Eternal Security?

Neil Girrard

Scriptures Referenced in This Article:
          (Follow the Scripture links if you want to study the Scriptures for yourself.)
Gen. 2:17 π Jdgs. 21:25 π 1 Chr. 28:9 π Isa. 46:9-10 π Jer. 17:9 π Mt. 7:21-23 π Mt. 7:22-23 π Mt. 12:31-32 π Mt. 24:12 π Jn. 10:28-29 π Rom. 8:38-39 π Eph. 2:10 π Col. 2:6-7 π 1 Ths. 4:17 π Heb. 2:1-3 π Heb. 4:12 π Heb. 5:9 π Heb. 6:4-6 π Heb. 12:14 π Heb. 12:16-17 π 1 Jn. 1:8 π 1 Jn. 1:9
Greek Words Mentioned in This Article
Snatchharpazo – [726] π Confess, Professhomologeo – [3670]

Some people completely dismiss outright the idea of “losing one’s salvation” by claiming that we must not, and even cannot, add to the finished work of Christ on the cross. They tout verses in John 10 and Romans 8 as if they say that once we are “truly saved” (whatever that means is uncertain) we cannot possibly be lost again. We were “saved,” these say, upon the basis of the finished work of Christ and based on nothing that we have ever done or will do (“works”).

These teachers claim that Jesus assured us that nothing is able to take us from His or the Father’s hand ( Jn. 10:28-29 ) and that Paul told us that nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. ( Rom. 8:38-39; top ), teaching that these passages do not leave room for anything, including ourselves, to take us out of the Lord’s hands.

In the first instance, however, Jesus actually said, “No one is able to snatch…” – not “take.” The same Greek word, harpazo [ 726 ], was used by Paul to speak of the sudden catching away of the saints to meet the Lord in the air. ( 1 Ths. 4:17 ) No one in their right mind would think that anyone could snatch themselves away to meet Christ in the air – or else we’d all have already done so! But somehow this word that speaks exclusively of an outside influence snatching the object away quickly and with force somehow (in these teachers’ minds, at least) implies that one cannot through immorality or godlessness neglect one’s salvation and forfeit one’s inheritance in Christ Jesus! (see Heb. 2:1-3 , 12:16-17 , etc.; top) One cannot be quickly snatched or even accidentally trip and suddenly fall out of the Father’s hand but one can certainly slowly, voluntarily and persistently get lost and fall irrevocably away or else there would simply be no warnings against allowing such things to happen.

In the second instance, Paul tells us plainly that the love of God is found in Christ Jesus. The practicer of lawlessness (a concept we will examine in more detail in this article) who is rejected on the last day by the Lord (as but one example we might pull from the Scriptures) is told by Christ, “I never knew you.” In spite of all the “spiritual,” “religious,” even miraculous things this guy did in the name of Christ, he was never known by Christ! ( Mt. 7:22-23; top ) By what insane logic can we include someone never known by Christ as someone who has received the love of God which is in Christ Jesus?

There are three other considerations that expose this distortion as merely some intellectual’s attempt to grasp at spiritual truth.

  1. “Saved” is a past tense word. “Are” or “am” is a present tense word. When we use a sentence like “I am saved” or “we are saved,” these temporal words, used to describe an eternal, timeless reality, must come up short when we try to reconcile their contradictions from within the context of time and space. Only those who are actually (and not just presumptively) there in eternity are those who are past-tense saved. All others, still retained in time and space, are either reserved for a potential future-tense salvation or are in the present-tense process of being saved. It just ain’t over till it’s over!

    And though faith is the “mortar” that connects the various elements of our spiritual life together (see Col. 2:6-7 , etc.), those who claim that “faith alone” is all that is required for salvation are quite mistaken. As but one example from Scripture, we read that “without holiness no one will see the Lord.” ( Heb. 12:14; top ) One can have all the “faith” one wants but if he does not possess true holiness (a question we will address later in this article), he will not see the Lord. Theological “doctrines” and spins will not replace holiness and will not produce eternal salvation.

  2. As was already touched upon, even though many people do many “spiritual” or “religious” or even miraculous things, they will be dismissed from the presence of the Lord on the day of judgment because all they really practiced was lawlessness. ( Mt. 7:21-23 ) Jesus said that lawlessness – doing what is right in one’s own eyes ( Jdgs. 21:25 ) – would be a prominent characteristic of the time right before His return. ( Mt. 24:12 ) When we finally understand that lawlessness is the independent (from God) choice of what we want to be right and good, we can see that it is indeed a prevalent attitude today. It is the basis of the rampant denominationalism and sectarianism among self-proclaimed followers of Christ. It is also the fruit that comes from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. ( Gen. 2:17; top ) If one’s “Christianity” is merely the choice of what is right and good in one’s own eyes, that one can truly and only expect to be summarily dismissed. No salvation here!

  3. Jesus is said by the writer of Hebrews to be the author or source of eternal salvation “to all those who obey Him.” ( Heb. 5:9 - emphasis added) This is not “works” by which we earn our salvation but rather the good works which God prepared for us beforehand that we should live in them. ( Eph. 2:10 ) Thus true holiness by which we will see the Lord is not adhering to some list of rules, precepts and ordinances (when self chooses which list of laws one prefers, this is actually more closely related to lawlessness than holiness!) but rather true holiness is simply obedience to Christ and God in whatever way we are led and commanded. Salvation is simply not available to those who consistently and flagrantly disobey the Lord.

These three considerations reveal the intellectual basis of the notion that salvation can never be lost or forfeited. This notion is not a spiritual truth. The fact that the devil and the demonic makes use of this truth and our inability to know without question the future (one of our primary differences with God who simply knows the end from the beginning – Isa. 46:9-10; top ) to stir up fear or doubt does not change the truth that God has not and never will save any man contrary to his will and choice. The man who wants and chooses and wills to be saved from his sinful nature must be obedient to the salvation that God offers in Christ. Habitual disobedience to the heavenly gift will be found to disqualify one from inheriting the heavenly gift on the last day when it is too late to seek remedies.

It has been rightly observed that there are what might be called “two sets of verses” in the New Testament regarding this issue – one that offers us very deep assurances of eternal life and the other that warns us very strongly of the need to press on and persevere and not fall away. From these two sets of verses have issued two streams of thought – the Arminian and Wesleyan view and the predominant Reformation view. But what seems lacking from both these views is the simple recognition that they come from the one Spirit who understands every intention of the deceitfully divided human heart. ( Heb. 4:12 , 1 Chr. 28:9 , Jer. 17:9 , etc.; top) These verses are not to be understood as a religious system of thought but rather as a message to the human heart which can be one way at one time and the opposite at another time. One set of verses contains great assurances for the habitually obedient who are struggling and persevering and pressing on and even striving (at times) to remain faithful and obedient. The other set of verses, because the work of the cross so completely excludes those who seek to use some other way to obtain eternal life, is for the habitually and willfully disobedient and contains dire warnings of eternal judgment and condemnation. And this must be so. If one could “come to Christ” only to live however one likes or pleases (whatever is right and good in his own eyes) that would be a sick and perverse religion – yet this is exactly what is practiced (if not preached) when careful obedience to Christ and God becomes optional.

The question then arises, “How far can we go in disobedience before our salvation is forfeited?” This is a question that only God could answer and the answer will not be one that fits all people. That is, we cannot make a law or a map that says, “This far and no further.” The Scriptures point to places from which none may return ( Heb. 6:4-6 , Mt. 12:31-32 , etc.; top) but no standard is clearly set by which men, apart from God’s revelation and leading, can accurately say whether a particular individual has passed the point of no return.

A better question that will keep us more diligent and humble – but still one that can only be truly answered by God – is this: “How much disobedience can we practice and still belong to the Lord?” The Lord has commanded us to obey and graciously provided us a remedy for our ongoing tendency toward sin and disobedience. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” ( 1 Jn. 1:9 ) This is no mere religious formula or practice. The Greek word rendered “confess” is homologeo [ 3670 ] and it means “to say the same thing as.” This means we must call our sins the same thing God calls them – abomination, filth, worthy of eternal death, etc. We cannot lightly dismiss our sins as failures or problems or personality flaws or any such excuse – nor will we be able to use our “theological” explanation on judgment day to excuse our refusal to see our sins as God sees them. We must see the depths of our sin – both the actions and the nature – so that we can recognize the beauty and depth of Christ’s redemption. God’s purpose is to remove all unrighteousness – everything that is not right in His eyes – from our lives. This lifelong process requires us to both obey and confess our disobediences for each day that we still have life and breath. Anything else is false religiosity as no one is free from all sin. ( 1 Jn. 1:8; top )

We simply must not rely on any intellectual’s “theology” that in reality distracts us from practicing obedience to Christ and God. The simplicity of the gospel of Christ can easily be lost in all the varying intellectual (lawless) “theologies” that abound. Let us simply fix our eyes on Jesus and walk away from this discussion of a topic that has been obscured by centuries of argument by remembering these simple truths:

Let he who has ears hear.

I’d love to hear comments and/or questions from you! Email me!

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