Eternal Security has always been a tough subject because it’s impact on our everyday life is significant. It affects, how we act, how we view others, and how we view the scriptures.
Let us first take a look at the three scenarios that exist for this argument (assuming I’m not missing anything). Usually three different opinions can be supported by scripture. 1) Once saved always saved based on God’s promises. 2) Once saved you can still turn your back on God because of free will (conditional salvation). 3) Once saved you are a new creation and will not be able to turn from God. I am not necessarily advocating any of these 3, just listing them for the readers.
I am sure a more in-depth examination could be had on this subject. This is just an overview. If you wish to add to the discussion please use the comments section below.
1. Once saved, always saved (eternal security)
In this theory once a person confesses Jesus Christ as Lord (Romans 10:9) the receive eternal life (John 10:27-19), and nothing can separate us from the love of Christ (Romans 8:35-39). In addition, Jude1:24 says “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy.” Thus, the God who saved you will also keep you! here are some verses that most people drag into this subject subject…
“I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Fathers hand.” (John 10:28-29)
“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” (Ephesians 4:30)
Essentially, once you accept Jesus as your savior, He will keep you saved or at least maintain His promise to you.
2. Once saved, you still have to walk it out (conditional salvation)
“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.” (Matthew 5:13)
In this theological view a person is not necessarily saved by their works, but their behavior seems to have an effect on salvation. One often cited passage that agrees well is Matthew 7:21, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. “ Thus, disobedience to the Lord results in not entering the kingdom of heaven. This group is also quick to point out (as they should) that believing is not enough to obtain salvation because even the demons believe (James 2:19). More verses on this point are below. Feel free to comment your own in the comments.
“If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.” (Hebrews 10:26, 27)
“The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5:19-21)
3. Once saved, you are a new creation
In this theory one is not necessarily concerned with the effects of behavior but with the fact that we are new creations in Christ (2 Cor 5:6-17). Being that we are new creations in Christ we will not backslide and we be obedient to Christ. The question with this theory is not “can you lose your salvation?” but “were you saved in the first place?”
Many theologians and leaders in the church have tried to argue a side of this argument and some have been much more successful than others. Calvin, perhaps the most popular, endorsed eternal security. They have even gone through the effort of drawing diagrams to explain their theology.
Church Father’s input on eternal security
Below is a list of what some of the early church leaders had to say about it eternal security
“We ought therefore, brethren, carefully to inquire concerning our salvation. Otherwise, the wicked one, having made his entrance by deceit, may hurl us forth from our life.” ~ Barnabas (c. 70-130)
“For the Lord has sworn by His glory, in regard to His elect, that if any one of them sin after a certain day which has been fixed, he will no be saved. For the repentance of the righteous has limits. Filled up are the days of repentance to all the saints. But to the unbeliever, repentance will be possible even to the last day… For the Lord has sworn by His Son, that those who denied their Lord have abandoned their life to despair.” ~ Hermas (c. 150)
“I hold further, that those of you who have confessed and known this man to be Christ, yet who have gone back for some reason to the legal dispensation [i.e. the Mosaic Law], and have denied that this man is Christ, and have not repented before death – you will by no means be saved.” ~ Justin Martyr (c. 160)
“Those who do not obey Him, being disinherited by Him, have ceased to be His sons.” ~ Irenaeus (c. 180)
“God had foreseen… that faith – even after baptism – would be endangered. He saw that most persons – after obtaining salvation – would be lost again, by soiling the wedding dress, by failing to provide oil for their torches.” ~ Tertullian (c. 213)
“Certain ones of those [heretics] who hold different opinions misuse these passages. They essentially destroy free will be introducing ruined natures incapable of salvation and by introducing others as being saved in such a way that they cannot be lost.” ~ Origen (c. 225)
“Being a believing man, if you seek to live as the Gentiles do, the joys of the world remove you from the grace of Christ.” ~ Commodianus (c. 240)
“Let us press onward and labor, watching with our whole heart. Let us be steadfast with all endurance; let us keep the Lord’s commandments. Thereby, when that day of anger and vengeance comes, we may not be punished with the ungodly and the sinners. Rather, we may be honored with the righteous and with those who fear God.” ~ Cyprian (c. 250)
“As to one who again denies Christ, no special previous standing can be effective to him for salvation. For anyone of us will hold it necessary that whatever is the last thing to be found in a man in this respect, that is where he will be judged. All of those things that he has previously done are wiped away and obliterated.” ~ Treatise on Re-Baptism (c. 257)
“He put a seal upon him, for it is concealed as to who belong to the side of the devil and who to the side of Christ. For we do not know out of those who seem to stand whether they will fall or not. And of those who are down, it is uncertain whether they might rise.” ~ Victorinus (c. 280)
One of the things that makes this difficult as a subject is that the Bible does not necessarily give a clear answer on the workings of free will. Paul seems to stress the predestination of God’s elect (2 Thess 2:13-14) but Jesus tends to focus more on following and obeying Him.
Here are is a good resource for your consideration….