Additional Biblical Warnings
The prophet Ezekiel
warned that if a righteous man turned away from the path of righteousness to do the abominations of the wicked, "all his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned [remembered]: in his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die"
(Ezekiel 18:24). Furthermore, the Bible tells us in Ezekiel 33:13 that if a righteous man becomes confident in his righteousness and goes astray into wickedness, he will receive the consequence for sin (death)
— even if God originally told him that he would live: "When I shall say to the righteous, that he shall surely live; if he trust to his own righteousness, and commit iniquity, all his righteousnesses shall not be remembered; but for his iniquity that he hath committed, he shall die for it."
In the New Testament, Peter said of those who fell away from the faith: "For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them"
(II Peter 2:20-21). Those people Peter referred to were definitely "true Christians," for they had experienced the forgiveness and cleansing of their sins and had escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of Jesus
. But then, those same people fell away and were overcome
by the sins of their old life
. Peter said it would have been better if they had never responded to the Gospel, for now they were accountable for the truth. These people would become "twice the child of hell" (Matthew 23:15) and "twice dead"
(Jude 1:12) if they were unable to repent
Truly, salvation is a very serious concern: "And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly [disobedient ones] and the sinner appear?"
(I Peter 4:18). Even Paul lived continuously in the fear of God, lest he fall into condemnation. "But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway"
(I Corinthians 9:27). Certainly of all the great Bible authors, the Apostle Paul didn't need to be concerned with his salvation, did he? Yes, he had seen firsthand the example of Demas, a fellow laborer in the Gospel (Colossians 4:14) who later forsook Paul for the things of the world (II Timothy 4:10). Paul realized that there was no good thing
in his flesh
and therefore had to guard his heart
from the pull of the world. He knew that his relationship with Jesus must be kept like a priceless treasure.
Therefore, Paul considered everything else to be loss [literally, as dung
], that he might win Christ, and be found in Christ, having the righteousness of Christ which is by faith
. Paul's one passion was to know Jesus intimately by experiencing both His power
and His pain
: "That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death. If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect ... I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth
unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus"
It is evident that the biblical authors thought it was possible for a true Christian to fall away in unbelief
, reject Christ, and face God's wrath with unbelievers. Why else would these men of God give such serious warnings about falling away? Were they simply admonishing Christians not to miss out on a few eternal rewards? No, clearly salvation
was (and is) at stake!
Doctrinal Errors Brought to Light
The doctrine of "eternal security" is comforting to many people, but why is it so comforting?
After all, if you're living in obedience
to God and loving Him with all your heart, then you have no reason to fear losing your salvation
; and you don't need the comfort of an "eternal security" doctrine. The only ones who really need the comfort of such a doctrine are people who are not
living in a right relationship with God and want license to indulge in sin and selfish living. For such people, the doctrine of "once saved, always saved" is appealing because it means they can keep living for themselves and are "guaranteed" to make it to heaven no matter what. This dangerous doctrine has led many astray into a complacency about sin and a false sense of security.
When we tell people they can never lose their salvation, our intention is to comfort them. But if they were never truly saved in the first place, then we have given them a false comfort and an illusion of security (see Ezekiel 13:22); if they are truly saved, then we have given them a reason to live self-centered, complacent spiritual lives.
Either way, the doctrine of "once saved, always saved" doesn't benefit anyone because it is the wrong focus. We should rather be encouraging people to get in a right relationship with God and love Jesus with all their heart.
Let's look at a few more scriptures which bring to light the errors of the doctrine of "eternal security."
- Jesus' Sheepfold — "But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand" (John 10:26-29). Here Jesus says that no man can snatch His sheep out of His hand or out of His Father's hand. Does this mean "once a sheep, always a sheep"? No, these verses say no such thing. First of all, it is important to understand that the hand of God is the Holy Spirit. Jesus is saying that no man can take the Holy Spirit out of a
person's heart, for "greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world" (I John 4:4). Now then, is it possible to reject faith, forsake Jesus, vex the Holy Spirit, and turn away from salvation? Indeed, it is possible. "But they rebelled, and vexed his holy Spirit: therefore he was turned to be their enemy, and he fought against them" (Isaiah 63:10). Even King David feared losing the Holy Spirit after he sinned (Psalm 51:11), for he knew that the Spirit had departed from King Saul (I Samuel 16:14). The Bible says that as long as you hear the voice of Jesus and follow Him, you can be assured that you are His sheep and He will not reject you or cast you out (see John 14:1). John 10:29 simply confirms that no other person can take the Holy Spirit from you; it would be your own choice to turn away. Are there false sheep in Jesus' fold? Yes, for not everyone who claims to be a Christian is one of
Jesus' sheep. Remember that a sheep is one who hears the Shepherd's voice and follows Him. There are goats in the fold who pretend to be sheep but walk in disobedience and do not hear the voice of the Shepherd. The goats will ultimately be revealed, separated, and removed (Matthew 25:32-33). "Thus saith the LORD unto this people, 'Thus have they loved to wander, they have not refrained their feet, therefore the LORD doth not accept them; he will now remember their iniquity, and visit their sins'" (Jeremiah 14:10).
- Predestination — "According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will"
(Ephesians 1:4-5). Predestination is the foreknowledge of God which ordains people to specific destinies. Before you were born, certain unchangeable features (boundaries) were set in place for your life. Within those boundaries, you make choices either for good or for evil. God did not make you a robot, but rather He made you a human being with a free choice to either receive or reject Him. "I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live"
(Deuteronomy 30:19). Can you choose not to walk in your destiny? Absolutely! Read the example of King Saul in I Samuel 13:13, 15:11, 26. Certainly, God knows what choices you will make, and He knows who will ultimately receive salvation because He sees the end from the beginning. Yet, God is looking for children of faith who will trust and obey Him (Deuteronomy 32:20). Such children can be entrusted with an eternal inheritance in Christ. As for predestination, none of us can claim to know whether a person's heart is perfect toward God or whether one's faith will endure to the end; thus, we cannot honestly guarantee anyone else's salvation. Predestination is not an excuse for spiritual laziness but rather a divine motivation to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). We are called to walk worthy of the Lord Jesus (Colossians 1:10) and inherit the
promises through faith and patience (Hebrews 6:12). "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" (Psalm 139:23-24; also see Luke 16:15).
- Salvation Not by Works — "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9). If we did nothing to receive salvation, then there is nothing we can do to lose it, right? Well, it is true that salvation is not gained or lost by works, but the Bible teaches that salvation is a process which is received through faith, kept through faith, and can be revoked through unbelief. Works merely show the true colors of our faith: obedience is the evidence of faith, and disobedience is the evidence of unbelief. Paul said of some people, "They profess that they know God; but in works they
deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate [disqualified]"
(Titus 1:16). These are the ones whose mouths profess Christ but their hearts are far from Him (Isaiah 29:13). Salvation is (and always has been) about faith in Jesus, and if we truly believe in Him, we will keep His commandments (see Nehemiah 1:5; John 14:21, 15:10; II John 1:6). "If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?" (I John 4:20).
- Jesus' Promise — "Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee" (Hebrews 13:5). Jesus said here that He would never leave or forsake the righteous. This is true! The Lord will always keep His covenants. "And the LORD, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed"
(Deuteronomy 31:8). However, is it possible for the righteous to backslide, turn away in unbelief, and forsake Him? Yes, it certainly is. "Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off" (Romans 11:20-22).
The Bible is clear that as long as we abide in Christ and keep the faith, we are on the path to salvation
. Jesus said that "whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother"
(Matthew 12:50). On the other hand, if we stray from the path of righteousness by living in unbelief
and disobedience, our souls will be in serious danger: "Because he hath despised the word of the LORD, and hath broken his commandment, that soul shall utterly be cut off; his iniquity shall be upon him"
Assurance of Salvation
All God's promises (eternal life, forgiveness, salvation, redemption, etc.) are valid to those who are believing in God's Son. Faith
unto salvation is not a one-time, once-for-all faith ("I believed in Jesus ten years ago so of course I'm saved"
), but it is an active, living faith that continues day by day to the end (see I Peter 1:9).
The question is, are you walking in obedience
and believing in Jesus today
? Is the oil in your lamp full today
? The Bible says, "now is the day of salvation"
(II Corinthians 6:2), for none of us has a guarantee of tomorrow. If Jesus came back today, would you be eager to see Him or ashamed before Him? Jesus said that the branches that do not abide in the vine
will wither, be cut off, cast into the fire, and burned (John 15:6).
We are expressly warned: "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure"
(Philippians 2:12-13). This does not mean we need to constantly fear losing our salvation; rather, it means that salvation is a lifetime race of faith and patience, whereby we allow God to complete His work in us.
A person must run the race and be found in Christ
when he or she dies (or when Jesus returns) in order to partake of Jesus' eternal inheritance (see I Corinthians 9:24; Hebrews 12:1).
Someone may ask, "How then can I ever be assured of my salvation?" The answer is that assurance of salvation is found only in an abiding relationship with Jesus Christ.
It is not found in a denominational creed, in doing good works for God, or in repeating a sinner's prayer
. No person or church has the authority to grant someone certainty of salvation. Only the Spirit of Christ (Holy Spirit) within the heart of a believer has such authority. When you know and follow the voice of Jesus your Shepherd, a confidence and assurance of salvation will arise in your own heart. "And when he [the Good Shepherd] putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And
a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers"
(John 10:4-5). Jesus' sheep walk in obedience to His voice, know Him intimately, and are "living epistles" of the Gospel
(see II Corinthians 3:2).
For those of you who are still on the fence about the flawed "once saved, always saved" doctrine, here are two more biblical truths to consider:
- Jesus warned that a name could be blotted out of the Book of Life. "He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels"
(Revelation 3:5). Certainly, Jesus would not have mentioned this if it were not a valid possibility. Revelation 21:27 tells us that those whose names are written in the Lamb's Book of Life will enter the heavenly city, but those whose names are not written there will be cast into the lake of fire, which is Gehenna (Revelation 20:15). Also, "And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life ..."
- The Bible warns that Jesus will deny those who deny Him. "It is a faithful saying: for if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him: if we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us: if we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself" (II Timothy 2:11-13). Note that Paul was writing to believers here, saying that it was possible for a believer to renounce Christ. The word deny is translated "disown" in some other Bible versions and means to refuse someone, not know or recognize him, to reject him in the face of a former relationship. If a father disowns his son, then the son loses his identity in the family as well as his inheritance. In a similar fashion, if a son of God turns his
back on Jesus and absolutely denies, rejects, gives up on, and renounces Christ, he can expect to be denied (or disowned) in return. Jesus, however, will always remain faithful to His Word; He cannot deny Himself.
After studying all the key scriptures which are often used to support the doctrine of "eternal security," we find that there is more biblical evidence against
the doctrine than for it. We also see that the common thread in all of the scriptures is a warning against wandering from faith
in Jesus. So, based on the greatest weight of evidence in the Bible, we conclude that salvation is secure only for those who are believing in the Savior. However, believers who turn away in unbelief and disobedience, refusing to return to the Shepherd, are in danger of facing God's wrath.
To say it another way, salvation is secure for a believer
, but it is possible for a believer to fall away
, become an unbeliever
, then forfeit salvation.
Thanks be to God that He is longsuffering and merciful towards us, continually drawing our hearts back to Him when we stray. "The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger for ever. He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him"
Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ, make your relationship with Jesus your number one priority. Nothing else in all this world is more important.
When you love Jesus, you will naturally want to please Him, grow in Him
, serve Him, live for Him, read His Word, praise and worship Him, seek His will, and do whatever He says. I John 5:2-3 says, "By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous." God wants your whole heart! Then and only then, the Bible teaches, will your salvation be secure in Him.