Is the Believer Eternally Secure?
|A battle has raged in theological circles in the last few decades about
the eternal security of the believer, sometimes called "once saved, always
saved." Let's examine this issue, as usual, only on the basis of what Scripture says
and nothing else. To find and know the truth, we must cast aside whatever preconceptions
we have, whatever teachings we have heard from men, and be prepared to accept God's word
for what it says.
Why should we bother to consider this subject? Isn't it sufficient to simply have a close
relationship with Christ, as a servant of the Lord Jesus, and seek to obey him in all
things? For those who have that, of course that is sufficient. But there are teachings, such
as the "once saved, always saved" doctrine that cause people to claim to be
Christians, pointing with conviction to the day on which they confessed their
faith, but thereafter living as the world, indistinguishable from the world.
In many communities there is a high level of hypocrisy with
"Christians" attending church on Sunday but throughout the week living
lives which rival in wickedness the worst of unbelievers.
Two teachings come immediately to mind which stress the spiritual danger of such beliefs
and actions. Jesus limited entrance into the kingdom when he said, 'Not everyone who
says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven but only he who does the
will of my Father in heaven" (Matthew 7:21).' Paul narrowed the passage into the
kingdom even further when he said, "For those God foreknew he also predestined to be
conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many
brothers" (Romans 8:29). This is not a scripture which states that certain people
are predestined to be saved. It is a scripture which states that God
predestined the qualification for those who will be saved. There is no salvation for
those who do not do the will of God they will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
Salvation is limited to those who are conformed to the likeness of Jesus Christ, God's
Son. The likeness to which all believers can be conformed is the commitment to do the will
of God. See the chapter titled Predestination in this website for a more complete
discussion of this verse.
It does not matter if someone made a sincere confession of faith at some earlier time if
he later does not do the will of God and is not conformed to the likeness of his Son.
God predestined this qualification for all who would be saved. Only those who satisfy
this qualification will be the brothers (and sisters) of the Lord Jesus. Jesus said, 'Who
is my mother, and who are my brothers Pointing to his disciples, he said, Mere are my
mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and
sister and mother" (Matthew 12:48 50).
|WHAT EXPLANATION IS THERE FOR THOSE WHO
|There seems little disagreement that people who have been part of a
Christian fellowship do not always continue as believers. Likely most long time Christians
know examples of people who have left the faith.
Those who believe true believers can never lose their salvation once truly converted
(saved) say that those who do leave the faith were never really saved. That argument is
presumptuous. It requires making a judgment about another's spiritual condition without
knowing the facts. Innumerable people were once considered faithful but, for various
reasons, fell away, sometimes denied the faith and other times became horribly wicked.
Usually those who make this argument say that even though they were once considered
faithful, they really were not saved. Others say that they remain saved, irrespective of
their subsequent actions, infidelity, or denial of the faith.
|A GROUP LEFT JOHN'S FELLOWSHIP
|They often make this argument from Scripture found at 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." That statement by the Apostle John is quoted as support for the
argument that those who leave the faith were never really part of it.
|THE BELIEVER IS SECURE IN CHRIST
Can anyone or any demonic force drag us against our
will from the safety and shelter of our Lord? If we are determined to believe and be
faithful, is there any force in heaven or on earth that can snatch us from our position in
Christ and cause us to be damned? Praise God, the answer is NO! Paul answered that
conclusively for us:
"For 1 am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither
the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in
all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our
Lord (Romans 8:38 39).
The Holy Spirit would not have allowed Paul to write that if it were not true.
Likewise, the Lord Jesus said the same: "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them,
and they follow me. 1 give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can
snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no
one can snatch them out of my Father's hand (John 10:27 29).
End of subject. We are secure. Together, Paul and Jesus have enumerated every external
thing or person or power that we can imagine could come against us. Paul even went further
saying, "nor anything else in all creation," to make sure anything anyone could
imagine would be covered. There is no power in heaven or on earth that can separate us
from the love of God in the Lord Jesus Christ or that can snatch us out of the hand of our
Father or the Lord Jesus! We know that with certainty because Jesus said, "All
authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me" (Matthew 28:18).
Though there has been little physical, religious persecution in America, in much of the
world Christians are subject to great persecution and even slaughter. That would seem to
put in question the prior statements about our security in Christ. But no, just the
opposite. Paul taught us: "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.
And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you
are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it (1
Corinthians 10: 13).
We may wonder how that can be when we read of the thousands upon thousands of committed
believers who were slaughtered by the Roman Catholic Church. Many were slowly burned to
death at the stake. Yet, they kept the faith and would not deny their Lord and his word.
Often the victim would be offered, even pleaded with, to renounce his views and save his
life. But these early martyrs knew that Jesus said, "Whoever wants to save his life
will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it." Yes, they traded their
earthly life for eternal life. Paul, not knowing whether he would live or die while
imprisoned in Rome said, "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain"
The great temptation at the end of the age will be to deny Christ and accept the mark of
the beast. Jesus said many will recant the faith (Matthew 24:10) but that will be their
choice. God will not permit a temptation even one to deny the faith to come against us
that we are not able to bear. If (or when) we face torture or execution for our faith, we
can remember with assurance, "Our Lord Jesus knows we can face this and not succumb
to the temptation to deny him."
|Was John giving us a spiritual principle? 1 don't think so. He was simply
reciting a fact about something that had actually happened in his church. Through
spiritual discernment he was able to say "they did not really belong to us." As
additional evidence for that he states that they would have remained had they belonged.
Who these people were we can only speculate. It may have been a group that came into
John's fellowship together.
They may have already had some exposure to the Christian faith or they may have been
inquirers. It seems likely they stuck together and fashioned doctrines opposed to true
faith in Christ. They may have been trying to spread these false doctrines within John's
The issue that caused these people to leave must have been very fundamental to the faith
as John called them antichrists ...... ..(1 John 2:18) a very harsh characterization. If
these had been people who had fallen away from the faith, he surely wouldn't have used
John stated that if they had been part of the fellowship "they would have remained
with us." Doesn't this support the once saved, always saved doctrine? At first blush
it seems to, if John is saying that everyone will remain who is truly saved. But is that
what John was saying? People who tend to fall away from the faith tend to do so
individually, not in groups. It is usually the introduction of a different doctrine or
heresy that will cause a group to leave. This was a group of people that left
John was speaking about something that must have been widely known because he didn't
bother to clarify it further or further identify the group which left. He may have spoken
of it because of the rumour of a church split, so he may have made this statement to
clarify or quash the rumour. His language made clear that this wasn't a mere difference of
opinion about doctrine; these people were found to be antichrists and that's why they
|THE SCRIPTURAL CALL TO PERSEVERANCE
1. Throughout the New Testament there is a constant call for perseverance in the faith.
That call can only make sense if it is possible not to persevere. Otherwise it becomes an
Let's look at scriptures that emphasize the need to persevere to be saved and that tell
what happens if one doesn't persevere:
"Now, brothers, 1 want to remind you of the gospel 1 preached to you, which you
received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if
you hold firmly to the word 1 preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain"
(1 Corinthians 15:1- 2). This passage should be clear to all without ambiguity. Paul is
writing to a believers who accepted Paul's gospel. Hopefully we agree that Paul had the
gospel right. He did not preach error.
In this passage, Paul is writing to believers he calls them brothers. These people had
received Paul's gospel; they had taken their stand on that gospel. Paul assures the
believers that they are saved if they hold firmly to that gospel. But then he states
clearly, "Otherwise, you have believed in vain." He did not say that if they
didn't persevere they had never believed. No, he said if they didn't persevere they had
believed in vain.
11. A similar teaching by Paul is found at Colossians 1:21- 23:
"Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil
behaviour. But now he [God] has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to
present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation if you continue in
your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is
the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and
of which 1, Paul, have become a servant."
This marvellous passage is a statement of the gospel. Again Paul writes to believers:
"He has reconciled you ... to present you holy in his sight . But then, again, the
qualification: "if you continue in your faith, established and firm,
not moved from the hope
|held out in the gospel." Paul goes on to say this is the gospel he
taught them his gospel. His gospel included the qualification that the believer must
persevere to be saved. John's teaching was similar: "See that what you have heard
from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in
the Son and in the Father" (1 John 2:24).
111. The writer to the Hebrews wrote in many passages the essential requirement of
persevering in the faith. In the first one, he describes a believer who experienced
everything God offers to the believer:
It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly
gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God
and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance,
because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him
to public disgrace" (Hebrews 6:4- 6).
The writer described an enlightened believer who tasted the heavenly gift, received the
Holy Spirit, and knew the goodness of the word of God. Nevertheless, the writer recognized
that sometimes even such a person falls away. His warning is severe. He states that if
such a person falls away he can never come back a fearful thought! The author is not
saying such a person cannot fall away; he implies they can. In one of the severest
warnings in Scripture, he warns that such cannot come back to the faith.
IV. The author warns again at Hebrews 10:26- 27:
If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no
sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire
that will consume the enemies of God.
At Hebrews 6:4- 6 the author speaks of others. In this passage he includes himself He
says, If we . . . " There can be no doubt that he is speaking to believers as we can
safely assume he is one. He speaks of a person who has received the knowledge of the
truth, not just heard it or not just exposed to it. No, someone who actually received it a
believer. Here the author is reinforcing the need for a changed life for those who are
believers, that they must give up a life of sin, that they must be holy. If they
deliberately refuse and continue in sin, they face only judgment and raging fire.
The author makes it clear this is not the discipline for "sons" he later
describes in Hebrews 12. No, this is punishment judgment and raging fire that will consume
the enemies of God. No believer is subject to that. The author continues to reinforce that
teaching at the end of the chapter as he speaks of the righteous:
`But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, 1 will not be pleased
with him.' But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who
believe and are save& (Hebrews 10: 38-39).
He states the principle we know to be true. The righteous will live by faith. But what if
the righteous no longer live by faith? The writer continues with God's response: If he
shrinks back, 1 will not be pleased with him." The author then contrasts those who
shrink back with those who believe. Those who shrink back are destroyed, those
who believe are saved. The one who shrank back and was destroyed had been a
believer, one God described as his "righteous one."
V. Peter spoke to the same subject. He was speaking against false teachers who mouth
empty, boastful words and appeal to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, and who
entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error, promising them freedom,
while they themselves are slaves of depravity - for a man is a slave to whatever has
mastered him .............. ....(2 Peter 2:18-29). Then Peter describes the fate of people
who are seduced by false teachers:
If they have escaped the corruption of the world by
knowing our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they
are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for
them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn
their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are
true: 'A dog returns to its vomit,' and, 'A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing
in the mud` (2 Peter 2:21- 23).
He begins by describing a true believer one who has escaped the corruption of the world by
knowing our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Continuing, Peter recognizes that some again
become entangled in the world, and overcome. Their final condition, he says, is worse than
if they had never known about Christ.
This explanation prohibits the interpretation that this person is just a believer who is
being disciplined by God, but who is really saved. How could any believer be worse off
than if he had never known of Christ? The end of those without Christ is hell. It appears
the punishment in hell is greater for those who have not persevered, who have proved
unfaithful after once having known and been in the faith. Peter concludes his letter with
the further warning: "Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on
your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from
your secure position,' (2 Peter 3:17).
Peter recognizes that our position in Christ is secure, just as we saw as we began this
study. But he says we can fall from our secure position which agrees with the previous
scriptures. He warns us to be on guard. He knows that we can be carried away by the error
of lawless men.
VI. Notice how similar is the teaching of Jesus. He contrasts two servants, one who is
faithful and perseveres, another who tires and falls away:
'Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the
servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for
that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. I tell you the truth, he
will put him in charge of all his possessions.
"But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, 'My master is staying away a
long time,' and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with
drunkards. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and
at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the
hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matthew 24:45-51).
Note first that both are servants. Both began in the faith serving the Lord. Both are
servants with responsible positions in charge of others. Jesus commends the first and
assures he will be rewarded for his faithfulness. Not so with the second servant. It
didn't matter that he had once been so faithful that he was promoted to a position of
responsibility. It only mattered that when the master came back the servant was not
fulfilling the duties assigned to him. Instead he was abusing those in his charge and
engaging in a licentious life style.
Note the severity of the punishment. It is more severe than in any other parable told by
Jesus. Is it because he was an overseer of others? (See James 3:1). He was "cut to
pieces" and consigned to hell with the hypocrites.
VII. Jesus taught that there are people (branches) who will be in him (the vine), but who
will produce no fruit. He said God will cut off such branches (John 15:2) (people) and
throw them into the fire! He said it this way:
If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such
branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned" (John 15:6).
This passage is interpreted very differently by those who claim the doctrine of once
saved, always saved. But for those who do not start with that predisposition, the passage
is plain. The difference in this passage from prior passages is that the believer must
produce fruit. If he does not, he will be cut off. In prior passages we've seen that same
result for those who deliberately continue to sin or who are once again entangled in the
Jesus taught a parallel teaching in the parable of
the talents (Matthew 25:14 - 30). You remember that each servant was given a different
number of talents to invest before the master left on a journey. Most did well, doubling
the amounts entrusted to them. One servant did not. He was given a talent but buried his
talent in the ground, offering it back to his master when he returned. In the parable of
the vine and the branches, the branch (the believer) was given the life giving sap from
the vine but did not use it to produce fruit. In both parables, the servant accomplished
nothing with what was given him.
The end is the same for each. Jesus said of the servant who wasted his talent: "Throw
that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and
gnashing of teeth" (Matthew 25:30).
These two parables show punishment and damnation for not producing fruit, not using that
given to us by God to produce gain for the Kingdom. Is this what Paul referred to when he
said, We are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God
prepared in advance for us to do?" (Ephesians 2:10). If so, it would be a case of
disobedience, refusing (or failing) to do that which we were commanded to do, which God
prepared in advance for us to do.
A further corroboration is found in the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:3 -8, Mark 4:3-
8, and Luke 8:5 -8). The seed was sown on four kinds of soil. Only one of the soils
produced a crop. Of that soil, Jesus explained, "The one who received the seed that
fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop,
yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown" (Matthew 13:23). The true
believer perseveres and produces fruit, a crop, according to what God has given him to do.
What about the other three soils? Two of those are material to this study. The first is
not. Of the first Jesus said that the seed sown on the path is like a person who hears the
message but does not understand it; the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in
his heart (Matthew 13:19). The second, seed sown on rocky soil, represents a person who
hears the word and receives it with joy. He becomes a new believer. But since he has no
root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word,
he quickly falls away (Matthew 13:20-21). He didn't persevere. The third is one where the
seed was sown among thorns. He also hears the word, but the worries of this life and the
deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful (Matthew 13:22).
Of the four soils which received the seed, only one persevered and produced fruit. The
second and third, though receiving the seed hearing the word failed to persevere. Those
who produce no fruit may be disobeying the will of God by failing to do those good works
which God prepared in advance for us to do" (Ephesians 2: 10).
From the foregoing scriptures we see that bearing fruit for the kingdom is important.
Could we actually lose our salvation because we failed or refused to do those good works
which God prepared in advance for us to do? Perhaps that is a form of rebellion against
|CAN SOMEONE WHO LEFT THE FAITH COME BACK?
|We've seen one example - Hebrews 6:4- 6 where the writer said,
"No! He cannot." That seems to be where a believer experienced all that God had
for him and still turned away.
One of the arguments of those who claim once saved, always saved, is that people cannot be
born again and then unborn, and then born again, etc. But theirs is an argument of man.
God said, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my
ways," declares the Lord. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my
ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:8 -9).
What does God say in his Scripture?
Paul assured the Romans that it is possible to repent and come back to the faith. This
discussion is found in Romans 11. He spoke of believers as branches of an olive tree where
Jesus is the root and trunk. He first told of the Jews (branches) who were broken off and
the Gentiles (wild olive shoots) grafted in. He said those branches (the Jews) were broken
off because of
|unbelief, and you (the Gentile believers) stand by faith. Then Paul's
warning: "Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. For if God did not spare the natural
branches, he will not spare you either" (Romans 11:20 -21).
Is that clear? Paul is telling Gentile believers who stand by faith to be afraid, that if
they fall into unbelief they will be broken off just as the Jews had. Then Paul's call to
perseverance and further warning: "Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of
God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his
kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off' (Romans 11:22). But then Paul gives the
good news, that those who did fall away because of unbelief could regain their faith and
their place in the kingdom:
'And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft
them in again" (Romans 11:23).
Is that a lone exception in Scripture, that a person who left the faith can come back? Not
at all. The entire book of Galatians concerns a church that has strayed into false
teaching by the Judaizers. Paul urges them to reject that false teaching and come back to
the faith. He tells them, I fear for you, that somehow 1 have wasted my efforts on
you" (Gal. 4: 11).
Can they come back? Paul says, 'My dear children, for whom 1 am again in the pains of
childbirth until Christ is formed in you . . . " (Galatians 4:19). Paul wants them to
be born again, again! Were they ever true believers? Indeed they were. Paul describes
their early state: They received the Spirit, began with the Spirit, God gave his Spirit
and worked miracles among them (Galatians 3:2- 5).
Doesn't this conflict with Hebrews 6:4- 6 which states that once a believer who has
experienced all God offers and falls away cannot come back? It first appears to. The
passages can be distinguished, however, by why the former believer falls away. If the
person falls away through unbelief, or because he falls prey to false doctrine, he can
come back to the faith upon realizing his error and repenting. The Hebrews 6:4- 6, 10:26-
27, and 2 Peter 2:18- 29 must refer to those who deliberately choose to continue in
sin or who love the world and choose to go back into it.
|IS SALVATION CONDITIONAL?
|Of course it is! Everyone should know that unless a person has a saving
faith they will not be saved. That is a condition: A saving faith. Consider other
conditional statements: If you obey my commands, you will remain in my
love, just as 1 have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love (John 15: 10); You
are my friends if you do what 1 command .........(John 15:14); We have
come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we
had at first ........ ...............................(Hebrews 3:14).
In passages reviewed earlier, Paul also conditioned salvation upon perseverance: "By
this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word 1 preached to
you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain" (1 Corinthians 15:1- 2). And, " if
you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the
gospel (Colossians 1:22).
Peter agreed. In 2 Peter he began with an exhortation to the believers to make every
effort to add to their faith goodness, knowledge, self control, perseverance, godliness,
brotherly kindness and love (2 Peter 1:5- 7). He continued,
"For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will
keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus
Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind,
and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. Therefore, my brothers, be
all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do
these things you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal
kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1: 8 -11).
|Likewise with obedience: Jesus said, "If you love
me, you will obey what 1 command; And 1 will ask the Father, and he will give you another
Counsellor to be with you forever" (John 14:15 -16). Imagine that statement! If
we love Jesus, we will obey him. If we love and obey him, he
will ask the Father to give us the Holy Spirit. Is he saying that only those who commit to
obey him receive the Holy Spirit? Consider the corroboration given by Peter: We are
witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who
obey him" (Acts 5:32). Is even salvation linked to obedience?...... Consider
Hebrews 5:9: "He [Christ] became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey
|WHAT ABOUT THE END-TIMES?
|Many people, including this writer, believe we are likely in the end
times of the world as we know it. Jesus specifically discussed this period in Matthew 24.
Consider what he said:
"At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other,
and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of
wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be
save& (Matthew 24: 10-11).
Jesus is describing the great falling away that is to take place in the end times. We
already can see it as we look around in Christendom. The old established churches are
growing cold; many people are falling away. Yet God is doing a new work in others,
bringing many to salvation.
|IS THE 20TH CENTURY DIFFERENT?
|In the Apostolic Age the gospel was fresh and new, told by those who had
been taught by Jesus. If it were possible for people to fall away from the faith then,
though they had been believers, how is it that many in 20th century Christendom claim that
once a person has made a sincere confession of faith he cannot be lost?
Are we so much different or better? Has God changed? Scripture says, Jesus Christ is the
same yesterday and today and forever (Heb. 13:8).
|FROM THE AUTHOR OF HEBREWS
|The author of Hebrews was concerned about the perseverance of the new
Christians. Chapters 2 and 3 have many warnings about falling away. I feel a sense of
urgency as he warns:
We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not
drift away. For if the message spoken by angels was binding, and every violation and
disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore such a great
salvation?" (Hebrews 2:1- 3).
The writer is writing to Christians people in the faith. But he acknowledges that they can
drift away. Lest someone misunderstand, he makes sure the reader understands that he is
talking about salvation, not simply rewards or punishment. He implies that the punishment
for drifting away will be the punishment due those without salvation.
Next he establishes that our salvation is conditional: "But Christ is faithful as a
son over God's house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage
and the hope of which we boast (Hebrews 3:6). Note again the emphasis on perseverance.
He's speaking to Christians but states that Christians who hold on to their courage and
hope are part of God's house. Those who do not hold on are not!
Finally, the writer establishes that a Christian can develop a sinful, unbelieving heart
that can be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. He wrote:
|"See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving
heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as
long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. We
have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the
confidence we had at first" (Hebrews 3:12 -14).
Again the condition. We Christians share in Christ if we hold firmly till
the end the confidence we had at first. Note the parallel with Jesus' letter to the Church
at Ephesus where he admonishes that they have forsaken their first love. "You have
forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do
the things you did at first. If you do not repent, 1 will come to you and
remove your lampstand from its place" (Revelation 2:4 -5).
The writer makes clear that Christians can become hardened by sin and turn away from God.
If that were to happen, such a person would no longer share in Christ; such a person has
|ISRAEL - FINALLY LOST THOUGH EARLIER
|One of the great stories of the Old Testament is of the Israelites being
rescued from Egypt by God under the leadership of Moses. God's mighty power was manifest
as he smote Egypt with plague after plague, culminating with the plague of the death of
the firstborn of every house that did not have the blood of a lamb put on the top and both
sides of the doorframe.
We now know that the salvation of Israel from Egypt was a type of the salvation which
Christ would bring. Just as the firstborn were spared by the blood of a lamb without
blemish when its blood was put on the doorframe, so we are spared if we are cleansed with
the blood of the perfect lamb of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, who was sacrificed for our
sins on the cross. Israel was redeemed from slavery in Egypt just as Christ redeems us
from slavery to sin.
At that point we sometimes stop our analysis of Israel as a type representing the
Christian believer. But the analogy can be continued. The author of Hebrews explains it to
us: "Who were those who were redeemed from Egypt by God's mighty outstretched hand?
Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt?'' (Hebrews 3:16). They all
received God's salvation from slavery in Egypt. Not only that, these same people
were beneficiaries of many miracles as God protected them in the desert. First he parted
the Red Sea so they could escape the Egyptians who were pursuing them. Then he
supernaturally provided manna as their daily food. When they were without water, he
supernaturally provided water from a rock! When they complained about lack of meat he
Not only had these people been saved by God, they witnessed the continuing power of God
through those miracles. It is the same with Christians today who have been redeemed, born
again and cleansed from sin, and who frequently see God's divine hand providing and
The Israelites had even more. They were led by a cloud of fire. They knew when to move and
when to stay according to when the cloud moved or stayed. Christians today have God's
word, the Bible, and God's Holy Spirit to instruct them whether to move or stay.
The Israelites had the incredible experience of Mount Sinai when Moses went up into the
mountain and obtained the law the ten commandments from God. They saw light radiating from
him after he had been in the presence of God. Even so, as Christians, we have the
occasional mountain top experience with God, powerfully experiencing his love and power
But the Israelites back slid. When Moses was up on Mount Sinai for 40 days and 40 nights,
the people became impatient. They prevailed upon Aaron to make a golden calf which they
worshipped. Imagine! After all they had experienced from God the miracles in Egypt, the
deliverance in the desert, the supernatural provision of food and water they went back to
Egyptian idol worship.
|The same is sometimes true with Christians. Though they had a true
salvation experience, they have a relapse, go back into the world and abandon their faith
in God through the Lord Jesus Christ. But just as God forgave Israel, so God will forgive
the Christian who repents and renews his vows to trust and obey Jesus Christ as his Lord.
|CAN ONE REBEL AND BE LOST FOREVER?
|The analogy with Israel and the Christian can be continued directly from
Scripture. The purpose of the Israelites' trek across the desert was to get to Canaan, the
land flowing with milk and honey, the hope they had since leaving Egypt, the destination
God promised them. Similarly, the Christian leaves Egypt the world with the hope of one
day getting to heaven, the place of rest God has promised for those who believe in follow
and obey his Son.
The ultimate disobedience of Israel occurred as they were about to enter the promised
land. Suddenly they believed the report of giants in the land and were afraid. Why were
they afraid? Because they lacked faith in God. They rejected the God that delivered them,
that provided for them and protected them. When it came to a new venture, entering the
promised land, they feared the giants instead of trusting God. God's response to their
lack of faith is given by the author of Hebrews:
"Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of
Egypt? And with whom was he [God] angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned,
whose bodies fell in the desert? And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his
rest if not to those who disobeyed? So we see that they were not able to enter, because of
their unbelief' (Hebrews 3:16-19).
God was angry with them because of their sins of unbelief and disobedience. How angry? He
swore they would never enter his rest. You know the rest of the story. God turned them
away from Canzan and forced them to wander in the wilderness another 40 years until all
the adults that had left Egypt died in the wilderness (except Joshua and Caleb who were
faithful and trusted the Lord).
How many "Christians", 1 wonder, are the same as the Israelites who refused to
enter Canaan? How many fear the world, the enemies of God, or death itself? How can a true
Christian fear when he is a servant of the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the Son of
God who has been given all power and authority in heaven and on earth? All powers are in
subjection to him. Nevertheless, some "Christians" who have had a true salvation
experience, like the Israelites, turn back to the world and abandon their faith in God.
What of the person who claims a saving faith but fears death?
Is this a reasonable analogy the Israelites about to enter the promised land and the
Christian who has the hope of entering heaven and the presence of God? That is for you to
decide. God called Canaan the Israelites' promised land "his rest". Isn't the
Christians' promised rest in heaven? The writer to the Hebrews makes the analogy between
the Israelites and Christians himself
"Let us [Christians], therefore, make every effort to enter that rest [heaven], so
that no one will fall by following their [Israelites] example of disobedience
[unbelief]" " (Hebrews 4: 11).
Almost an entire people the Israelites were once saved but then lost. How then can people
say today that if a person is once saved he can never be lost? Jude spoke of the same
"Though you already know all this, 1 want to remind you that the Lord delivered his
people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe" (Jude 1:5).
As we saw in Hebrews, disbelief is sin. God judged them for sin, for disobedience, and for
unbelief They are all related. The person who believes will make every effort not to sin
and to be obedient. Those efforts are the evidence of a true faith. In spite of all this
evidence, there are those who will say, "They were never saved, they never believed,
they were always sinful and disobedient. That's why God judged them.
|Lest one take that argument seriously, Jude continued with an analogy
that cannot be misunderstood: "And the angels who did not keep their positions of
authority but abandoned their own home these he has kept in darkness, bound with
everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day" (Jude 1:6).
Would these same people say that the angels were never true servants of God? Jude says
they had positions of authority. They were faithful to God until Satan tempted them and
caused a third of the angels to "abandon their own home" and follow his false
promises. God is now holding them for judgment.
|CAN THE RIGHTEOUS BECOME UNRIGHTEOUS IN
|The premise of the eternal security advocate is that once one has been
redeemed and is clothed with the righteousness of Christ that he can never lose that
secure position. God made sure we had a very clear passage to disabuse us of such
thinking. It comes from the Old Testament prophet Ezekiel. One can guess that an eternal
security argument was being made in the time of Ezekiel by those who had once followed God
but now were living in sin. They may have been speaking of their past righteousness and
obedience and claiming that they were in right standing with God because of their past
faithfulness. What do you suppose God said to that argument? First God deals with the
issue of repentance, of turning from sin and turning to God. Ezekiel relates to us the
words of God:
"But if a wicked man turns away from all the sins he has committed and keeps all my
decrees and does what is just and right, he will surely live. he will not die. None of the
offences he has committed will be remembered against him. Because of the righteous things
he has done, he will live. Do 1 take any pleasure in the death of the wicked?"
declares the Sovereign LORD. "Rather, am 1 not pleased when they
turn from their ways and live?" (Ezekiel 18:21-23. See similarity in 2 Peter 3:9).
But then God deals with the opposite case, the righteous man who has become wicked. Again,
"But if a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits sin and does the
same detestable things the wicked man does, will he live? None of the righteous things
he has done will be remembered. Because of the unfaithfulness he is guilty of and
because of the sins he has committed, he will die" (Ezekiel 18:24).
Just the opposite result, isn't it? Repent and live, apostatize and die! Unbelievably, the
Israelites gave the same argument to God the eternal security advocates claim today who
say God would be unjust to damn a person who was once a believer. The Israelites also
said, "The way of the Lord is not just (Ezekiel 18:25. See also 18:29).
God responded: Hear, 0 house of Israel: Is my way unjust? Is it not your ways that are
unjust?" (Ezekiel 18:25). That same response is appropriate for those who today claim
one can never be lost if once saved. God continued, reinforcing what he had previously
"If a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits sin, he will die for it;
because of the sin he has committed he will die. But if a wicked man turns away from the
wickedness he has committed and does what is just and right, he will save his life.
Because he considers all the offences he has committed and turns away from them, he will
surely live; he will not die" ... ..(Ezekiel 18:26-28).
Note how similar these scriptures are to the New Testament scriptures we've already
reviewed, particularly those in the book of Hebrews (Review Hebrews 6:4-6, 10:26, and
10:39). After giving them these truths, God exhorted the children of Israel. Consider his
words as if to the 20th century church:
"Therefore, 0 house of Israel [0 Church], 1 will judge you, each one according to his
ways, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent! Turn away from all your offences; then sin will
not be your downfall. Rid yourselves of all the offences you have committed, and get a new
heart and a new spirit. Why will you die,
|0 house of Israel [0 Church]? For 1 take no pleasure in the death of
anyone," declares the Sovereign LORD. "Repent and live!" (Ezekiel
Yes, the message is as appropriate today as it was for the house of Israel. There are many
among us who claim God would be unjust if once one is saved he can ever fall into
perdition. The church has absorbed the world to the extent it is now worldly rather than
sanctified (set apart from the world). Indeed, we need a new heart and a new spirit the
Holy Spirit that Jesus said will be given to those who obey him (John 14:15, Acts 5:32).
Just as God said, "Repent and live," Jesus' first recorded command is,
"Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near" (Matthew 3:2). We who claim to be
his followers would do well to obey his command. Let us repent of our evil ways, our evil
doctrines, and follow him as our Lord and Master.
|BLOT OUT FROM THE BOOK OF LIFE
|Most Christians are likely aware that in order to be saved, a person must
have his name written in the Lamb's book of life. Speaking of the last judgment, the
Apostle John wrote, "If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he
was thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15). This is the place where the devil was
thrown, along with the beast and the false prophet (Revelation 20:10).
Most serious students of Scripture are aware of the Lord's admonition to the church at
Sardis (Revelation 3:1-6). In it, Jesus speaks of the few people who have not soiled their
clothes, who will walk with him, dressed in white, for they are worthy. Then he says the
general statement, "He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. 1 will
never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his
name before my Father and his angels" (Revelation 3:5).
Remarkably, there are those who say, "Jesus said he will never blot the person's name
from the book of life. That does not mean that there are others whose name he will blot
from the book of life." Such an interpretation assumes Jesus is just suggesting a
possibility that will not or can not exist, not meaning what he is saying.
Besides a straightforward reading and understanding of the prior passage, an incident with
Moses removes the possibility of such a misunderstanding. The setting is in the desert
when Moses has come down from the mountain from a time with God. God warned Moses that the
people had become corrupt, that they had cast their gold in the form of an idol to worship
it. God threatened to destroy the people. Moses interceded for the people and God
relented. Moses punished the people, then went back up the mountain to intercede again for
them before God. He said, "But now, please forgive their sin but if not, then blot
me out of the book you have written" (Exodus 32:32).
The Lord replied to Moses, "Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my
book" (Exodus 32:33). God has said he will blot out of his book those who sin against
him. That is exactly the circumstance to which Jesus spoke to the church at Sardis. It was
a church which thought itself alive. Jesus said it was dead. He called them to remember
what they received and heard; obey it and repent (Revelation 3:3).
|PASTOR TO PASTOR
people in the same vocation talk to each other about their profession, they speak
differently than they do to those outside their vocation. Doctors talk to each other in
their own language about their unique concerns. The same is true with lawyers, dentists,
architects, farmers, bricklayers, coal miners, factory workers, and pastors.
Only a pastor can truly empathize with the hopes and heartbreaks of another pastor. Only
he can understand the needs, the problems, the discouragements another pastor faces. As
pastors share with one another, they can uniquely encourage each other.
|PAUL SHARES WITH TIMOTHY
|It was that kind of situation when Paul wrote to Timothy. Not only was
Timothy another pastor, he was brought into the ministry by Paul and trained by him. Thus
their past relationship helped them communicate. It was only to Timothy and Titus both
pastors that Paul told the requirements for deacons, overseers, and elders in the church
(1 Tim. 3:1-13, Titus 1:6-9).
Timothy had a special relationship with Paul Paul called him his son. Doubtless he felt
like his father in the faith. He knew Timothy was somewhat frail of health, and that he
was young considering his responsibilities. So he spoke in more detail with Timothy about
their work and the condition of the people they served than he did with others.
|SPIRITUAL CONDITION OF THE PEOPLE
|Paul began by reciting real problems in the church, that certain people
were teaching false doctrines, devoting themselves to myths and endless genealogies. He
reminded Timothy that these promote controversy rather than God's work which is by faith.
He told Timothy to command such people to stop such false teachings. He explained,
"The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good
conscience and a sincere faith. Some have wandered away from these and turned to
meaningless talk" (1 Timothy 1:5-6).
Here Paul speaks of people who have had a sincere faith and wandered away from it. Paul
reminded Timothy why he was giving him further instructions, "so that by following
them you may fight the good fight, holding on to faith and a good conscience. Some have
rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith" (1 Timothy 1: 18-19).
When Paul enumerated the requirements for overseers, he commanded: "He must not be a
recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the
devil" (1 Timothy 3:6). This is a most valuable statement to controvert the
false doctrine of "eternal security." Paul admits the person is a convert,
not just someone who appears to be. Even more than that, he must be a person showing
leadership ability and desire to serve. Paul knows that maturity in the faith is necessary
so that such a person does not become prideful by being given authority too quickly. Paul
demolishes the notion of many false teachers of the eternal security doctrine that such a
person will simply lose rewards but not his salvation. Paul says the fate of such a
person is the same as the devil to be thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 20: 10).
Paul later discussed the various groups of people in the church and how Timothy should act
toward each group. When he discussed young widows he shared special insight that applies
to our subject matter:
"As for younger widows, do not put them on such a list. For when their sensual
desires overcome their dedication to Christ, they want to marry. Thus they bring judgment
on themselves, because they have broken their first pledge. Besides, they get into the
habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become
idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying things they ought not to. So 1 counsel
younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no
opportunity for slander. Some have in fact already turned away to follow Satan"
.......... ...........(1 Timothy 5:11-15).
Paul does not suggest that these young widows were not once true Christians. He speaks of
their dedication to Christ. But the desires of the flesh and bad habits can lead to a
sinful life. Paul said he knows of instances where they left their dedication to Christ to
follow Satan. Paul also warned about those eager to become wealthy. "For the love of
money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from
the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs" ............... ........(1
Timothy 6: 10).
Paul shared his prophetic insight into the future: "The Spirit clearly says that in
later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and
things taught by demons" (1 Timothy 4: 1). Only a person who has something can
abandon it. Paul sees through the Spirit that believing Christians will leave the faith
for false doctrines.
|Knowing the need to remain true to the faith, Paul urged Timothy:
"Be diligent in these matters, give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see
your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if
you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers" (1 Timothy 4:15-16). Surely
Paul knew that Timothy was a true believer. Nevertheless, he felt it necessary to remind
him that he must persevere in the faith in order to be saved.
A final warning closed Paul's first letter: "Timothy, guard what has been entrusted
to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely
called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the
faith. Grace be with you" (1 Timothy 6:21-22).
Perhaps there has never been a time in history equal to the information age in which we
live. If ever there were "opposing ideas" it is now. Darwin's Theory of
Evolution is such false knowledge. Without any scientific evidence (fossils) of
intermediate types ¬which are necessary if evolution were true the schools, the
government, and the world advance this creation denying doctrine in opposition to God.
Many in the church have embraced this false doctrine. Have they wandered from the faith?
|PAUL'S SECOND LETTER
|Imprisoned and expecting to die, Paul recites to Timothy what has
happened to him. After encouraging him in the faith, he shared with him a disappointment:
"You know that everyone in the province of Asia has deserted me, including Phygelus
and Hermogenes" (2 Timothy 1: 15).
Needing Timothy's company, Paul urged: "Do your best to come to me quickly, for
Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica" (2
Timothy 4:9-10). In order to understand the gravity of the charge against Demas, it is
necessary to understand what it means spiritually to love this world. The Apostle John
explained that if anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in
him (1 John 2:15). James spoke even more strongly: "You adulterous people, don't
you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses
to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God' (James 4:4).
Did Paul suggest that Demas had never been a true believer? No. Is it reasonable to
suggest that a person with Paul's spiritual discernment would not know if Demas was just
putting on a show, a spiritual front? No. But the pull of the world was greater than the
thought of remaining faithful to Christ and staying with a friend who was imprisoned and
sentenced to die. According to James, Demas became an enemy of God.
Speaking about those who engage in godless chatter, Paul warned: "Their teaching will
spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have wandered away
from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they
destroy the faith of some" (2 Timothy 2:17-18). Again Paul names specific people
who have left the faith. He goes further, saying their false teachings have caused others
to lose their faith. Never does Paul say that these were people who were never really in
the faith. Rather they are people who were in the faith, but who left the faith, who
wandered away from the truth, and who destroyed the faith of others.
|A MISINTERPRETED SAYING
|Finally, Paul gives Timothy a trustworthy saying: "If we died with
him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown
him, he will also disown us; if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot
disown himself' (2 Timothy 2:11-13). Consistent with his other writings, but gravely
misinterpreted in the 20th century, Paul recites truths of the faith. But those advocating
eternal security must twist the obvious. They may say, "If we once died with Christ
in a sincere confession of faith or through baptism we will also live with him. There's
the promise!" But Scripture says we are daily...... ............. (Luke 9:23) to die
to self and sin. It is not a one time event.
|Perseverance is a constant theme of Paul's letters, that if we endure we
will reign with him. Then the obvious truth, though disavowed by eternal security
advocates: "If we disown him, he will also disown us." They may say
that can only refer to unbelievers, those who were never really in the faith. But that
flies in the face of experience. Likely anyone mature in the faith has known initially
enthusiastic Christians who later wandered from the faith, began to love the world, and
finally disowned Christ and Christianity.
Even the last portion of the saying is misinterpreted: "If we are faithless, he will
remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself " The eternal security proponent
gleefully says, "See! Here's the proof Even though I'm unfaithful, he will be
faithful. No matter what 1 do, 1 can't lose my salvation." But that's not what the
passage says. It says God will remain faithful, he cannot disown himself, it does not say
he cannot disown the one time believer. It does not matter if we are faithful or not
faithful. God is faithful. To what is he faithful? Is it to man's idea that if we ever
once made a sincere commitment to him that he would thereafter remain faithful to save us
to take us to heaven? Not at all. The passage says God is faithful to himself, to his
character, to his word. Being faithful is part of God's character.
God is always faithful to his word. His word says that grave judgment will befall those
who do not persevere to the end. The writer to the Hebrews stated: "If we
deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no
sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire
that will consume the enemies of God" ........ ............... (Hebrews 10:26-27).
The writer reminds us, "It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living
God" ................ (Hebrews 10:31).
|We have seen many links between loss of salvation and continuing in sin.
Don't we expect salvation to be based on our faith? How is it, then, that this author
frequently tells us that if we keep on sinning, we will be treated and punished as an
enemy of God? Hopefully you agree that no Christian will expect judgment and the raging
fire reserved for God's enemies.
The key to this is found in the second section of What the Bible Says About A Saving Faith
. There it is explained that faith a saving faith is outwardly manifested (made evident)
by obedience and good works. Remember, obedience and good works are not done to
earn salvation. Salvation is a free gift. Nothing we can do can earn it. But everyone who
is saved has qualified for that salvation by having a saving faith. They will be noted for
their obedience and good works, most notably, their love for one another the evidence of a
saving faith. If one deliberately keeps on sinning, it is obvious to God and to man that
such a person no longer has a saving faith, even though he may have once had such a faith.
In law, a writing describing an event which is written very close to the time of the event
is given great weight. In view of that, let us close with a writing from Clement of Rome
(approx. 30-100 AD.), who was not a writer of Scripture but a contemporary of the
Apostles. As a contemporary, he knew the beliefs of the Apostles and early Christians. He
speaks to this subject:
"Let us, then not only call Him Lord, for that will not save us. For He saith, Not
everyone that saith to Me, Lord, Lord, shall be saved, but he that worketh righteousness.'
Wherefore, brethren, let us confess Him by our works, by loving one another, by not
committing adultery, or speaking evil of one another, or cherishing envy, but being
continent, compassionate, and good. We ought also to sympathize with one another, and not
be avaricious. By such works let us confess Him, and not by those that are of an opposite
kind. And it is not fitting that we should fear men, but rather God. For this
reason, if we should do such wicked things, the Lord hath said, 'Even though ye were
gathered together to Me in My very bosom, yet if ye were not to keep My commandments, I
would cast you off, and say unto you, "Depart from me; I know you not, whence