Once Saved, Always Saved (Eternal Security)

The concept of “once saved, always saved” , or, “eternal security”, is the idea that, once you have obtained salvation, you can’t lose that salvation. No matter what you do, you will always be a child of God. Largely, this concept centers on the emphasis upon God’s promise of eternal life (John 3:15, I John 2:25). “God’s promise of life is eternal,” proponents argue, “not temporary.”

Very true. God’s gift to us is indeed eternal life (Romans 6:23).

But that is the nature of a gift. We can keep it, or we can give it back. God made us with free will, as He demonstrated in the Garden of Eden. He does not want us trapped either in sin, or in His grace of eternal life. That is the beauty of God’s grace. He only wants people who want Him in turn.

In Matthew 13, Jesus tells the parable of the sower, and describes the seeds and the various places where they fell. Some seeds in the story have an unhappy ending in verses 5-6:

Others fell on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.

As He explains, we see that He is the sower, and the seeds his Word. He goes on in verses 20-21:

The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky place, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away.

In Scriptural terms, “falling away” is leaving the security and freedom of God’s salvation to follow the path of fleshliness and sin. Hebrews 6:6-8 has this to say:

For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame. For ground that drinks the rain which often falls on it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God; but if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed, and it ends up being burned.

If it’s impossible to lose salvation, then why does the writer of Hebrews say in these verses that the person who falls away is like cultivated land that brings up thorns and ends up being BURNED? Does the word “burned” sound like eternal security? Or like damnation?

In John 15:5-6, Jesus says:

I am the vine, and you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.

What does He mean by “abide”? According to Strong’s Concordance, the Greek word is meno, which means, “to stay, continue, dwell, endure, be present, remain, stand, or tarry”. So John 15:6 is telling us that if we do not REMAIN or ENDURE or TARRY or STAY in Christ, we are like dead branches and burned. Again — does that sound like “eternal security”?

In Romans 11:22, Paul, speaking to the Christians in Rome, says:

Behold the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, IF YOU CONTINUE IN HIS KINDNESS; OTHERWISE YOU WILL BE CUT OFF. [Emphasis mine]

God grants Christians His kindness — on the condition that THEY CONTINUE IN HIS KINDNESS; i.e., obey His commandments and maintain their faith. Otherwise, their fate sounds much similar to the barren ground or the dead vine branches.

Eternal security?

Paul says in Galatians 5:1:

It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.

The “yoke of slavery” mentioned in that verse is the slavery of sin. Christ sets us free from sin, but we can still leave that freedom and return to that slavery. Paul would not have given this admonition if we were incapable of falling away and losing our salvation.

The apostle Peter writes of false prophets (or, false preachers) and the disastrous effect they can have on God’s people in II Peter 2:18-22:

For speaking out arrogant words of vanity they entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality, those who barely escape from the ones who live in error, promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved. For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them. It has happened to them according to the true proverb, “A dog returns to its own vomit”, and, “A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire.”

Peter is here saying that if you were condemned prior to knowing and embracing Christ, you will be even more condemned if, AFTER knowing Christ, you willfully return to your old sinful ways. That most certainly doesn’t sound like eternal security!

In Romans 14:15, Paul admonishes Christians to be careful in their activities around those new to the faith. He says, Do not destroy . . . him for whom Christ died. What does he mean by “destroy”? He refers to the same destruction that awaits the dry branch and the barren ground. A young Christian is a tender shoot, and the older Christians around him must take care to nurture him and keep him from stumbling. His spiritual fate is at stake. Would Paul have issued this warning if it were impossible for a person to lose their salvation?

In Mark 13, Jesus speaks of the final days before the Great Judgment. He warns of famines, wars, earthquakes, fires, persecution, and betrayal. In verse 13, He says, You will be hated by all because of My name, but the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.

So . . . if the ones who endure to the end are saved . . . then there must be those who DO NOT endure to the end. And those who DO NOT endure WILL NOT be saved. This most definitely doesn’t sound like eternal security!

This urging to remain faithful repeats to the congregation in Smyrna in Revelation 2:10. Jesus, through John’s pen, warns them of their coming ten-year persecution by the Roman emperor Trajan. Then he says, Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.

The Smyrnans who remained faithful until death received their reward of eternity with Christ . . . but what about those who did not? It just brings us to another if/then logic scenario:

IF those who remained faithful until death received the crown of life,

THEN those who did not remain faithful until death DID NOT receive the crown of life.

Ezekiel 18:24 is a declaration from God Himself regarding what he does to the righteous person who reverts:

But when a righteous man turns away from his righteousness, commits iniquity and does according to all the abominations that a wicked man does, will he live? All his righteous deeds which he has done will not be remembered for his treachery which he has committed and his sin which he has committed; for them he will die.

So yes, God’s gift of eternal life is indeed eternal. We who are faithful will spend eternity with him. He is a true and faithful God, and never takes that gift away from us. But we can turn away, fall away, and throw that gift away. God made that gift available. It’s up to us to accept it, and up to us to keep it. All we must do is love Him and keep His commandments.

In Matthew 14, we read about Jesus’ disciples in a boat on the Sea of Galilee. A storm stuck, battering them without mercy, lasting into the night. Then Jesus came to them, walking on the surface of the water, calling out to them to “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” At this point, Peter asked Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” Jesus told him to come, and Peter got out of the boat and began walking toward Jesus. But then he looked around at the storm. The moment he took his eyes off Jesus, he started to sink. “Lord, save me!” he cried. Upon which Jesus grabbed him and gave him a gentle reprimand: “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”

Christians are in a storm upon the sea of the world, battered by trials and temptations, but Jesus is above all that, walking upon it in complete control. We can remain above the wild sea as long as we keep our eyes on him. But the moment we look away and become caught up in the worries and attacks of the world, we sink. We have to keep our eyes on Jesus, or we lose our footing and fall into destruction. Being human we all lose our way at many points in our lives. But only if we call out, “Lord, save me!” will he reach out and draw us back up. Our faith keeps us afloat. Our loss of faith drags us down.

Peter would have died had he not called out to Jesus. Sometimes people who lose their faith flail about and struggle, but never call out to Jesus, who is always there ready to pull us out. Those are the ones who perish. Those are the ones who do not remain faithful until the end.

Will you remain faithful, and continue your walk toward Christ? Or will you take your eyes off, and sink, and not call out for help? It is your choice. God will not force you to remain afloat.

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