As Baptists, our belief in “once saved, always saved”—the eternal security of the believer—puts us at variance with most of modern-day Christendom. The reason being, our belief is often misinterpreted by others as a license to sin.
We are often accused by eternal security's antagonists of teaching that the saved can live like the devil and still go to Heaven when they die. Although this is a common misinterpretation of our belief in "once saved, always saved," our actual belief runs counter to the accusation it spawns against us. Far from permitting promiscuousness among the saints, the Baptist doctrine of eternal security actually advocates the perseverance of the saints.
In Matthew 24:13, our Lord promised that all who persevere unto the end shall be saved. This precious promise should not be mistaken for a divine command. Christ is not teaching, in contradiction to the rest of Scripture, that our salvation is dependent upon our perseverance. Instead, He is simply stating the fact that our perseverance serves as incontrovertible proof of our salvation. In other words, we don't have to persevere to be saved, but all who are truly saved will persevere.
The detractors of eternal security teach that the professed Christian's return to habitual sin results in the loss of his salvation. We Baptists, on the other hand, believe it simply serves as proof that such a professor of faith in Christ is a mere pretender who never possessed what he professed in the first place. Simply put: You can't possibly lose what you never really possessed.
All who disagree with us about the eternal security of the believer advocate a salvation that is made forfeitable by our sin. This popular position is made untenable, however, by a number of perplexing problems it presents to its proponents and its definite deviation from clear Biblical doctrine. Let's begin with the perplexing problems it presents to its proponents.
- If we lose our salvation over sin, is it lost the first time we sin subsequent to salvation? If not, why not, since the Bible teaches that God requires perfect obedience to His Law and that the least little infraction leaves us as guilty before God as if we had broken His whole Law? 1
- Is it only big sins that cause us to lose our salvation, or can we lose it over little sins? Is there a quota that we reach before our salvation is forfeited? If so, how can we know when we’re over the limit?
- If we can lose our salvation over sin, how can we get it back, since the Bible teaches Christ would have to come and die for our sins once again in order for us to be re-saved? 2
- How does the fear of losing our salvation endear us to an Indian-giving God who is crouched and ready to snatch back our salvation over our next slightest little slip-up?
Obviously, these unanswerable questions present insurmountable obstacles to anyone advocating a losable salvation. While our doctrine of the security of the believer may be open to misinterpretation, its counter doctrine, which was merely contrived to combat the misinterpretation of eternal security, removes all assurance of salvation and places the Christian in a perpetually precarious predicament. Rather than affording us with a know-so salvation based on the sufficiency of what Christ has done for us, this false doctrine of insecurity leaves us with a hope-so salvation contingent upon what we do for Christ.
Few doctrines lend themselves to less supposed Scriptural substantiation and more Scriptural refutation than the erroneous teaching that one can lose his or her salvation. Let's consider five clear refutations of this false doctrine that are found in the Scripture.
I. ETERNAL SECURITY & THE SON OF GOD
According to the Bible. my salvation is not dependent upon my hold on Christ, but upon Christ’s hold on me! In his short epistle, Jude, the half-brother of our Lord, twice teaches this indubitable doctrine.
“Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James, to those who have been called, who are loved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ.” 3
“To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only true God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.” 4
If I can lose my salvation, then Christ is incapable of keeping me from falling and presenting me to Himself without fault. Consequently, the belief that Christians can lose their salvation necessitates an accompanying belief In the possibility of incompetence and failure on Christ part. Apart from being erroneous, such a belief is downright egregious; one might even say blasphemous!
The Apostle Peter taught that Christians are born again into "a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.” 5 Thanks to the resurrected Christ—our “living hope”—our hope of an imperishable inheritance in heaven is safe and secure as long as Christ is alive. Since Christ is "He that liveth, and was dead; and behold, [is now] alive for evermore," 6 the Christian's heavenly inheritance is eternally secure.
Far from any chance of us losing our heavenly inheritance, Peter teaches that all of us who have placed our faith in Christ are being “shielded by God’s power” until Christ returns to consummate our salvation "in the last time." At that time, it will not only be "revealed" what all our salvation entails, but also that its preservation had nothing to do with our performance—our hold on Christ—but everything to do with God's power—Christ's hold on us.
II. ETERNAL SECURITY & THE SPIRIT OF GOD
In Ephesians 1:13-14, the Apostle Paul writes: "In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.”
According to Paul, our salvation is secure because it has been "sealed by the Holy Spirit." We seal things to show that they have been transacted. For instance, we know legal transactions have been transacted when a notary seal is affixed to them. Likewise, God puts His Holy Spirit in us so that we can know our salvation has been transacted. It is a done deal!
“And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.” 7
“Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.” 8
We also seal things to preserve them. My mother and grandmother sealed things they canned in order to keep them from spoiling. Similarly, God puts His Spirit in us to preserve our salvation. It is the Holy Spirit that keeps us from going bad.
“Whoseover is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, niether he that loveth not his brother.” 9
Not only does the Holy Spirit keep us from going bad, but He also keeps us from going back.
"And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.” 10
Along with serving as the seal of our salvation, the Holy Spirit also serves as the guarantee of our salvation. Our salvation is secure because it has been guaranteed by the Holy Spirit. According to the Apostle Paul, the Holy Spirit is given to us as "the earnest of our inheritance"; 11 that is, as a deposit guaranteeing that the full amount will follow. Just as earnest money is given up front to guarantee that the full amount will follow, God gives us His Holy Spirit at the time of our salvation in order to guarantee us that the rest of what He has promised us in Christ will follow.
The actual Greek word that Paul uses for "earnest" was used in his day for an engagement ring. As we all know, an engagement ring is a solemn pledge that a marriage will follow. The Holy Spirit serves as our engagement ring from Christ. The Spirit's indwelling of us betroths us to Christ and serve as Christ's solemn pledge to us that a marriage will follow. 12 No wonder the Apostle Paul wrote to his converts in Corinth, "For I am jealous over you with a godly jealousy, for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ." 13
In light of the fact that the Holy Spirit serves as the seal and guarantee of our salvation, not to mention the engagement ring betrothing us to Christ, the only way for us to lose our salvation is for the Holy Spirit to fail to preserve us, for God to renege on His guarantee to us, and for Christ to commit a spiritual breach of promise.
III. ETERNAL SECURITY & THE GRACE OF GOD
In two of the best known and most beloved verses of the New Testament, the Apostle Paul boldly declares that our salvation is "by grace...though faith"; it is "not of works, least any man should boast." 14 A salvation that is given by God's grace to everyone who places their faith in Christ is a salvation that cannot possibly be lost, since it has nothing to do with our works. Consider the following unanswerable questions that must be answered by all who believe that believers in Christ can lose their salvation.
1. If salvation is a gift of God’s grace that we receive by faith, how can we lose it by failing to prove ourselves worthy of it?
2. If salvation has everything to do with God’s grace and nothing to do with our goodness, how can we lose it by not being good enough?
3. If salvation is all about what Christ has done for us, how can we lose is it by something that we do or don’t do?
4. If salvation is all about trusting Christ to do for us what we could never do for ourselves, how can we lose it by not trying to do better or more for Christ?
Although they are unwilling to admit it, everyone who denies the eternal security of the believer is a believer in salvation by works. While they may not believe you have to work to get it, they do believe you have to work to keep it.
As Paul points out in Ephesians 2:9, as well as in Romans 3:27. all human "boasting" is completely "excluded" from true Biblical salvation. The only thing that the Christian has to boast in is "the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ," to which our salvation is exclusively owed. 15 However, if we can lose our salvation, then, we can strut and swagger up and down Heaven's golden streets and spend eternity boasting and bragging about how we, unlike so many others, were able to keep our salvation and not lose it.
IV. ETERNAL SECURITY & THE BLOOD OF CHRIST
The Bible teaches us that “the blood of Jesus Christ…cleanseth us from all sins.” 16 What sins are we saved from when we come to Christ? Is it just our past sins, those sins that we’ve committed up to that point in our lives? No! It’s all of our sins—past, present and future. How then can a future sin from which we’ve already been saved cause us to lose our salvation?
In one of the clearest declarations of Christ's divinity in all of the Bible, the Apostle Paul refers to the shed blood of Christ as God's own blood, with which He has purchased His church. 17 The Apostle Peter adds to the "preciousness" of Christ's redeeming blood the additional truth that it is also "incorruptible." 18 Having sprinkled His incorruptible blood on the Mercy Seat of the heavenly Holy of Holies as our High Priest, the book of Hebrews declares that Christ has made eternal atonement for all of our sins. 19 Our sins are forever covered by Christ's incorruptible blood, which has been eternally sprinkled on the Mercy Seat of the heavenly Holy of Holies.
How can any sin we commit possibly cost us our salvation if all of our sins have been eternally atoned for by our High Priest, Jesus Christ, who has forever covered our sins with His imperishable blood on the eternal Mercy Seat of the heavenly Holy of Holies? Obviously, the belief that sin can cost the saved their salvation implies Christ's blood to be insufficient in and of itself for our salvation. It also belies the clear and empathic teaching of Scripture, which plainly proclaims to one and all that the blood of Jesus will never lose its power.
V. ETERNAL SECURITY & THE PROMISE OF GOD
In Galatians 3:15-29, the Apostle Paul declares that our salvation is a matter of God's promise, not of our performance. Paul explains how God's promise of salvation in Christ was given to Abraham "four hundred and thirty years" before God's Law was given to Israel. Therefore, the Law could not possibly "disannul" the promise, since the promised predated the Law by more than four centuries. If it could, then, salvation would not be a matter of us taking God at His Word, but of our living up to God's Law, which would make God's "promise...of none effect."
Furthermore, Hebrews 6:13-20 teaches us that God backed up His promise of salvation in Christ with an oath, which He swore by Himself, since He could swear by no one greater. By backing up his promise with an oath to Himself, God has assured us of "the immutability of his counsel"; that is, of the certainty of His promise and the surety of His salvation. With these "two immutable things"; namely, His irrevocable promise and oath, God has assured us of an irrevocable salvation!
The only way we can lose our salvation is if God, who cannot lie, 20 breaks His promise and fails to keep His oath. We may rest assured that this will never happen. God will keep His promise and His oath, not just for our sakes, but for His own name's sake as well. 21
Perhaps, the most beautiful picture of eternal security in all of Scripture is found in Hebrews 6:19-20. Here the author of Hebrews uses the dangers presented to ancient mariners by rocky ports to show the saints how Christ will captain our fate though the stormy seas of this fallen world and into Heaven's safe harbor.
Ancient ships had to be very careful when moving through the narrow entrances of rocky ports. A gush of wind could run the ship into a reef or rocky crag. To minimize the risk the captain of the ship would lower the ship’s sails. Afterward, he would drop the ship’s anchor into a small boat, which would be rolled ahead of the ship through the narrow entrance into the harbor. The anchor would then be dropped and the ship pulled past the obstacles safely into port.
As our “anchor,” Jesus has gone before us “into [God’s presence] within the veil.” With our sails down—our abandonment of self-effort in deference to total dependence upon Christ—Jesus will pull us past life's obstacles, through the narrow entrance, and safely into God’s eternal presence. We can count on our Captain; He has never lost a ship (soul)!
1. Galatians 3:10; James 2:10
2. Hebrews 6:4-6
3. Jude 1 (NIV)
4. Jude 24 (NIV)
5. 1 Peter 1:3-5 (NIV)
6. Revelation 1:17
7. 1 John 3:24
8. 1 John 4:13
9. 1 John 3:9-10
10. Acts 20:22-24 (NIV)
11. Ephesians 1:14
12. Revelation 19:9
13. 2 Corinthians 11:2
14. Ephesians 2:8-9
15. Galatians 6:14
16. 1 John 1:7; see also Colossians 2:13 and Hebrews 1:3
17. Acts 20:28
18. 1 Peter 1:18-19
19. Hebrews 9:24-26
20. Titus 1:2
21. 1 Samuel 12:22; Psalm 23:3; 25:11; 31:3; 79:9; 106:8; 109:21; 143:11; Isaiah 48:9; Jeremiah 14:7, 21; Ezekiel 20:9, 14, 22, 44; 36:22; 1 John 2;12
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