by faith. They are not saved.
- Their knowledge of Jesus (illuminated by the Holy Spirit) only compounds their guilt and their judgment for not receiving him. Their latter end is worse than their beginning, and their final judgment is more severe.
- The true point of this verse is the danger of substituting any religious work, any philosophical system, or any theological correctness for the substitutionary, sacrificial death of Jesus and all that it has purchased for us. We are redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, and to add anything to that, or to subtract anything from it, or to move away from it conceptually is to distort the gospel, and to merit the judgment of God.
“Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last. So great fear came upon all those who heard these things.” Acts 5:5, NKJV.
- Ananias and Sapphira were husband and wife, a matched set. They sold some property, and brought some of the money to the apostles as a gift to the ministry of the church. So far so good. Their sin was to LIE. They implied that they had brought ALL of their money to the church.
- For this deception, God struck them dead. On the spot. (That would be a good time for the altar call, don’t you think?)
- They were not struck dead for not giving all their money. God did not require that then, and he does not require it now.
- The key passage is: “Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.” 1 Timothy 6:17-19, NKJV. You are not commanded to give it all up, or give it all away. You are commanded to hold your money lightly, to enjoy it, and to honor God.
- The apostles told Ananias and Sapphira: ““While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? ….”” Acts 5:4, NKJV. They didn’t have to give all their money to the church. That was not their sin.
- Their sin was LYING about it: ““While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.”” Acts 5:4, NKJV.
- Neither of them was ever saved in the first place. We know them because a true child of God cannot be filled by Satan. Yet, Peter asked: “But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself?” Acts 5:3, NKJV.
“Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble;” 2 Peter 1:10, NKJV.
- This verse is about genuine believers (brethren).
- It is about post-salvation, grace-induced diligence for a lifestyle worthy of a disciple of Christ.
- Without such a lifestyle, you will stumble. That doesn’t mean lose your salvation. It means to stub your spiritual toe, and hop around swearing for a while.
- It also means loss of reward in heaven, as indicated by the next verse: “for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1:11, NKJV.
This could go on forever. So I’ll stop here. It’s time to go home. But there are some excellent resources on this topic. I like John Ankerburg’s site and the Grace Evangelical Society. I don’t agree with all they say, but they’re strong on this stuff.
Bottom line: either Christ offers a tight-rope or a bridge. Which is it? It is ironic to me that so many Calvinists (perseverance of the saints or else hellfire) teach their doctrine to Christians in a way that is virtually Arminian (you can lose salvation by your own free will). More “scared straight” stuff.
But here’s the amazing thing: GOD USES CHRISTIANS ON BOTH SIDES OF THIS ISSUE in wonderful, remarkable ways. The debate will continue, but I hope that we have Paul’s spirit: Christ is preached, and I rejoice.