Many Christians are being misled by the lie that somehow they may have lost their salvation — or might lose it if they aren’t careful. They live in the constant grip of fear that their sins will disqualify them from being a Christian. Some churches even teach that it’s not really possible for a Christian to know for sure that they are saved. The good news is that God does want us to have assurance of our salvation, and the Bible says as much:
I have written these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. — 1 John 5:13
- The lie that we can lose our salvation or can never know whether we’re truly saved is a perversion of the true gospel, and it hinders believers from living in and embracing the freedom, peace, and joy the gospel promises.
We’re going to look at some important biblically supported doctrines and teachings that can set every Christian free from the fear that salvation is fragile, fleeting, or uncertain. Perhaps the most important doctrine is eternal security. Sometimes referred to as “once saved, always saved,” eternal security is the theological belief that once a person places genuine faith in Jesus Christ, their salvation is eternally secure. In other words, they no longer have to fear going to hell. It is impossible for this person to lose or even forfeit their salvation.
I admit that’s a very bold statement. So it’s essential to support it with a strong biblical foundation that demonstrates why the opposing view doesn’t stack up. Before we dig into the doctrine of eternal security, let’s examine how and why it’s so dangerous for a Christian to deny this doctrine of eternal security.
The Consequences of Denying Eternal Security
Understanding this doctrine of eternal security is not just some theological exercise to make you sound intelligent. The way you view your salvation has ramifications for how you relate to God and live your daily life as a Christian.
- If you believe your salvation is on shaky ground, you will relate to God on the basis of fear rather than faith.
Everything you do for Him will be motivated by fear rather than love. Denying this doctrine will inevitably set up a legalistic relationship between you and God. Legalism demands that you perfectly adhere to a set of rules to secure or keep your salvation. It also suggests that God’s love for you and His acceptance of you fluctuates depending on your behavior.
Instead of experiencing the peace and joy that come from knowing your salvation is secure, you will live in a constant state of uncertainty, wondering day after day if you’ve done enough to keep from losing your salvation. That uncertainty might make you try to get saved and baptized again and again just to make sure you’re going to heaven. My friend, God doesn’t want that for you. He wants you to be free. He wants you to enjoy the peace and freedom that come from knowing what your Savior did for you on the cross.
Biblical Pillars of Eternal Security
I liken eternal security to a house with eight pillars. Each of these pillars is essential for this house to stand. I hope this chapter provides you with such overwhelming biblical evidence for the security of your salvation that you’ll never doubt it again.
Pillar #1: Perseverance
This first pillar is that of perseverance, or the perseverance of the saints. This doctrine states that those who are truly born again will be empowered by the Spirit to continue to believe until the day they die. We don’t persevere in our own strength. We persevere because the Spirit of God, who lives within us, empowers us to do so. Several scriptures support this teaching:
Therefore, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, so now, not only in my presence but even more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who is working in you both to will and to work according to his good purpose. — Philippians 2:12–13
- Notice that we’re encouraged to work out our salvation, not work for it.
There is a huge difference between the words out and for! Working for our salvation would imply that we must do something to earn it or complete it. Working out our salvation implies that we’re already saved, and we are simply trying to grow in our faith and sanctification. To echo Charles Spurgeon, we are “working out” what has already been “worked in.”1 As Spurgeon pointed out, God has already worked His salvation in us, and we are simply working it out in our daily lives. This raises some good questions you may be wondering about: Couldn’t a Christian simply walk away from the faith and give up on the entire thing? Can’t they decide at any point that they no longer want to be a Christian? In other words, can a Christian renounce or forfeit their own faith and thus not persevere?
Before we answer that, it’s critical that we establish one very important truth:
There is a difference between genuine Christians and professing Christians.
Some profess to be Christians but are not. They seem like Christians, at least on the surface. They attend church like Christians. They give money like Christians. They talk like Christians. They may even listen to Christian music! But none of these things mean they are actually Christians. Jesus warned about this:
Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of Heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in Heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, drive out demons in your name, and do many miracles in your name?’ Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you lawbreakers!’ — Matthew 7:21–23
There are a few important details to highlight in this passage. First, the people were saying the right things. But Jesus said that many who say, “Lord, Lord,” will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Second, they were doing what appeared to be the right things. They were involved in religious activities that most people would attribute to Christians. Third, based on what they said to Jesus on the Day of Judgment, these people seemed to be depending on these religious activities to get them into Heaven. But
religious activities don’t save us. We’re saved by grace alone through a genuine belief in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross.
Fourth and finally, focus on four very important words: I never knew you. Jesus did not say, “I don’t know you anymore.” That would have implied a previous relationship that had been lost. The fact that He said I never knew you reveals that there was never a relationship to begin with.
So professing Christians can turn away from the faith because their faith wasn’t genuine in the first place. This is called apostasy. Genuine Christians cannot apostatize. In other words, genuine Christians will not totally and finally turn away from the faith. Let’s define these two words. Totally means that genuine Christians may struggle in some aspects of their faith, but they won’t renounce Christianity entirely. Finally means that it is quite possible and common, for that matter, for genuine Christians to experience a temporary lapse in their faith, but they will return at some point.
Another consideration that relates to the question of whether a genuine Christian can renounce their faith involves how Jesus described genuine salvation. In John 3, Jesus said that we must be “born again.” Let’s analyze this concept. When a person is born physically, is there anything they can do to undo that fact? You may say, “Well, they can commit suicide.” While that’s true, it doesn’t negate the fact that they were born first. Does that make sense? Taking one’s life doesn’t erase the fact that they were born. In the same way, once a person is born again, there is nothing they can do to undo their spiritual birth. Just as babies have nothing to do with their physical birth, a person who is born again has nothing to do with their spiritual rebirth.
Another scripture that strongly supports the distinction between genuine Christians and those who are merely professing Christians is 1 John 2:19:
They went out from us, but they did not belong to us; for if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. However, they went out so that it might be made clear that none of them belongs to us.
To summarize, there can only be three possible explanations for leaving the faith.
- The first possibility is that they were never saved to begin with. They professed to be but were never truly converted.
- The second possibility is that they remain saved but will be severely disciplined by their Father (see Hebrews 12).
- The third possibility is that they are in an extreme but temporary state of backsliding and rebellion, but God knows they will return to Him later.
The Bible teaches that those who are truly regenerate will indeed persevere in the faith. Perseverance is not something we do to earn our salvation, but rather something God empowers us to do to keep us walking in the salvation He’s already given us.
Excerpted with permission from Misled by Allen Parr, copyright Allen G. Parr Jr.
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Have you wondered if you could lose your salvation? Has that caused you to be afraid? God is not the author of fear. When you genuinely believe in and trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior, that can never be taken away. ~ Devotionals Daily