Why Eternal Security Is Not a Biblical Doctrine
By Philip A. Matthews
Eternal Security is the doctrine that simply states, "Once saved, always saved (OSAS). This doctrine teaches that once a person has been born again by trusting in Jesus as his personal Savior, i.e., "saved, he can never be eternally lost, i.e., go to hell after his life has ended, no matter how far that person may backslide or live and die in unconfessed sin after his initial belief in Christ. Eternal security claims that one act of faith in Christ at some time in a person's life guarantees heaven for them forevermore.
So, according to this doctrine, there is no way for a saved person to backslide and be lost. There is no way for you to "lose your salvation. There is no way to "fall from grace. There is no such thing as "losing out or "going back on God, with the consequence being that a person who was once saved goes to hell. There is no such thing as "apostasy. Once you are saved, you are "preserved. This is known in Calvinism as the "preservation of the saints. Sometimes it is referred to as "assurance in Christ.
God's Promises Are Conditional
In commenting on this doctrine, it should first be noted that the promises of God are all conditional. That is, God's promised benefits are given to people as they meet the conditions stated or implied within that promise. In other words, God's promises have strings attached. He does not make blanket promises that apply to everybody in every place for every time. His promises are for specific people who meet specific conditions and qualifications for the specific benefits promised.
Take John 3:16 for example. The promise is that "whosoever believes in Him (Jesus) should not perish but have everlasting life. There is a condition here that must be met before you can receive everlasting life: You must first believe in Jesus. If (which specifies a condition) you believe in Him, then you will not perish and you will have everlasting life. But if you do not believe in Him, then you will not have everlasting life and you will perish.
Let's take another example, Galatians 6:9: "And let us not be weary in well doing; for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. The condition that must be met, before the promise to reap can be fulfilled, is that we must not faint. So if we faint, then it follows that we shall not reap.
But it also follows that if we have reaped, then it must be true that we did not faint. Otherwise, if we reaped and yet we did faint, then it must be true that we will reap whether we faint or not. This makes the conditional statement absolutely useless and the verse nonsensical: we shall reap if do not faint and we shall reap if we do faint. No matter what we do, we shall reap. But if this be the case, then Paul's warning against fainting is meaningless and utter nonsense. Why encourage people not to faint when in actuality it does not matter if they do or they don't.
But what is the point here? The point is that, every conditional statement in the Bible”implied or direct”is what is called a "tautology. That is, it is true both ways”forward and backward. Thus, it is true that "if we do not faint, then we shall reap. And it is also true that if we do faint, then we will not reap. It is also true that if we have reaped, then we must not have fainted, as well as, if we did not reap, then we must have fainted. In logic, these statements condense into this: "We shall reap if and only if we do not faint.
The Bible Is Logically Valid
Thus, the conditional, "if-then-type statements of the Bible are tautological. If they are not, then many contradictions, untruths, and nonsensical statements result. This principle of logic must be used throughout the New Testament regarding all conditional statements and promises. The "If always means "If and Only If. If it does not, then the conditional statement becomes unconditional, thus stripping the statement of all sense and meaning.
Let's take one more example, one much more directly applicable to the issue at hand, eternal security. Second Peter 1:10-11 (NIV) reads: "Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager ["diligent KJV] to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Exactly what things is Peter telling them to do? Obviously, he means the things he listed in verses 5 through 9: "Add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity [love]. These are the "things they are to add. Then in verse 8 he states that if "these things be in you and abound, you will not be unfruitful. In verse 9, he warns that if you "lack these things, you are blind, cannot see afar off, and have forgotten that you were purged from your sins. Finally in verse 10, he says that "if you do these things, you will never fall¦and receive a rich welcome¦
Now this "if is an "if and only if. The promise is that you will never fall and you will receive a rich welcome if and only if "you do these things. This rules out the possibility that you will never fall and you will receive a rich welcome without doing "these things. It must be true that if you do not do these things, then you will fall. If you do not do these things, then you will not receive a rich welcome. If it were possible for them to not do these things and still receive a rich welcome, then it makes no sense to warn them about it at all.
Applied to eternal security, this principle thus completely rules out the possibility of somebody getting saved, then going back out into sin and failing to do "these things, but still they never "fall and still they "receive a rich welcome into heaven. Anybody who gets saved, then fails to grow in grace, instead choosing to revert back to his old sinful lifestyle, has definitely fallen and will not be welcomed into heaven. If they make it to heaven anyway, living their sinful unrepentant lifestyle, then 2 Peter 1:10-11”and most of the rest of the New Testament”is a sham and a mockery.
There are many other such scriptures to which this principle of "if and only if applies. Revelation 2:10 promises, "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. This must mean, "I will give you a crown of life if and only if you are faithful until death. If you are not faithful until death”if you quit believing, if you quit doing the Lord's will, quit obeying and following His word”then it is pretty obvious that I will not give you a crown of life. If you could get this crown of life without being faithful until death, then it would not make sense for Jesus to hold this out as some kind of reward for faithfulness and good behavior.
In Revelation 3:1-5, Jesus speaks of some Christians and a church that has been spiritually alive (saved) but are "about to die (NIV). He states why: "I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of My God. However, He finds that a few Christians there have not "soiled or "defiled their garments, i.e., do not have sin in their lives. These He promises will "walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. Then He promises: "He that overcomes [i.e., maintains their deeds and lives of holiness] will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before My Father and His angels. So He promises to do three things”dress them in white, not blot out their names, and acknowledge them before God”if and only if they will overcome. What if they do not overcome? Then it logically follows that He will not dress them in white, He will blot out their names from the book of life, and He will not acknowledge knowing them before His Father. The promise is to overcomers only. What could be more plain and logical?
There is one more of these conditional statements found in Hebrews 3:14 (KJV): "For we are partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end. In other words, we are partakers in Christ if and only "if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first (NIV). Obviously, if we do not hold that first confidence, we will not be partakers in Christ. The promise is not just to everybody, but only to those who hold to their first confidence. Paul was writing to some Christians that were being sorely tested and persecuted, and were tempted to give up. Those who let go of their faith in Christ would lose their participation and fellowship with Him. This concept Paul repeated in chapter 10:32-39. He warned those Christians not to be of "those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.
The Historical and "Scriptural Basis For Eternal Security
The doctrine of eternal security is generally attributed to John Calvin, whose followers are called Calvinists or members of the Reformed tradition. But even Calvinists acknowledge that much of their doctrine originates with St. Augustine of Hippo (Algeria in Northern Africa), the Catholic (or pre-Catholic) theologian of the 4th century (354-430). He did quite a bit of writing on "Original Sin, which the reformers, Martin Luther and John Calvin, both borrowed.
Calvin "systemized his beliefs in the Institutes of Religion, a rather large work that serves as the basis for what is now known as Calvinism. His teachings regarding salvation can be summarized with the following famous acronym representing the "Five Points of Calvinism, TULIP:
- T = Total Depravity, also called "total inability," asserts that as a consequence of the fall of man into sin, every person is enslaved to sin (derived from Augustine's "original sin). People are not by nature inclined to love God but rather to serve their own interests and to reject the rule of God. Thus, all people by their own faculties are morally unable to choose to follow God and be saved because they are unwilling to do so out of the necessity of their own natures. This eliminates "freewill (see below).
- U = Unlimited Election asserts that God has chosen from eternity those whom he will bring to himself, not based on foreseen virtue, merit, or faith in those people. Instead, his choice is unconditionally grounded in his mercy alone. God sovereignly extends mercy to those he has chosen and to withhold mercy from those not chosen.
- L = Limited Atonement, also called "particular redemption" or "definite atonement," asserts that Jesus' atonement was definite and certain in its purpose and in what it accomplished. This implies that only the sins of the elect were atoned for by Jesus' death. Calvinists do not believe, however, that the atonement is limited in its value or power, but rather that the atonement is limited in the sense that it is intended for some and not all.
- I = Irresistible Grace, also called "efficacious grace," asserts that the saving grace of God is effectually applied to those whom he has determined to save (that is, the elect) and overcomes their resistance to obeying the call of the gospel, bringing them to a saving faith. This means that when God sovereignly purposes to save someone, that individual certainly will be saved.
- P = Perseverance of the Saints asserts that since God is sovereign and his will cannot be frustrated by humans or anything else, those whom God has called into communion with himself will continue in faith until the end. Those who apparently fall away either never had true faith to begin with or will return to the faith. This is the point known today as "Once Saved, Always Saved. They can never be lost.
Comparison among Protestants
Total Depravity without free will permanently due to divine sovereignty
Total Depravity without free will until spiritual regeneration
Depravity does not prevent free will
Unconditional predestination to salvation for the elect
Conditional election in view of foreseen faith or unbelief
Justification is limited to those predestined to salvation, completed at Christ's death
Justification by faith alone, completed at Christ's death.
Monergistic, through the inner calling of the Holy Spirit, irresistible
Synergistic, resistible due to the common grace of free will
Preservation and apostasy
Perseverance of the saints: the eternally elect in Christ will necessarily persevere in faith
Falling away is possible, but God gives assurance of preservation.
These doctrines have been argued among Protestants for several centuries. Presently there are Christians who call themselves "3-point, "4-point, and 5-point Calvinists. Some denominations (e.g., many Baptists) could be classified as "1-point Calvinists, simply because they usually reject all of the first four points and hold only to Point Five, the "Perseverance of the Saints, i.e., "once saved, always saved. But many major Calvinist teachers point out that Point Five is impossible without the other four points. They all stand or fall together.
The Surefire Proof That We Have Freewill
It should be obvious that most of the above differences hinge on the issue of "freewill and the ability to choose morally. A great inconsistency arises when people want to believe in freewill, but then try to believe in eternal security also. The result then is that freewill allows a person to choose to believe in Christ and thereby be saved, but later choose not to believe in Christ but retain his salvation. And yet, by biblical definition, only a believer in Christ is saved. There simply is no salvation for those who do not believe in Christ. Salvation for unbelievers would contradict everything in the New Testament!
So how do we prove freewill? This is a surefire method:
- First of all, it is obvious that in the Garden of Eden, God gave humans the power and freewill to make a choice: To eat or not eat the fruit. Even Calvinism must admit this existence of freewill at the beginning.
- Adam and Eve chose to eat of the fruit, fell into sin, became depraved, etc. Now Calvinism says that this depravity was so total and complete that, since that time, "all people by their own faculties are morally unable to choose to follow God and be saved because they are unwilling to do so out of the necessity of their own natures. That is, even if we still had freewill, that depraved freewill can by necessity choose only to go a downward way, an evil path, etc., and is completely unable to choose God.
- However, that is preposterous because thousands of years later, God Himself again gives the Israelites a chance to make a choice for Him and His way: "See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil; In that I command thee this day to love the LORD thy God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments, that thou mayest live and multiply: and the LORD thy God shall bless thee in the land whither thou goest to possess it. But if thine heart turn away, so that thou wilt not hear, but shalt be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them; I denounce unto you this day, that ye shall surely perish, and that ye shall not prolong your days upon the land, whither thou passest over Jordan to go to possess it. 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: That thou mayest love the LORD thy God, and that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto him: for he is thy life, and the length of thy days (Deuteronomy 30:15-20).
- It's pretty obvious here that the Lord God of heaven believes that these people actually are able to choose Him and His way. Otherwise, if their ability to choose God and righteousness was so impaired and "totally depraved, God would be grossly unfair and utterly mean-spirited to give them a "choice that they could not possibly make! He would be unrealistically expecting "blood out of a turnip, then judging and punishing the turnip for failing to do something it could not possibly do! And there are many other instances in the Bible where God gives fallen people a chance to exercise their freewill and expects them to choose Him. We can choose, and because of this, the whole first, foundational assumption of Calvinism, i.e., the "T in the TULIP, comes crashing down! And the rest of the theory falls with it.
The Faithfulness and Immutability of God
However, most proponents of OSAS today don't even bother with the historical origins of eternal security, but generally base their beliefs on a few main popular arguments: (1) The faithfulness and immutability of God in His promises and gifts; (2) The analogy that spiritual birth and sonship is like natural birth and sonship; (3) The "No one can pluck them out of His hand concept in John 10:27-30; and (4) The "saved by grace, not by works argument.
Regarding the faithfulness and immutability of God, it is sometimes stated by proponents that "God is not an Indian-giver, meaning that whatever God gives, He gives for forever. He will never take His gifts back. "God's gifts and His call are irrevocable (Romans 11:29 NIV). Since the "gift of God is eternal life (Romans 6:23), once He has given a soul eternal life, He will never take it back. They have that eternal life forever, no matter how they have behaved since they received it.
This may sound somewhat reasonable, until we read the rest of the passage and context, and discover that, once again, this promise is conditional. Romans 6:22-23 reads: "But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. The conditions to be met here are plainly stated in verse 22: "¦you are set free from sin and are slaves to God¦ The "result is eternal life. If you are not set free from sin, but have gone back into daily, habitual sin, and you are no longer a slave to God but are instead a slave again to evil, then it is not possible for the "result still to be eternal life. If you go back to living in sin, then the first part of verse 23 applies to you: "¦the wages of sin is death¦
God's promises are immutable, but only to those who meet the conditions. Where the conditions are not met, the performance of the promise simply does not occur. The conditions God requires always involve His holy standards. If He were to fulfill His promise regardless of whether the conditions have been met or not, God would paint Himself into a corner of having to reward something that falls far below His standards. This would force Him into actually violating His own holy nature, and God cannot and will not contradict Himself. Therefore, all conditions must be met before His promises take effect.
But, regarding His gifts, some object that if God's gifts are conditional, then they are not truly gifts but merely rewards for meeting the conditions.
The Analogy of Spiritual Birth and Sonship
The concept that once a child is born into a family it is always a member of that family is another linchpin doctrine of eternal security. We can only be naturally born into this world once; we can only be "born again into God's kingdom once. Once a person is born again as a child of God, they are in His family forever. Being a bad child, even a disgraceful child, does not remove them from the family. So the reasoning goes.
This would not at first appear to be faulty reasoning. But all spiritual reasoning needs some kind of validation or confirmation from scripture, and there are no verses to support such reasoning. Who said that the spiritual family is in this respect like the natural family? Indeed, they are very different. In the natural family, babies are born into it without any choice of their wills. But no one is born into the spiritual family without making a deliberate choice to receive Christ. Our will enters the equation in the spiritual birth. Therefore, it follows that our wills must play a part in whether we remain part of the spiritual family.
We do not enter the spiritual family against our will, nor do we remain a member of the spiritual family against our will. In the New Testament, we have a few examples of men who did not choose to remain a part of the spiritual family, and scripture records they lost out with God:
- Judas (John 17:12 "None has been lost, but the son of perdition¦ Evidently, Judas had once been found or saved: One cannot lose something that was never possessed; Acts 1:15-26).
- Another example is Hymenaeus, Philetus, and Alexander (1 Timothy 1:19-20 "Some¦have shipwrecked their faith. Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander¦; 2 Timothy 2:17-18 "Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have wandered away from the truth¦). This they willfully did ("apoÌ„theomai = "thrust away in 1 Tim 1:19). They obviously had at one time possessed true faith”but thrust it away, wandered away from it, wrecked it, and even "blasphemed it away (v. 20). They are not still saved.
"No Man Can Pluck Them Out of My Hand
This verse, John 10:27-28, is probably the most quoted scripture used to support eternal security. "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.
Now this verse is indeed a very comforting and assuring verse from which all Christians can gather strength. However, it does not teach eternal security because, once again, this promise, too, is conditional. First of all, Jesus is talking about His "sheep. His sheep have several characteristics that constitute the conditions required for this promise. In verse 27 He says that "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me¦ Then He promises them eternal life. So the condition is to be one of His sheep, which means that you "hear His voice. Inherent in this word "hear is the concept of "listening (NIV), heeding and obeying. Also, He says, "I know them¦ That is, Jesus and His sheep are in fellowship and communion together; they share in the same Spirit. Sin breaks fellowship (1 John 1; 2 Corinthians 6:14), and iniquity and doing one's own thing causes Jesus to say, "I don't know you (Matthew 25:12). Last, He says, "They follow Me¦ In other words, they are My disciples. They imitate Me; they obey Me. They do what I do, and go where I go. Following Jesus means that they have "denied themselves and "taken up their crosses (Matthew 16:24).
This, by definition, is a "sheep of Jesus Christ. And this is who He promises cannot be "plucked out of His hand. But this promise does not apply to some ex-Christian who has turned from following Jesus and is not "hearing or obeying His voice any longer. Such a person is no longer even in the hands of the Lord. Nobody "plucked him out; he removed himself. There is nothing stated in this verse or any other Bible passage that a person cannot voluntarily remove Himself from God's hands. We cannot lose our salvation involuntarily, but we can give it up by our own freewill.
The "Saved By Grace, Not By Works Argument
Another main argument for eternal security is that which says, Since we did not receive salvation by works, we cannot be keep or maintain salvation by works. See Ephesians 2:8-10 and Titus 3:5, which state more or less that "we are saved by grace, through faith, not by works.
The rest of the scripture, verse 10, states plainly that we are not saved by good works, but we are definitely saved for good works, i.e., to do good works. The ability to do these "good works did not earn us our salvation but is a reliable proof or confirmation that we have salvation. Thus, it can be logically concluded that if our lives are not characterized by good works but instead by the normal habitual and sinful works of the flesh commonly committed by all unregenerate people, then we are most likely not saved. If at one time we did live a life characterized by good works but now we no longer do, then it is very likely that we once were saved but have now chosen not to be.
Also, we must be careful not to get too harsh or dogmatic about these "works concepts because Jesus Himself once told some people how to get saved: "Jesus replied, ˜This is the work (service) that God asks of you: that you believe in the One Whom He has sent [that you cleave to, trust, rely on, and have faith in His Messenger]' (John 6:29 AMP). In other words, the work that we must perform to get saved is to believe! So believing or having faith is itself a work”which saves us!
Philippians 2:12 should also prevent us from getting too dogmatic about works: "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. This verse probably sounds worse than it actually is: It does not mean to work to earn your salvation, but to "cultivate, carry out to the goal, and fully complete (AMP) the good works that help us prove or confirm our existing salvation.
General Comments on the Above Positions
One of the basic rules of biblical interpretation is that, whenever you choose to interpret a passage of Scripture one way, then that interpretation cannot possibly be true IF it contradicts other clear biblical passages. If our interpretation does contradict other clear biblical passages, then it is obvious that we need to seek for another non-contradictory interpretation. That is, if our interpretation of a certain scripture causes conflicts with the rest of the Bible, then it must mean something other than what we thought it meant.
For example, if we decide that it is true that God only chooses certain individuals to be saved (predestination: ), then the biblical statement, "The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9), is contradicted. God cannot BOTH choose only certain people to be saved but at the same time desire ALL people to be saved.
Or, if we lean too heavily on the idea that God Himself chooses or "elects which individuals to save and those who are not chosen can never be saved (predestination again), then we eliminate the concept of "freewill. When freewill is eliminated, we then contradict dozens of other scriptures that appear to assume free-will: "Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely (Rev 22:17); "See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil (Deut 30:15); etc. But most of all, if we do not have free will, we cannot be held responsible and accountable. But the scripture is plain throughout that we are accountable to God for our behavior, choices, and moral decisions: Luke 11:31-32; Romans 14:10; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Hebrews 9:27; 1 Peter 4:17; Jude 15; Matthew 12:36; Ecclesiastes 12:14 and 11:9; Psalm 1:5; Genesis 18:25; etc.
So the general conclusion that avoids conflicts and contradiction is that God elects all people to be saved who will call upon His name (Romans 10:1-21). It is left up to the individual's free choice, which is talked about throughout the whole Bible, to accept or reject salvation and to accept the consequences of that choice.
Scriptures That Speak Directly of the Possibility of Backsliding
After all of the above discussion, much of which may still be debatable according to some, let us now turn our attention to more direct scriptures that contradict OSAS. What does the Bible say about backsliding and losing”or forfeiting”one's salvation? Is such a biblical concept or not? Following are several scriptures that speak directly to this issue.
Many times when discussing this issue, the idea is proposed that people do not lose their salvation; really they were never saved in the first place. Sometimes this may be true, but it is still a New Testament concept that it is possible for someone who really was saved to be lost in the end. Apostasy is a valid Bible concept, taught plainly by many scriptures. The idea that lost souls were never saved in the first place is refuted by these scriptures.
Below are the scriptures that speak directly of the possibility of backsliding, i.e., of being lost after having once been saved. Remember, if we find even one instance of someone backsliding, whatever the circumstances and conditions may be, then that one instance is enough to immediately prove our point.
Hebrews 6:4-8 (AMP)
4 "For it is impossible [to restore and bring again to repentance] those who have been once for all enlightened, who have consciously tasted the heavenly gift and have become sharers of the Holy Spirit, 5 And have felt how good the Word of God is and the mighty powers of the age and world to come, 6 If they then deviate from the faith and turn away from their allegiance”[it is impossible] to bring them back to repentance, for (because, while, as long as) they nail upon the cross the Son of God afresh [as far as they are concerned] and are holding [Him] up to contempt and shame and public disgrace. 7 For the soil which has drunk the rain that repeatedly falls upon it and produces vegetation useful to those for whose benefit it is cultivated partakes of a blessing from God. 8 But if [that same soil] persistently bears thorns and thistles, it is considered worthless and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned.
Obviously, whoever the apostle is speaking of is saved. They are "once for all enlightened, they have "tasted of the heavenly gift, they have even been filled with the Holy Spirit, they have felt the goodness of God's word and the mighty powers of the age to come. If they cannot deviate from the faith, then it makes no sense for Paul to write "if they then deviate from the faith and turn away from their allegiance¦ If they do so, he writes that they will be cursed and burned, obviously in eternal hellfire, because they could not be brought back to repentance. This terminology makes absolutely no sense unless there is such a thing as apostasy and backsliding.
Hebrews 10:23-39 (AMP)
"So let us seize and hold fast and retain without wavering the hope we cherish and confess and our acknowledgement of it, for He Who promised is reliable (sure) and faithful to His word. 24 And let us consider and give attentive, continuous care to watching over one another, studying how we may stir up (stimulate and incite) to love and helpful deeds and noble activities, 25 Not forsaking or neglecting to assemble together [as believers], as is the habit of some people, but admonishing (warning, urging, and encouraging) one another, and all the more faithfully as you see the day approaching. 26 For if we go on deliberately and willingly sinning after once acquiring the knowledge of the Truth, there is no longer any sacrifice left to atone for [our] sins [no further offering to which to look forward]. 27 [There is nothing left for us then] but a kind of awful and fearful prospect and expectation of divine judgment and the fury of burning wrath and indignation which will consume those who put themselves in opposition [to God]. [Isa. 26:11]. 28 Any person who has violated and [thus] rejected and set at naught the Law of Moses is put to death without pity or mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. [Deut. 17:2“6]. 29 How much worse (sterner and heavier) punishment do you suppose he will be judged to deserve who has spurned and [thus] trampled underfoot the Son of God, and who has considered the covenant blood by which he was consecrated common and unhallowed, thus profaning it and insulting and outraging the [Holy] Spirit [Who imparts] grace (the unmerited favor and blessing of God)? [Exod. 24:8].
"32 ¦But be ever mindful of the days gone by in which, after you were first spiritually enlightened, you endured a great and painful struggle, 33 Sometimes being yourselves a gazing stock, publicly exposed to insults and abuse and distress, and sometimes claiming fellowship and making common cause with others who were so treated. 34 For you did sympathize and suffer along with those who were imprisoned, and you bore cheerfully the plundering of your belongings and the confiscation of your property, in the knowledge and consciousness that you yourselves had a better and lasting possession. 35 Do not, therefore, fling away your fearless confidence, for it carries a great and glorious compensation of reward. 36 For you have need of steadfast patience and endurance, so that you may perform and fully accomplish the will of God, and thus receive and carry away [and enjoy to the full] what is promised. 37 For still a little while (a very little while), and the Coming One will come and He will not delay. 38 But the just shall live by faith [My righteous servant shall live by his conviction respecting man's relationship to God and divine things, and holy fervor born of faith and conjoined with it]; and if he draws back and shrinks in fear, My soul has no delight or pleasure in him. [Hab. 2:3, 4]. 39 But our way is not that of those who draw back to eternal misery (perdition) and are utterly destroyed, but we are of those who believe [who cleave to and trust in and rely on God through Jesus Christ, the Messiah] and by faith preserve the soul.
Paul is talking to Christians here, and if there were no danger at all of some of them turning away from God because of the persecution they are experiencing at this time, absolutely none of this passage would make any sense. They are saved. They have "acquired a knowledge of the truth. They have been "consecrated [sanctified KJV] by the "covenant blood. They have been "spiritually enlightened. They had "knowledge and consciousness that they "had a better and lasting possession in heaven that allowed them to sacrifice their lives here. They had a "fearless confidence. If they were not saved, then they were some supernatural sinners! But Paul had to encourage and warn them to keep holding on and not let their troubles cause them to draw back to "eternal misery (perdition) and be "utterly destroyed. Whoever they were, none of this makes sense if perdition (eternal damnation) were not a possibility for them.
Eternal security proponents usually argue that the above two Hebrews scriptures are talking only about certain people under certain conditions, perhaps hypothetical but not real conditions, and therefore these scriptures do not really prove anything at all. But why would the writer go through all of those scenarios hypothetically if they were impossible to ever occur? And whoever these scriptures are referring to, under whatever set of conditions, this fact remains: Somebody here had experienced all of the major blessings of salvation through belief in Christ”spiritual enlightenment and a knowledge of the truth, cleansing by His blood of covenant, Holy Spirit infilling, assurance of heaven, fearless confidence, etc. What more could we expect them to have? But they lost it”or gave it up. Why and how it was lost does not matter here. The fact that it was lost reveals the fact that it is possible to lose it.
Several other pertinent scriptures:
Luke 12:45 "But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delays his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken; 46 The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looks not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers." He was the servant of his Lord. But now Jesus says that, though he was once saved, his lord will appoint him a portion in hell.
John 15:2-6 "I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit¦ If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned." The person was already abiding in the vine, i.e., saved and "in Christ. Now, he will be "taken away, cut off, and will be burned. But note what happens before this burning: He will "wither, xeraino, dry up, and shrivel. This means that at one time the life of the Vine actually flowed in and through him, but now being separated from the Vine because of a refusal to bear Christian fruit, he loses that life.
Romans 11:21 "For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. 22 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." This is the warning of the Lord Jesus Christ. He has cut off many before. If you don't continue in his goodness, he will cut you off also. Once saved, you have to continue in salvation. Or else you can be cut off.
1 Cor 3:16 "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 17 If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy." You are the temple of God. He lives in you. But, if you defile yourself with sin, God will destroy you, not merely your rewards! It is not once saved always saved.
1 Cor 9:27 "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." If Apostle Paul did not continue to keep his body in obedience, he would have been thrown away. That means salvation is not automatically kept. But we have to meet the conditions to keep it.
1 Cor 10:12 "Wherefore let him that thinks he stands take heed lest he fall." If we stand, be careful so that we may not fall. This caution shows that the position is not guaranteed.
1 Cor 15:2 "By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain." "If you keep in memory" is conditional. If they do not keep the memory of the preaching, they lose the position of salvation.
Gal 5:4 "Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace." They were in grace and hence they were saved. Now they fell from grace. That is, salvation is lost. They were saved once. But now they are lost.
Col 1:23---If you continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel¦ This letter is written to the "saints and faithful brethren at Colossae. There are only two groups of people there, as in any church: those who are truly saved and those who are not truly saved. If, as Calvinists say, the truly saved cannot fall away anyway, this whole admonition is moot and unnecessary for them. Paul's instructions and warnings are mere wasted ink, and they are not really written to the truly saved at all.
So perhaps they are written to those in the church who are not truly saved. This is a popular argument of OSAS proponents: People who appear to "lose their salvation were never saved in the first place. However, the instructions here make no sense for them either, because why would Paul tell them to "continue along a path that does not lead to salvation anyway? Furthermore, why would he tell them not to be "moved away from some position they have never attained? A person cannot "move away from a place he was never in. One cannot "lose something he never had.
So it is obvious that he was not talking to or about unsaved professors, thus meaning that his instructions were definitely directed to those truly saved. He is warning the saved; he makes it conditional that the saved will be saved in the end "if they continue¦ and are not moved away. The only way this can make any sense at all is if it applies to the saved! Thus, we are forced to admit the possibility that the saved, if they disobey Paul's admonition and fail to "continue or allow themselves to be "moved away, will not be saved after all. In other words, the saved can fall away and be lost.
2 Thess 2:3 "Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first..." A few people that are saved will be deceived and fall away. One cannot fall away from a position he never held. So, once saved is not always saved.
1 Tim 3:6 "Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil." Or, as in NIV: "He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. A newly saved person is more vulnerable to fall into condemnation”and be lost. Note that this is not a matter of losing his rewards.
1 Tim 4:1 "Now the Spirit speaks expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;" The Holy Spirit says clearly that some saved persons will depart from faith and will be lost. They will believe and preach the doctrine of devils.
1 Tim 5:12 "Having damnation, because they have cast off their first faith." They were first, at one time, saved through faith. Then they cast off their faith and fell into damnation, which is not salvation.
1 Tim 5:15 "For some are already turned aside after Satan. They were with God but turned aside or away. But now they are with Satan. Once saved, now lost it forever.
Heb 3:12 "Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. 13 But exhort one another daily, while it is called Today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we are made partakers of Christ, if (and only if) we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end." Partakers with God are departing from God. Sin is deceitful and will separate you from God. Once saved, if not steadfast, will lose it.
Heb 12:15 "Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God." By grace you are saved. If you are not diligent you may fall from the grace of God, and lose the salvation.
James 5:19 "Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; 20 Let him know, that he which converts the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins." If a saved person errs from the truth, it apparently makes him a sinner who needs to be saved again. Saving him from the error is saving his soul. That is, any time you go into error or go back into sin, you no longer have the salvation you once had.
2 Peter 2:15 "Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam." They were in the right way but forsook it and have now gone astray. Once saved and now lost.
2 Peter 2:20 "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." Those who once escaped sin may also fall into sin again.
Rev 2:5 "Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent." They had fallen from salvation. Jesus Christ requires them to repent and get back.
Rev 3:16 "Because thou art lukewarm and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth." This church was living in the mouth of God. Now God will spit them out unless they become hot for God. Getting "spewed out of God's mouth doesn't sound very eternally secure!
Rev 22:19 "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, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. Rev 20:15 "And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire." These people at first are saved, meaning that God has written their names in the book of life. But, if they reject any of his word, God Himself will take their names out of the book of life, meaning that they are not saved any more. Then, whoever is not found in the book of life will be thrown into the lake of fire. So ultimately, these who were once saved are now thrown into the lake of fire.
Most of this should seem pretty clear and straightforward. They are all verses that make it difficult to support the teaching of "once saved, always saved.
Eternal Security Tends to Prevent Practical Holiness
It should also be noted that the doctrine of practical holiness, i.e., daily living with victory over sin, is generally incompatible with eternal security, the teaching that once a person is saved, he is saved forever, no matter what he does or how rebelliously he lives thereafter. This does not mean that no one who believes in eternal security can live holy. We simply mean that the doctrine of eternal security removes the "teeth out of the requirement to live holy, thus permitting a generally lower standard of Christian behavior throughout the Body of Christ. The name given to Christians who live on this lower standard of behavior is "Carnal Christians.
Once we remove the need to live holy and be submissive to God as one of the requirements to enter heaven, all real motivation to live a holy life is lost. Holiness becomes optional. If a person's life does not have to be clean and holy to remain in fellowship with God or to enter heaven in the end, then we begin to wonder why did Jesus Christ come and die and what is the point of a great portion of the Bible that continually exhorts us to holiness and daily victory over sin?
Many teachers of eternal security answer this objection by saying that if you don't live holy, then although you still go to heaven, you will miss out on your "rewards. They base this on 1 Corinthians 3:12-15: "Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.
This is like saying that instead of getting a "mansion in heaven that rivals Peter's or Paul's, an unholy, carnal Christian would receive only a little shack. But the fact of the matter is this: There are only two eternal destinations”heaven and hell”and if by any means you manage to miss hell and make it to heaven, even a shack in heaven is good enough! Heaven is the ultimate blessing, with or without any other "rewards. So in essence an unholy believer gets the same reward as the holy believer, thus completely eliminating any reason to live holy. When living unholy is not eternally devastating, then living holy becomes optional.
But for some reason, we hear the apostle Paul saying, "Seek to live a clean and holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14 NLT). Obviously, he is not talking about positional holiness or right standing with God ("hosiotes in Luke 1:75 and Ephesians 4:24), which a believer cannot do for himself. Instead he is referring to practical, character- and behavior-based holiness ("hagiasmos and "hagiosune in Romans 6:19 and 22; 2 Corinthians 7:1; 1 Timothy 2:15; and 1 Thessalonians 3:13 and 4:7 ), which every believer is perfectly capable of and required to maintain. There should be no expectation of "seeing the Lord, i.e., of enjoying His divine presence in heaven, without practicing holy living.
Resolving the Controversy
While we are on this subject, it would be good to make an attempt to resolve the conflict between practical holiness and the doctrine of eternal security. First of all, it should be noted that if a person believes in eternal security but still lives holy, then it doesn't matter whether their belief in "once saved always saved is right or wrong. A belief in eternal security is only detrimental when a person dishonestly uses it as an excuse to continue living sinfully. Unfortunately, this is often done. Multitudes of "Christians continue living a sinful lifestyle by assuming that once they made a decision for Christ, then it doesn't matter how awful their behavior might be; they are still saved.
But the Bible clearly teaches that sin can break fellowship with God (2 Corinthians 6:14). However, when a Christian commits a sinful deed, this does not necessarily or immediately break fellowship with God. He gives the Christian committing the sin a "space or time to repent (Revelations 2:21). The Holy Spirit convicts the sinning Christian to repent, make restitution, clean up the situation, apologize to those offended, etc. Forgiveness is thus obtained, and the Christian's fellowship with God remains unbroken.
See also 1 John 1:5-2:2 regarding this process of sinning and restoration: "If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.
However, if the Christian refuses to respond to the convictions of the Holy Spirit and refuses to repent for the wrong deed done, the Holy Spirit will continue to prod and persuade him or her to repent, to straighten up the situation, and to remove the stain of guilt from his record and his heart and mind. How do we know this? Because verse 9 is, once again, a tautology: "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us¦ and cleanse us¦ It logically follows that if we do not confess, then He does not forgive or cleanse. Why would God forgive the sins of someone who does not have a heart and attitude of repentance, regret, humility, and confession? Such would be a complete violation of the whole biblical concept of confession and repentance: Someone who is completely unrepentant has his sins forgiven without meeting the biblical conditions (Romans 10:9-10)!
So if the sinning Christian never repents or confesses, the Holy Spirit eventually ceases to deal with him about the matter, eventually breaking fellowship with God. "If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth¦ People who are not in fellowship with God do not go to heaven, not even to receive a lower degree of rewards. People out of fellowship with God go to hell. Indeed, that is the only way to get there: Simply be out of fellowship with God! People out of fellowship with God remain in spiritual death.
Thus, we can say that the traditional, non-Calvinistic Christian doctrine is similar to eternal security in that it does not teach that every little sin and misdeed results in an immediate loss of fellowship with God. We don't just "lose our salvation for every little misdeed or without our knowledge. However, it does differ from eternal security by teaching that every willful and wrong deed you are aware of must be confessed and repented of to maintain fellowship with God. And it differs by teaching that a person who willfully rebels and refuses to repent for his known misdeeds”that is, holds on to his unconfessed sin”falls out of fellowship with God and cannot enter heaven.
Some well-known eternal security teachers (e.g., Charles Stanley) actually teach that once saved, a person can sin, deliberately turn his back completely on God, and even become an unbeliever, but still make it into heaven because of "that one point in time in which that person made a decision for Christ! "Even if a believer for all practical purposes becomes an unbeliever, his salvation is not in jeopardy." Why not? Because of this, according to Charles Stanley: "But a man or woman who has been rescued once from a state of unforgiveness need not worry. For once 100% of a man's or woman's sins have been forgiven, the potential for being unforgiven has been done away with. The risk factor is zero. There are no more fires from which the believer needs to be saved."
Other eternal security proponents actually interpret some biblical passages to teach that there is a place of "outer darkness inside heaven that has such a low degree of rewards that the souls there actually feel like they are in hell. For example, Dr. Spiros Zodhiates claims that the "outer darkness in the Parable of the Unprofitable Servant (Matthew 25:30) refers "to the degrees of the enjoyment of heaven rather than referring to hell. The "weeping and gnashing of teeth occurs in heaven! See his comments on Matthew 8:11-12 in his Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible (KJV). If unfaithful Christians were to remain in this condition of hell-like torment in heaven, even this would allow the doctrine of eternal security to make the requirement to live holy non-optional. However, according to their eternal security doctrine, God soon "wipes away all tears from their eyes (Revelation 21:4), thus leaving the unfaithful Christian free to enjoy heaven without torment for the rest of eternity.
This whole idea runs counter to the general tenor of the Bible and violates multitudes of scriptures. Keeping it simple, the general tenor of the Bible is that people are to get saved and "live a clean and holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14). If we make it any more complicated than that, we run the risk of excusing sin, justifying selfishness, redefining what is morally right and wrong in society, permitting sin and selfishness in the church, and deceiving ourselves into thinking that we can eventually take it all into heaven.
May God bless these teachings to the Body of Christ.
© 2013 Philip A. Matthews
Original: March 19, 2011
Updated: January 11, 2013
 These points can be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calvinism.
 The Amplified New Testament, La Habra CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1999.
 The Holy Bible, New Living Translation, Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1996.
 Stanley, Charles. Eternal Security Can You Be Sure? (Oliver-Nelson Books), 1990, p.93.
 Ibid, pp. 79-80.
 Zodhiates, Spiros, Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible (KJV). (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers), 1991, p. 1188.