On Losing Security
Is a believer eternally secure or can they lose salvation? Reframing the most heated soteriological dilemma crosswise.
Fra Angelico, “The Forerunners of Christ with Saints and Martyrs” (c.1420). Tempera on poplar wood.
There has been a longstanding theological tug of war between Protestant traditions for quite some time. Not in question or to refine understanding, but in doctrine. One side teaches you can lose your salvation and the other side teaches you are eternally secure, all pulling the same prooftext to (dis)prove their point—caricatures of either side abound. If I’m being completely honest, I just want to walk up and cut the rope! Not because these types of debates are dubious or incredulous, but rather because I think the way this question of how salvation works, in particular, is misleading and poorly framed. It has been proliferated by an over-rationalization of tightly wound abstract theological systems where common sense, practical understanding, and living out the Christian life are caught up, even tangled, in a web of theories and what-ifs. In turn, it now carries with it a lot of needless emotional baggage and interdenominational anxiety, and because of this, the doctrine of soteriology, whether it concerns forfeiting salvation or eternal security, is escorted, if not at times dominated, by a deep misunderstanding of belief, love, and moral responsibility. Which is to say, I think the real trouble is how this debate translates from academia into practical space and everyday living. While I am deeply convinced that Scripture testifies to eternal security of a true lifelong believer (John 6:35-40, 10:28-30; Ephesians 1:13-14, 4:30; Romans 8:35-39; 1 Corinthians 3:10-15, 5:1-5), justified by the inner witness of the Holy Spirit till death, the debate itself is often misrepresented at the pulpit and largely misunderstood among laity and is, in my view, a symptom of a greater issue. Eternal security is not emotional security. It is a fact of God’s omniscience.
In the first-world Church, if I can call it that, free from forceful persecution and overrun by industry, life application of doctrine is largely a verbal critique of consistent systematic thinking over and above a full inward and outward manifestation of Christ in all areas of our life. Popular dilemmas and questions like this tend to be a symptom of that way of thinking, which can detract from understanding the pattern of New Testament teachings (2 Timothy 1:13-14; Romans 6:17-18, 12:2), and by consequence radically shift our perception, perspective, and approach on matters of perseverance, endurance, tests, trials and tribulations alongside God’s personal sanctifying relationship through salvation. Theologians and philosophers can fall prey to looking at these issues as if it were a divine mechanism put in place, as though God were a reductionist! I fear we may run the risk of letting this heated philosophical dilemma get in the way of focusing on Christ.
Let’s carefully consider both sides of the debate from a practical vantage point, and then bear with me as I explain why I think the debate itself stands on a pretense of philosophical exacerbation and what the proper Christian sense of salvation ought to embrace.
Eternal Security (Once Saved, Always Saved)
The general idea, here, is that “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9). This affirmation of salvation is testified by the deposit, regeneration, and inner witness of the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 1:21-22; Ephesians 1:13-15; 1 Thessalonians 1:4-6; John 14:26; Titus 3:5). Once done, you are saved or “sealed for the day of redemption” as Paul puts it. The language Christ uses in John 3 that “no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again” (v.3), and “born of the Spirit” (v.8), and “whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (v.16), and in John 10 that “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:27-30) All strongly testifies to the eternal security of a true believer, which is then usually hammered by Paul’s famous passage, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35,38-39) Paul also says that the Holy Spirit “is the guarantee of our inheritance” (Ephesians 1:13–14) and God has “given us the Spirit as a guarantee” (2 Corinthians 5:5, 1:22). A person eternally sealed for redemption is also corroborated by how Paul describes the judgment process on that Day as well as the final condition of Christians who continue to do ungodly works or live deplorable, sinful lifestyles but are saved “only as through fire” (1 Corinthians 3:10-15, 5:1-5; Ephesians 4:30). In other words, by the skin of their teeth. But there is a complication with how this view is taught and socializes into Church culture when we look at someone else, which in turn may affect how people look inward.
One of the primary complications of teaching this view is the way a person can perceive it. There are many people who believe in “once saved, always saved” and then go out and live in all manners of conscious sin, with no regard for their faith or good deeds, and yet still believe they are saved because they believed in Jesus at one point in their life (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Galatians 5:19-21). Others live idle or complacent lives with no intention of doing good works (cf. 2 Thessalonians 3:6-10; 1 Timothy 5:13). Worse, some even go as far as to pit their theology of faith versus works between this issue and teach they can live sinfully because they are not saved by works, good or evil, but by belief alone. But, of course, the counter argument is that people who act in this way do not actually believe and are not truly repentant (Matthew 7:21-23; 1 John 3:8-10; Acts 2:38, 3:19; 1 John 1:9). To be sure, it is plainly taught by advocates of this view that a Christian cannot do anything they desire. If a person consistently does such conscious evil deeds without repentance, then that person never truly believed at all. They were simply a nominal believer—Christian in name only. As Christians with the Holy Spirit, we should have an outright aversion to evil behaviour and desire to do good (Romans 6:1-6, 12:9-13; Matthew 3:8). True belief, then, walks daily together with repentance and, therefore, perseverance (Hebrews 6:11-12; Philippians 1:6, 2:12-13, 3:12-14; Matthew 24:13; 2 Timothy 4:6-8; 2 Peter 1:5-11; John 15:1-17). So, what’s happened here?
Folks of this bent tend to prioritize the retrospective moment of confession over the lifelong relationship of perseverance and sanctification that comes through the Holy Spirit, as if the moment of rebirth was a special encounter and the closest experience one will ever have with God (even though the word salvation is more often used in the future-tense as something we, who are truly in Christ, move toward). The result, a person can think they believe and think they are saved based on a false understanding of what belief entails, which I will address near the end. It is another way to say that some are, more or less, delusional on their own sense of assurance, not fully accepting Christ and yet not willfully rejecting Him, either. They are somewhere between pagan and apostate, worse off than before (cf. 2 Peter 2:20-22; Revelation 3:15-16).
Reframing Eternal Security
Now, depending on how you were taught to look at Scripture, there might be a bit of a discrepancy afoot: How can someone be saved for eternal life even if they live in sin (1 Corinthians 5:5), but also not be saved if they practice sin (1 John 3:9-10)? This is a big dilemma for some people! The immediate solution to this discrepancy, however, is to change our “camera angle”, so to speak; to reframe our scene from a clear vantage point and focus in with the pattern of the apostolic teachings.
When we look at how salvation works in others, we need to think progress. Salvation is not about a single moment nor is it annulled by increments of sin—for we all sin, great or small, and repentance is always on the table—it’s about direction and destination: Which way are they going? Are they heading toward God or Satan? Do they exhibit sinful habits on their way out of sin, however slow or passive the transition might be, or are they delving deeper into perverse habits of perpetual conscious sin without repentance? As for the latter, the state of someone else’s soul becomes a question, not affirmation of condemnation (that is beyond our paygrade: Romans 10:6-8; Jude 1:3, 9, 20-23a; 1 Corinthians 7:16). Backsliding is not throwing salvation away necessarily; perhaps, they are being tested (James 1:2-4, 12-15), and failing miserably (Ephesians 4:30)! Or it is precisely their excruciatingly deplorable lifestyle that “grieves the Holy Spirit” enough to bring them back to proper worship in Christ. And for apostates who return to the faith, Paul encourages the Church to forgive, comfort, and love them, so they will not be overwhelmed with excessive sorrow (2 Corinthians 2:6-8; James 5:15-16, 19-20; Jude 1:3, 20-23a). So, again, the way we frame this doctrine can affect how we apply it in our life and look at people struggling with sin. At bottom, we should be asking: Is there any evidence of perseverance?
There is a reason why the apostles do not just say to those who verbally accept Christ, ‘You’re saved! That’s it—it’s done. don’t worry about it’. In fact, what does Paul say to the Corinthians who live in perpetual sin (2 Corinthians 12:20-21) and likewise demand proof that Christ was truly speaking through him? Consider his words carefully, he was speaking to a culture not unlike ours: “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” (2 Corinthians 13:5-6) There is very good reason why the NT is chock-full of warnings not to be deceived.
Forfeiting (or Losing) Salvation
Now a major hesitation that many have against losing salvation is how often it seems to be exploited by cults and false doctrine such as salvation by works without faith, which teaches that good deeds alone, such as coming to church, volunteering, tithing, knocking door-to-door, and so forth can earn salvation to ensure you don’t lose it, and by not doing such you will lose it. These types of works have a self-referential bent toward religious merit, which transforms good deeds into spiritual points or habits of self-interest. Far from self-sacrifice, it opposes the once-and-for-all atoning power of the cross. I have no space to get into it now, but this is just plainly false (Ephesians 2:8-9; cf. Proverbs 11:18). But this is also not the real position or argument that Christian advocates who hold this view take. It is a caricature. So, what is actually being taught?
Christians who hold this view believe that by continuously living in unrepentant sin, a person will eventually fall away from God and forfeit their salvation in the process because sin separates us from God (Isaiah 59:2; Exodus 32:33; Romans 3:23; Ephesians 4:18). Some sins are worse than others, so severe sins (i.e., murder, rape, apostasy, etc.), whether once or continuous, can lead or result in a loss or forfeiture of salvation (1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Galatians 5:19-21; Ephesians 5:5), whereas unintentional or trivial sins may not necessarily. This view is less black-and-white overall, where eternal security has shades of salvation, referred to as rewards (2 John 1:8; Hebrews 11:6; 1 Corinthians 3:12-15), forfeiting salvation has shades of grey between condemnation and salvation, with God’s grace and wrath acting as black-and-white ends. In this, you can always repent as if nothing was lost, but there is an unforgivable sin that “leads to death” spoken of in the Gospel accounts and, presumably, in Hebrews and 1 John (Matthew 12:31-32; Luke 12:10; Mark 3:28-29; Hebrews 3:12-14, 6:4-8, 10:26-27; 1 John 5:16-18). A great tension no doubt permeates. For it is true that by not fully following Christ in your life, you may eventually slip, stumble, or fall in some way, which opens the door for deceit. Jesus Himself testified to the possibility that even the elect might be susceptible to great deceit and fall away (Matthew 24:10-13,24), and Peter speaks of those who get “entangled” and then “overcome” or “defeated” by evil (2 Peter 2:20-22), and Paul speaks about some who have “fallen away from grace” (Galatians 5:4). Therefore, if someone is walking away from Christ by deceit or indifference, whether slowly or speedily, then it seems that he or she does not fully believe in Christ with all their heart, soul, strength, and mind. There was an opening and the enemy got in.
Now it should be said that this view is less concerned about strong Christians and more concerned about weak Christians, and granted, there is strong precedent for losing salvation within the text, if you call it that; though I think the notion of ‘losing’ does the doctrine a disservice in what it intends to accomplish, and advocates of this position agree. They usually prefer the term forfeit salvation, which implies a conscious decision, whereas ‘losing’ salvation sounds more like a person accidentally dropping their gift rather than intentionally or indifferently displacing it. It sounds more like a person accidentally dropping their gift rather than intentionally displacing it. Be that as it may, first consider the Old Testament when “the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul” (1 Samuel 16:14) for his rebellious and idolatrous arrogance (cf. 1 Samuel 15:22-23) and then David, worried about repeating Saul’s life as king, seemingly responded to such an instance in prayer, “take not your Holy Spirit from me” (Psalm 51:10-13). Now fast-forward a bit and consider what Paul says about elevating spiritual infants in the Church, who are new and thus weak in the faith, to the position of elder/overseer, “He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil.” (1 Timothy 3:6) Pride is a precondition for condemnation, which is anybody’s game, so to speak. Later, Paul cautions about the kind of people to enroll for office and warns, “for when their passions draw them away from Christ, they desire to marry and so incur condemnation for having abandoned their former faith.” (1 Timothy 5:12) As you can tell, these verses pertain to the sustainability for ongoing belief throughout their life as well as the weak in faith being protected from falling into condemnation because of their poor choices; eternal belief and, therefore, eternal life is not limited to a single moment. Furthermore, Paul places a conditional for salvation, stating ‘if’ a person continues in the faith, then they will receive salvation: “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:1-2) He also says “some have made shipwreck of their faith” (1 Timothy 1:19-20) and that “it is impossible” for those who “have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance” (Hebrews 6:4-6), both of which imply actual faith and actual repentance existed because you cannot shipwreck the appearance of faith and you definitely cannot restore false repentance, given restoration means to fix, mend, or return something to its original state, so in this instance, actual repentance.
Christ established this understanding, also, in the Parable of the Sower when He compares those of the rock who, “when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing [trials, tribulations, temptations] fall away.” (Luke 8:13) There is no “root” or depth for the belief to grow and live within them; they are weak believers. Likewise, Christ says again that “many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 24:10-13) From our earthly vantage point, salvation is spoken of by Christ and the apostles as an ongoing lifelong process, which means that people can and will depart from the faith (Matthew 24:9-13; 1 Timothy 4:1-3). It is a question of whether they fully believed to begin with or if they wilfully reject eternity from within. The doctrine of forfeiting salvation, then, is concerned for the infants in Christ who profess belief yet remain infants and do not mature or “grow up into salvation” (1 Peter 2:2-3; 1 Corinthians 3:1, 14:20) and are either consistently weak, doubt, schismatic, or carnal. Whether the weak in faith are simply nominal (Matthew 7:21-23) or truly possess a tiny smidgen of belief (Luke 8:13) is the essence of the debate, and both sides agree that the carnal Christians are at the mercy of God.
For this reason, when a Christian teacher, theologian, or philosopher teaches you can forfeit your salvation, it is usually argued that the person has the freewill to outright reject Christ and willfully sin; fully sober, conscious, and understanding of the gravity of his or her confession as “partakers”, “sharers” or “companions” of the Holy Spirit (Hebrews 6:4; 2 Peter 1:4). In this scenario, the most extreme question is twofold: Can a person possessing the Holy Spirit reject the Holy Spirit? And if so, is that the unforgivable sin? While I think there is justifiable resolve within the text itself for it not to contradict eternal security of true believers (say, if we harmonize Hebrews 6:8; 1 Corinthians 3:15, 5:5; Matthew 18:7-9), we have to keep in mind that this is not some accidental or unconscious falling out of faith, it is supposedly an explicit, desirable and deliberate rejection of Christ—willfully revoking repentance, fully aware of the warnings and consequences to come. In other words, it is from eternal security that one rejects eternal security. As a result, the outward expression of one’s apostasy can appear as a bitter, hostile opposition or a careless, hardened indifference.
Now, regarding strong Christians, I and many others don’t see how it’s even possible, let alone desirable, for a person to reject Christ if he or she is truly born again and fully sanctified by the Spirit (1 Peter 1:3-5; 1 Thessalonians 5:23), thereby acknowledging the gravity of sin and evil in their life, living in repentance, and loving God with all of your heart, soul, strength, and mind, especially if God is love and first loved us (1 John 2:19, 4:7-12, 5:13). In other words, how can someone who is baptized in the Holy Spirit (God), fears the Lord, and truly loves Love (God) walk away from that relationship? To that, we must appeal to deep theological, philosophical, and psychological dilemmas like, say, the nature of freewill and predestination. While questions/concerns of this kind are legitimate in certain spaces, they are theoretically curved and not necessary for living your day-to-day life. It ends up becoming an unfalsifiable philosophical discussion with no practical value for how we ought to live. It has little if nothing to do with those who actually persevere and, at best, serves as a warning for those who don’t (2 Peter 3:17-18).
The solution in both cases, whether weak or strong, infant or sanctified, is simple to articulate – do not reject Jesus Christ – but is nevertheless impossible without the Holy Spirit – to follow Him with your whole life.
Reframing Forfeiting Salvation
Granted, there is a complication with this view, too, in how it socializes into Church culture when we look at someone else, which may affect how we look inward. To echo what I said before, we do not know the full extent by which a person rejects Christ on a spiritual level, so we must be hopeful in prayer and perseverance that the person who “rejects Christ” will return to Christ in full repentance because a person may not be rejecting Christ but a false representation of Christianity, whether misunderstood, misinterpreted, or misrepresented. Or, perhaps, it is only a partial rejection verbally embellished as full. Therefore, whether impulsive or confused, we should not be hasty to judge others or ourselves (Matthew 18:15-17; 1 Corinthians 4:3-5); but again, do as Paul encourages the Church to do when one repents: forgive, comfort and love them, so they will not be overwhelmed with excessive sorrow (2 Corinthians 2:6-8; James 5:15-16, 19-20) and show mercy on those who struggle with doubt (Jude 1:3, 20-23a). Repentance is always on the table for true believers (Revelation 3:1-3).
Many are also deeply worried about their own spiritual state, always teeter-tottering between saved and condemned, hoping never to commit the unforgivable sin, and always desiring stability in their life. But this is the wrong perspective, too. If you’re constantly worried about the unforgivable sin, then it sounds like you care enough to repent and be saved. A person who commits the unforgivable sin will not want to repent, that’s the whole point—they have totally rejected God. Also, by constantly focusing on the status of your salvation all the time, you’re effectively only focusing on yourself – not God – which is the opposite of what you’re supposed to do. Whose strength are you trusting in? Consider Paul’s words again: “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” (2 Corinthians 13:5-6) This is not a helpful verse if you’re looking to satisfy yourself. Such a test is done by the Spirit to reassure salvation, not by personal insecurities to feel better. It is always about growing stronger in Christ.
Consider Job who went through the darkest of trials and tribulations that most men could not bear, yet, in his weakest moment, was truly repentant. He was repentant because he had hope in the final Judge and Redeemer (Job 19:23-29). Again, the way we frame this doctrine can affect how we apply it in our life and look at people struggling with sin. So, we should be asking: Is there a track record of repentance?
What’s the Difference?
It may surprise you, but the above prooftext does not necessarily or explicitly refute or counter the doctrine that true believers are eternally secure in and of itself. It does bring into question, however, what true belief means. For those who adhere to eternal security, a true belief typically refers to a predestined believer, which takes God’s omniscient vantage point against open theism, as opposed to full belief, which refers to the relative strength of one’s belief ranging between degrees of weak and strong, which takes man’s limited vantage point. For instance, Paul says that some “have made shipwreck of their faith” and were handed over to Satan to learn not to blaspheme (1 Timothy 1:18–20), and elsewhere he prescribes a similar judgment that in no way indicates a loss of salvation, “you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 5:5). Either way, a true belief is synonymous with full belief, so it is only the vantage point or camera angle that’s different, here, from what I can tell, which can bring about a difference in attitude – deep anxiety or false assurance – depending how it is taught.
What, then, does this question of eternal security hope to resolve? Or rather, what is the real underlying question being asked? Is it not true that if we have faith in Christ who conquered death, if we follow and serve God with our whole life, if we love Him with all of our heart, soul, strength and mind, and love our neighbour as ourselves, then we will be saved for eternal life?—Of course! Is it not true that one person who is throwing away their salvation can appear identical to another person who lives in sin yet claims to believe but has no roots in Christ? Yet, is it also not true that both people know they can repent at any given time?—Absolutely! Do not both sides preach repentance leads to salvation? Do not both sides teach about what it means to fully believe? Do not both sides encourage and edify believers to live as strong Christians, like Christ, as not to be weak in the faith? So, practically speaking, what’s the difference? As Christians, our personal responsibilities do not change. We still ought to repent for our sin, pray for the lost, persevere through trials and tribulations, help the needy, love our neighbour, and so forth. If God is the ultimate judge of salvation, and everyone believes eternal life begins now, why are we fighting over our immediate perspective of it? Is God not good? Is He not gracious, just, and merciful? Does He not discipline those He loves? (Proverbs 3:11-12) And is it not true that God knows who is saved and who is not? So, then, what are we actually debating about?—Geez louise!
Consider him [Jesus] who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”
It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?
– Hebrews 12:3-7
That is why, I think, the debate of eternal security is misleading: Our cultural understanding of belief is idle, our sense of perseverance is impersonal, and our frame of reference is tilted toward philosophy rather than practicality. Our focus and trajectory are directed toward a theological system rather than the person and life of Christ, which is what stimulates deep anxiety or false assurance in weak believers in the first place—it is a snare. But the Holy Spirit is apparent and discernable in those who persevere in faith and in love (1 Thessalonians 1:2-7).
Assurance in Belief and Love
Belief and love have thinned out quite a bit as of recent. In Western culture, each word has become, more or less, a strict inward feeling or mental action, a dire contrast to the Scriptural meaning of belief and love which correlates, complements, and coalesces into external action and outward expression (James 2:14-26; 1 John 2:3-6; John 14:15; Matthew 5:16; Titus 1:16).
In NT context, belief is not restricted to a proposition, opinion, or judgment, though it includes it; belief is the full integration and expression of something into yourself, which manifests into behaviour. In other words, if you actually believe in something, you will do something about it (James 1:22-25). If you actually love someone, you will persevere for them—dare I say, as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1-2), even so much as to sacrifice your life for them, which is what Christ said is the fullest expression of loving your neighbour as yourself and later exemplified on Calvary (John 15:13, 13:34; Luke 10:25-37). And are we not called to take up our cross and follow His lead? (Matthew 16:24-26, 10:37-38; Luke 14:26) The point is, you will behave more and more in like manner of Christ when you truly believe in Christ because the Holy Spirit will affect more and more areas of your life over time. This is sanctification. True belief is not static, complacent, or idle, nor is it limited to a single moment or an overnight experience—it’s living and active. True belief does not remain a seed, it grows and bears fruit (Matthew 13:1-8; 1 Peter 2:1-2, 12; Galatians 2:22-25). And if Christ died for our sins once and for all (Hebrews 10:10-14), and you truly, fully believe and thus grow in Christ, then you will be saved. Period.
John the apostle very simply and eloquently explains the necessity of outwardly expressing love “in deed and in truth” by reinforcing the necessity of Christ’s love for believers first, and that our love for Christ and His fellow believers is the ground by which we have assurance of our salvation:
Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him…. And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. All who keep his commandments abide in him, and he in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit which he has given us…. Every one who believes that Jesus is the Christ is a child of God, and every one who loves the parent loves the child. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that overcomes the world, our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
– 1 John 3:18-19,23-24, 5:1-5
Our assurance in salvation is grounded in a belief that follows through in Christ’s commands to love one another just as Christ loved His Church (John 13:34-35,14:15-21,15:9-12; 1 John 4:16-21; cf. Ephesians 3:14-19).
The Underlying Truth
From God’s ultimate vantage point, of course eternal security is true. From man’s vantage point, it’s a little more complicated than that. While it is good to reminisce about the day you were saved, it is not about that day alone. It’s about every day. And every day leads us closer to the Day of salvation. Rest in God––He is salvation. Don’t trust in a system about God, trust in the person of God, for the person is salvation and our relationship in Him is our assurance. He is our Father.
Yet, therein lies the heart of the issue: Eternal security is often emotional security. Some who struggle with doubt or sin may feel like they’re slipping away and need to know that God’s faithfulness is bigger than their trouble (and to that, He certainly is! 1 Corinthians 1:7-9), some struggle to forgive themselves, while others worry about their spouses, children, parents, or friends who are of hardened heart, idle, lukewarm, or apostate and have fallen away from the Lord. To this, there is no blanket solution or system to fall back on (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:16-17). The Holy Spirit ought to be the anchor of our entire life. Focus on the goodness of God, do not linger on everything you’ve done wrong or that has gone wrong. Be consistent and persistent in Christ, and don’t do it alone. In fact, the apostles call for perseverance in togetherness (Hebrews 6:11-12, 10:24-25, 32-36; 1 Timothy 6:12). Or has the “new normal” and privatization of belief made us anemic in this sense? The gut-wrenching struggle of watching those you love, who are in desperate need of spiritual help and the gospel, is all part of suffering with Christ (Romans 8:16-17; 1 Corinthians 13:6-7; James 1:12, 5:10-11). After all, it’s for whom Christ suffered and died. This is the pattern of teaching that underscores the heart of perseverance: sanctification over systemization, self-sacrifice through suffering, ceaseless prayer in supplication, endurance in tribulation; truly believing, always hoping, forever growing and fully loving our Lord Jesus Christ! And if God is with us, who can be against us?
Matlock Bobechko | January 4, 2023 – 9:00AM EST
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 Further consider that Christ says that those who do not forgive others (Matthew 6:14-15), deny Him (Matthew 10:32-33) and are ashamed of Him (Mark 8:38; Luke 9:26) will also be condemned. All these verses very strongly indicate an enduring lifelong belief in Christ is true belief. (This view is also held by Calvinists and Reformed theologians who hold to the doctrine of eternal security called perseverance of the saints.) These verses also very clearly pertain to the unrepentant believers, considering Peter was so presumptuous and cocksure he would never deny Christ yet denied Him three times and is clearly saved, yet later “stood condemned” again for implying false doctrine in his behaviour (Galatians 2:11-14). Later, Peter even implies this process of salvation when he wrote, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.” (1 Peter 2:2-3)
 For this reason, a misunderstanding or misapplication of the ‘once saved always saved’ doctrine, that looks at salvation from our earthly vantage point alone, to fill the holes of our personal insecurities, can reject these clear teachings and lead people into false doctrine.
 Such as: Did Satan fall from grace in the immediate presence of God because of freewill? Were Adam and Eve duped by Satan through the expression of freewill? Is freewill a necessity of love? Does regeneration precede faith? Is the carnal Christian eternally secure or is only the fully sanctified believer? Is there a full salvation, partial salvation, or just one kind of salvation? And must a person be fully sanctified to be fully saved? (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:23) To name a few examples.
 Faith in God, however, is not identical to belief. It is trusting in the truth. Faith is the direction the belief is going—it is the train tracks leading to the destination, where the belief and behaviour is the engine placed upon faith so that it can go toward its destination.