Eternal Security – Truth or Error?
Can a Christian lose their salvation? Can one who has been truly saved, born again, and washed in the blood of Jesus, lose their salvation? This has been a question that has plagued theologians for centuries. What does the Bible say about eternal security?
Chuck Smith once said, “We’re eternally secure as long as we’re trusting in Jesus.” At a conference someone asked my mentor and overseer, Dr. Paul E. Paino, if he believed in eternal security? He responded (somewhat in jest), “I believe in it for me, I’m just not sure about you.”
There are two extreme views: Arminianism and Calvinism. Arminianists today take the extreme position our salvation is easily lost whenever we experience failure. As a result, we need to get saved again. I personally believe, if a person gets to the place of losing their salvation that’s it, their heart will be so hardened they won’t even care if they are saved or not. If a person is concerned they have lost their salvation, they probably have not. If one has lost their salvation they won’t care.
Extreme Calvinists go to the opposite end of the spectrum and believe it is impossible to lose one’s salvation no matter what happens. I am convinced we can be secure in our standing with the Lord. I don’t worry over my salvation. I’m confident in my position with and in Jesus. I know I’m saved by grace apart from works. I didn’t do anything to earn my salvation, therefore, I can’t do anything to lose it (Romans 11:6).
Possible but Not Probable
Scripturally, we must admit it’s possible for a person to lose their salvation if they chose to walk away from Christ. However, if a person is truly saved, blood washed, and born again, it’s not very probable. God in His infinite love will go to great lengths before He lets us go that far. He does the following to get us back to Himself: 1. Releases His goodness (Romans 2:4). 2. Conviction (John 16:8-11). 3. Chastening (Hebrews 12:4-8). 4. Take our life (1 Corinthians 5:5; 1 John 5:16).
According to 1 Corinthians 5:5 God can and will “deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” That’s grace. It appears God will, in some cases, take a person’s life before they go so far as to lose their salvation. This one was living in sin and Paul delivered him over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh that his spirit might be saved. Fortunately, according to Paul’s next letter, this man repented.
Two Ways to Lose Your Salvation
We are not saved by anything we do, therefore, can we lose our salvation by something we do? That seems to be self-contradictory. As far as I can see from scripture, there are only two ways a person loses their salvation dependence upon work rather than grace (Galatians 5:4) or rejecting their faith in Christ (Hebrews 10:26).
This context deals with faith and a hardening of one’s heart to the point where they reject their faith in Christ (Hebrews 10:22-24 and 10:38). We are saved by faith apart from anything we do. Therefore, it stands to reason the only way of lose our salvation is to recant our faith. This is not simply a circumstantial denial from one’s lips like that of Peter, but something from the heart that probably comes over a period of time. I don’t claim to fully understand this. The moment I have felt a person has surely gone beyond the brink, lo and behold they returned to the Lord.
Though an individual sin doesn’t cause a person to lose their salvation, a continuous state of sin does have a hardening affect in a persons life and heart. “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:12-13). This context deals with sin resulting in “an evil heart of unbelief” and “hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.”
Hebrews 6:4-6 – “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good Word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.”
Many have used this to point out that believers can easily, through willful sin and rebellion, fall away from the Lord and lose their salvation. According to this passage if we have lost our salvation and the Holy Spirit has ceased to go after us, “it is impossible… to renew them again unto repentance.” Therefore, we’d have to acknowledge, it is impossible for such a one to ever get saved again.
Losing one’s salvation because of backsliding or falling into sin and getting saved again can be a never ending revolving door. A person gets saved, experiences failure, makes it right with the Lord, has another set back, gets saved again and the circle continues. We do not get saved over and over – Get saved, lose our salvation and get saved all over again. We are either saved or we are not.
If you study the context carefully we get an entirely different interpretation and understanding of this passage. “Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection (maturity); not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this will we do, if God permit” (Hebrews 6:1-3).
Context is imperative! According to the context the writer is dealing with going on unto maturity, “let us go on unto perfection” (maturity). And then he says, “not laying again the foundation of repentance.” Let’s use the analogy of a stumbling block. As we’re going through our Christian walk and stumble over something and fall our tendency is to go back and start all over. As a result, we cross that very same stumbling block and trip over it all over again.
If we grasp that we don’t have to lay the foundation of repentance again after failure the narrative completely changes. We trip over something and fall. After falling over the stumbling block we’re on the other side of it. Instead of repenting and trying it all over again, we confess it and move forward, “not laying again the foundation of repentance.”
Instead we press on unto maturity, “forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14). We’re growing as opposed continuing to struggle over the same thing over and over.
Hebrews 10:26 – “If we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remain no more sacrifice for sins.”
If we take this passage out of context there is no hope for any of us because most every sin is done willfully. Therefore, there would be no sacrifice or payment for any of our sins and we would remain without hope and still in our sins. The context of this passage deals with us not losing our faith or rejecting our faith in Christ. We are saved by faith, therefore, the only way we can lose our salvation is to reject faith in Christ.
“Cast not away therefore your confidence, Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, My soul shall have no pleasure in him. But without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 10:35, 38 and Hebrews 11:6).
All I know is that we serve a loving and gracious God Who never gives up on us. “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost” (Romans 15:13).
Two ways of losing our salvation:
- Dependence work rather than grace (Galatians 5:4).
- Rejecting our faith in Christ (Hebrews 10:26).
Find comfort and hope in the following scriptures:
“All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me; and him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37).
“This is the Father’s will which hath sent Me, that of all which He hath given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.” (John 6:39).
“And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand. My Father, which gave them Me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of My Father’s hand” (John 10:28-29).
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For Thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.
Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.
For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35-39).