by Ryan Begue, Pastor, FBC Esto
For any one to be wrong on the matter of the security of the believer is a serious matter. To believe or teach salvation isn't eternal (eternal defined means never ending) is to clearly misinterpret the words of Christ (even if it’s unintentional). He is the One who told us that whoever comes to Him has everlasting life. To teach one can lose their salvation is not only a contradiction of the scriptures, but it also subtly undermines the gospel of grace itself as well as confuses believers. One must have a clear understanding of key terms the Bible uses to describe salvation in order to teach its truths accurately (like...everlasting, eternal, grace, gift, etc). How can a preacher tell you this Sunday that if you give your life to Christ, He will give you everlasting life, and then turn around next Sunday and tell you that it can cease to be eternal? Is it eternal or not? That is inconsistent and confusing. There is no possible way to rightly divide the Word if we can't properly define the words that are used to make up the sentences that comprise the Word. Below are some passages that will help clarify what has been said. I would encourage you to have your Bible handy…
1. In John 3:36 Jesus clearly teaches that at conversion we have eternal life ("has eternal life" is in the present tense). We don't gain eternal life when we die, it begins at conversion for those who truly believe and at that point it is never ending. The Bible tells us in Hebrews 6:18 that God cannot tell a lie, and by the authority of His Word we can know that our salvation is eternal.
2. In John 6:37 Jesus says "by no means will I cast you out" speaking of those who come to Him by faith. Why is it that so many concoct ways that one will be thrown out of the Family of God in light of this clear teaching of Christ? The entire context around this passage is clearly dealing with salvation. Many make the mistake of not seeing this obvious truth yet turn around and miss the context of Rev. 3:16. They take Jesus talking about "spitting" the Laodicean Church out of his mouth as meaning losing your salvation and totally ignore John 6:37. A few verses after the Rev. 3:16 passage He makes it clear He is dealing with chastening believers not taking away their salvation (3:19). The context of Rev. 3:16 has nothing to do with salvation. The idea is of God dining with us when we walk in obedience. When we are not walking in accordance with His Will it affects our fellowship with Him, not our position in Christ. God stands at the door of the heart of believers (the church) and convicts (knocks) because when the church is out of His Will He tries to get our attention so we will truly fellowship with Him as we should and live in accordance with His Will. The passage is to the church (3:22 makes this clear) and deals with chastening (Rev 3:19), not salvation. Revelation 3 is not a message to lost people to open their hearts because God is knocking on it. Yes God draws lost people, but the Revelation passage I have spoke of here does not deal with lost people. The Church of Laodicea in Rev. 3 was disappointing Christ and He was repulsed. If things didn’t change He promised to chasten them. If the Rev 3:16 passage is dealing with salvation then we would have a huge contradiction issue on our hands with John 6:37 (This is important...Remember the Apostle John wrote both books!!!! I don’t think he changed his mind since he was inspired by God!). Jesus couldn’t have made it any clearer than by saying “by no means will I cast you out” in John 6:37. Inaccurate interpretation over the years has led to poor teaching and a poor understanding of this truth. Sadly many well meaning people (some who are saved) are butchering the truth unknowingly. Hebrews 12:5-8 tells us that God only chastens Christians to correct them. As you read this passage in Hebrews notice that while God is chastening the believer He is still their Father! Remember, only Christians have God as their Father (John 8:38-59). Don’t miss this. Chastening is totally different from condemning. Believers are no longer under condemnation according to Romans 8:1! Just as our earthly dad’s disciplined us, so does our Heavenly Father. He loves us and wants us to grow to be more like Christ, not kick us out of the Family of God. When you rebelled as a child did you cease to be a part of your family while your father chastened you? Chastening is about correction not condemnation. We see this clearly in 1 Cor. 5:5 (the man caught in adultery with his father’s wife). Yes his life is in jeopardy, but not his soul. Paul spells this out. When one is living out of the Will of God and not experiencing chastening then we can deduce that the individual isn’t in Christ based on the Hebrews passage above.
3. In John 10:27-29 Jesus makes it clear again that no one can snatch us out of the Father’s hand because He has given us eternal life. Given not earned!
4. 1 Cor 6:19-20 tells us who are in Christ that we were bought and are no longer our own. If saved, you no longer have say over your soul and neither does Satan. We now belong to Christ, we are His. When His slaves fall out of line, He convicts & then chastens to bring us back in line.
5. 1 John 5:13 tells us that we can know for certain we have eternal life if we have given our life to Christ. How can we have the assurance that we have eternal life if it isn't eternal?
6. In 1 Pet 1:5 we are told that we are kept by God's Power, not our power or good works! How can one limit the Power of God? Our works are a by-product of our faith (whole point of James 2). It is our faith alone in the person and work of Jesus Christ that saves us. Yes, true saving faith is always accompanied by repentance and godly works, but our works don't save us or keep us. It is the blood of Christ alone that saves! Galatians 3:3 reminds us that it is the Spirit that perfects us after our conversion, not us! Remember no one is good. Jesus makes this very clear in Mat. 19:17. If we think our good works need to be added to Christ’s blood to redeem us then we obviously don’t believe there is enough power in the blood, or we have way too lofty a view of ourselves! The Gospel is about what Christ has done for us, not what we have done to earn our salvation. Paul tells us that it is Christ’s righteousness that makes us acceptable before God (Phil 3:9). The whole point of Galatians Ch. 2 & 3 & Eph 2:8-9 (not to mention every conversion story in the Gospel of John) is to clearly show that we are saved by grace through faith alone. That was the main thrust of the Protestant Reformation.
When I hear people say things like... "Then you believe that you can just live like the Devil, or however you want, and still go to heaven?" It makes me wonder what in the world they are saying??? Have they never truly been born again and changed by the Power of God? Conversion makes one want to live for Christ. When God saved me it was a radical transformation, I was a totally different man, just as all who are born again are. Before Christ I was rebellious against serving God, but when He redeemed me I wanted to live for Him. That is what true conversion does. It brings transformation. Doesn't the Bible tell us He gives us a new heart? Ezekiel 36:22-28 is a good picture of this. With a new heart we want to live for Him! Notice in 1 John 2:19 we are told that those who are saved will continue with the church, while those who don’t were not saved in the first place. John doesn’t even hint they lost their salvation when they walked away from the church. He is clear they never had it or they would have continued! (This is the point of the Parable of the Soils-Luke 8). The new heart He gives us is what leads us to follow Him. Jesus says those who love Him will obey His commands (John 14:21-23). In John 10:27 Jesus says His sheep will follow Him. Not perfectly, but there will be a striving. Those who don’t live for Christ and say they are saved are blind. Scripture is clear you will know a tree by its fruit! True believers take serious Christ’s commands to evangelize the lost, to be generous, and to practice godly living (not to mention other matters important to the Lord).
There is no room for a Christian to teach or believe one can lose their salvation because that is foreign and in direct conflict with the message of the gospel! If anything I hope this encourages you & helps you. Jesus said my burden is light. To tell Christians that they have to be good enough to keep their salvation (some teach perfect) or they will lose it is a heavy burden. One thing I have seen over the years as a pastor is how spiritual bondage is often a product of false teachings like this. Please know I really do care greatly for all that disagree with me on the issue of eternal life and would be there for them in a second if they were in need, but that doesn't minimize the significance of things. Truth is a battle worth standing for! To misconstrue the Doctrine of Salvation is very serious. Be a soul winner, proclaim truth, and remember eternal means eternal!
*Other passages to study (John 3:16-18, Rom 8:27-30, Eph. 1:13-14, Phil 1:6, Hebrews 6:4-9, Hebrews 10:10, 1 Cor. 11:29-32)
*Notice in Romans 8:27-30 all who are called end up being justified and eventually glorified.
*In Hebrews 6:4-6 we are presented with a hypothetical argument to show us the very reason why we cannot lose our salvation. If you could lose it the author argues then you couldn’t get it back because Christ isn’t going to come and die for us again. This is why it would be impossible to be renewed to repentance if you could lose it. Christ died once for all sins, past, present, and future. If you truly are in Christ then you are forgiven and covered by His blood. When we read v, 9 we clearly see that the author of Hebrews isn’t speaking about real life believers in vs. 4-6, but a hypothetical situation to prove a point. This is why the author wrote in v.9 that he speaks in this type of language (it’s hypothetical), and the reason he is persuaded of better things towards those whom he writes is because they truly have salvation accompanying them versus those in v.4-6! Verse nine is paramount to understanding v.4-6.
Ryan Begue is the pastor of First Baptist Church of Esto and he received his Master’s in Theological Studies from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.