Eternal Security is the teaching that “once saved, always saved”. There are two extremes relating to this doctrine. Catholics teach that if you die with mortal sin you can go to hell for eternity. Pentecostals, Assemblies of God, Methodists and Lutherans also teach that salvation can be lost. Anglicans, Baptists and Presbyterians as well as a lot of churches teach the other viewpoint; you can’t lose your salvation.
Once again this is a doctrine that people are not supposed to divide over, but I have personally seen people split from churches over this doctrine.
Biblical Basis of Eternal Security
Proponents of Eternal Security cite verses like:
Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. 1Pe 1:23 KJV
in whom ye also, having heard the word of the truth, the gospel of your salvation, – in whom, having also believed, ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise,Eph 1:13 ASV
being confident of this very thing, that he who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ: Phi 1:6
Here we have multiple arguments for eternal security. 1Peter 1:23 says that we are born again by incorruptible seed. Seed cannot be removed. Seed is what makes a thing what it is. An apple seed grows into an apple tree which produces apples. An apple cannot be changed into something else. You can’t remove the essence of apple from any part of the plant. This verse appears to be saying that once a Christian, always a Christian. Living and abiding forever means that there is no death; eternal life is assured.
Ephesians 1:13 says that we are sealed with the holy spirit. Once we are sealed, we cannot be unsealed. Likewise, Phil 1:6 promises that once God starts his work in us, he will perfect (complete) it until the day of Christ, the day Christ comes back.
These are compelling arguments that our salvation is secure. But we need to look at the other side. Opponents of eternal security cite verses like these:
Ye are severed from Christ, ye who would be justified by the law; ye are fallen away from grace.Gal 5:4
Know ye not, that to whom ye present yourselves as servants unto obedience, his servants ye are whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?Rom 6:16
For as touching those who were once enlightened and tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the age to come, and then fell away, it is impossible to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. Heb 6:4-6
Gal 5:4 infers that to be severed from Christ is possible. Romans 6:16 implies that it is possible to obey sin to the point of spiritual death. And Hebrews 6:4-6 reeks of condemnation to those who were once enlightened and fell away, calling it “impossible”. These and other verses appear to make salvation dependent on a life of faithfulness.
Can salvation be lost? If you are born again in any real sense, where there is seed involved, how can you lose that? When you were born of your mother, your origin started as a seed. You canâ€™t stop being the son of your biological parents. You may be adopted, you may be disowned, you may forsake them forever, but you will always be the son of those parents.
Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.1Pe 1:23
If this verse is true in any literal sense, which I believe it is, then no, you will forever be the born again son of God that was created when you believed. You can be sure in your salvation. But that is just my opinion. Read on.
This issue is like many others in that there are opposing viewpoints that appear to be valid. Some minimize this conflict by calling this a “nonessential doctrine”. As stated above I have seen believers split from churches over this controversial doctrine.
Hebrews 6:4-6 presents a clear problem for those that want to teach eternal security. Because while 1 Peter 1:23 and Phil 1:6 appear to make it obvious that you can be secure that the seed, the holy spirit, is sealed and will remain forever, Hebrews 6 talks of those that have received the holy spirit and have fallen away. Once fallen away, it becomes impossible to renew them to repentance again. At the very least this is an example that many verses are hard to understand because these verses in Hebrews 6 appear to teach that you can lose you salvation.
Some teach that the “believers” in Hebrews weren’t really believers at all because while they professed a faith they never really were born again. But that doesn’t appear to jive with what Hebrews says in that the people involved “were made partakers of the Holy Spirit.” Anyone that has the holy spirit isn’t just claiming to be a Christian! The verse says they partook of the spirit.
A better explanation is that the verse is an example of “reductio ad absurdum”. This figure of speech “presents an argument based on a false premise (that a true Christian can fall away) and follows it to its senseless conclusion (that Jesus would have to be sacrificed again and again). The absurdity of the conclusion points up the impossibility of the original assumption.”i This reasoning is called reductio ad absurdum, in which a premise is disproved by showing that it logically leads to an absurdity. In other words the writer is saying that because Christ can’t be crucified again, you can’t lose your holy spirit.
At the very least this is a prime example of how hard some sections of scripture are to understand.
(c) 2009-2022 Mark W Smith, All rights reserved. Edited 10/4/22