question of the "eternal security of the believer" is often
raised in letters we receive. This subject has been the cause of
much controversy in the church for centuries and still creates
confusion and distress for many Christians. It is too much to
expect to dispel this problem completely for everyone in a brief
tract, but perhaps we can at least help in that direction.
who believe in "falling away" accuse those who believe in
"eternal security" of promoting "cheap grace." The latter in
itself is an unbiblical expression. To call it "cheap" is really
a denial of grace, since it implies that too small a price has
been paid. Grace, however, must be absolutely free and without
any price at all on man's part; while on God's part
the price He paid was infinite. Thus for man to think that his
works can play any part in either earning or keeping his
salvation is what cheapens grace, devaluing this infinite gift
to the level of human effort.
speak of "falling from grace" involves the same error. Since our
works had nothing to do with meriting grace in the first place,
there is nothing we could do that would cause us to no longer
merit it and thus "fall" from it. Works determine reward or
punishment-not one's salvation, which comes by God's grace. The
crux of the problem is a confusion about grace and works.
of all, we must be absolutely clear that these two can never
mix. Paul declares, "...if by grace, then is it no more of
works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works,
then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work" (Rom
11:6). Salvation cannot be partly by works and partly by grace.
Secondly, we must be absolutely certain that works have
nothing to do with salvation. Period. The Bible clearly
states, "For by grace are ye saved... not of works" (Eph
2:8-10). True to such Scriptures, evangelicals firmly declare
that we cannot earn or merit salvation in any way.
Eternal life must be received as a free gift of God's grace,
or we cannot have it.
Thirdly, salvation cannot be purchased even in part by
us, because it requires payment of the penalty for sin-a payment
we can't make. If one receives a speeding ticket, it won't help
to say to the judge, "I've driven many times within the 55 mph
limit. Surely my many good deeds will make up for the one bad
deed." Nor will it do to say, "If you let me off this time, I
promise never to break the law again." The judge would reply,
"To never break the law again is only to do what the law
demands. You get no extra credit for that. The penalty for
breaking the law is a separate matter and must be paid." Thus
Paul writes,"...by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be
justified in his sight..." (Rom 3:20).
Fourthly, if salvation from the penalty of breaking God's laws
cannot be earned by good deeds, then it cannot be lost by bad
deeds. Our works play no part in either earning or
keeping salvation. If it could, then those who reach heaven
could boast that while Christ saved them they, by their good
lives, kept their salvation. Thus God would be robbed of
having all the glory in eternity.
Fifthly, salvation can be given to us as a free gift only if the
penalty has been fully paid. We have violated infinite Justice,
requiring an infinite penalty. We are finite beings and could
not pay it: we would be separated from God for eternity. God is
infinite and could pay an infinite penalty, but it wouldn't be
just because He is not a member of our race. Therefore God, in
love and grace, through the virgin birth, became a man so that
He could pay the debt of sin for the entire human race!
Greek, Christ's cry from the cross, "It is finished!" is an
accounting term, meaning that the debt had been paid in full.
Justice had been satisfied by full payment of its penalty, and
thus God could "be just, and the justifier of him which
believeth in Jesus" (Rom 3:26). On that basis, God offers pardon
and eternal life as a free gift. He cannot force it upon anyone
or it would not be a gift. Nor would it be just to pardon a
person who rejects the righteous basis for pardon and offers a
hopelessly inadequate payment instead-or offers his works even
as "partial payment."
Salvation is the full pardon by grace from the penalty of all
sin, past, present or future; eternal life is the bonus thrown
in. Denying this cardinal truth, all cultists, such as Jehovah's
Witnesses, for example, reject salvation by grace and insist
that it must be earned by one's good works. They accuse
evangelicals of teaching that all we need to do is to say we
believe in Christ and then we can live as we please, in the
grossest of sins, yet be sure of heaven. Evangelicals don't
teach that at all, yet a similar complaint is made by those who
believe in "falling away." They say that "once saved, always
saved" encourages one to live in sin because if we know we
cannot be lost then we have no incentive for living a holy life.
On the contrary, love for the One who saved us is the greatest
and only acceptable motive for living a holy life; and surely
the greater the salvation one has received, the more love and
gratitude there will be. So to know one is secure for eternity
gives a higher motive for living a good life than the fear of
losing one's salvation if one sins!
those who believe in "falling from grace" are clear that good
works cannot earn salvation, they teach that salvation is kept
by good works. Thus one gets saved by grace, but
thereafter salvation can be lost by works. To teach that
good works keep salvation is almost the same error as to
say that good works earn salvation. It denies grace to
say that once I have been saved by grace I must
thereafter keep myself saved by works.
teaching, says Hebrews 6:4-9, rather than glorifying Christ,
holds him up to shame and ridicule before the world once again
for two reasons: if we could lose our salvation, then (1)
Christ would have to be crucified again to save us again; and
(2) He would be ridiculed for dying to purchase a
salvation but not making adequate provision to preserve
it-for giving a priceless gift to those who would inevitably
lose it. If Christ's dying in our place for our sins and rising
again was not sufficient to keep us saved, then He has
foolishly wasted His time. If we could not live a good enough
life to earn salvation, it is certain we can- not live a
good enough life to keep it! To make the salvation he
procured ultimately dependent upon our works would be the utmost
"Falling away" doctrine makes us worse off after we are saved
than before. At least before conversion we can get saved. But
after we are saved and have lost our salvation (if we could), we
can't get saved again, but are lost forever. Hebrews 6:4
declares, "If [not when] they shall fall away... it is
impossible (v.4)...to renew them again unto repentance." That
"falling away" is hypothetical is clear (v.9): "But beloved, we
are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany
salvation, though we thus speak" So "falling away" does not
"accompany salvation." The writer is showing us that if we
could lose our salvation, we could never get it back without
Christ dying again upon the cross. This is folly! He would
have to die an infinite number of times (i.e., every time every
person who was once saved sinned and was lost and wanted to be
"saved again"). Thus, those who reject "once saved, always
saved," can only replace it with, "once lost, always lost!"
assures us, "These things have I written unto you that believe
on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know [present
knowledge] that ye have [present possession] eternal life..." (1
Jn 5:13). To call it eternal life, if the person who had
it could lose it and suffer eternal death, would be a
mockery. On the contrary, eternal life is linked with the
promise that one cannot perish-a clear assurance of
"eternal security" or "once saved, always saved." John 3:16
promises those who believe in Jesus Christ that they "should
not perish, but have everlasting life."
5:24 again says, "hath everlasting life, and shall not come
into condemnation...." One could not ask for clearer or
greater assurance than the words of Jesus: "I give unto them [my
sheep] eternal life; and they shall never perish" (Jn 10:28).
If, having received eternal life, we could lose it and perish,
it would make Christ a liar.
causes the loss of salvation, what kind or amount of sin does it
take? There is no verse in the Bible that tells us. We are told
that if we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive
us and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness-so
apparently any sin can be forgiven. Even those who teach falling
away rarely if ever say they got "saved again." Rather, they
confessed their sin and were forgiven. Hebrews 12:3-11 tells us
that every Christian sins, and that instead of causing a loss of
salvation, sin brings God’s chastening upon us as His children.
If when we sinned we ceased to be God's children, He would have
no one to chastise-yet he "scourgeth every son whom he receiveth."
Indeed, chastening is a sign that we are God's
children not that we have lost our salvation: "if ye
be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye
bastards, and not sons."
teach that one must be baptized to be saved; others that one
must "speak in tongues." Both are forms of salvation by works.
Some people lack assurance of salvation because they haven't
"spoken in tongues," others are confident they are saved because
they think they have. Both are like those who say, "Lord, Lord,
have we not...in thy name done many wonderful works?" (Mt
7:21-23) They are relying on their works to prove they are
saved, instead of upon God's grace. Nor does Jesus say, "You
were once saved but lost your salvation" He says, "I never
an important distinction. Those who believe in "falling away"
would say of a professing Christian who has denied the faith and
is living in unrepentant sin, that he has "fallen from grace"
and has "lost his salvation." In contrast, those who believe in
"eternal security," while no more tolerant of such conduct,
would say of the same person that probably Christ "never knew
him"-he was never a Christian. We must give the comfort and
assurance of Scripture to those who are saved; but at the same
time we must not give false and un-Biblical comfort to those who
merely say they are saved but deny with their lives what they
profess with their lips.
not then saved by our works? Indeed not! In I Corinthians
3:12-15 every Christian's works are tried by fire at the
"judgment seat of Christ" before which "we must all appear" (2
Cor 5:10). Good works bring rewards; a lack of them does not
cause loss of salvation. The person who hasn't even one good
work (all of his works are burned up) is still "saved;
yet so as by fire" (1 Cor 3:15). We would not think such a
person was saved at all. Yet one who may seem outwardly not to
be a Christian, who has no good works as evidence (if he has
truly received the Lord Jesus Christ as his Savior), is "saved
as by fire" and shall never perish in spite of his lack of
then, on the basis of" once saved, always saved," encourage
Christians to "sin that grace may abound?" With Paul we say,
"God forbid!" We offer no comfort or assurance to those living
in sin. We don't say, you're okay because you once made a
"decision for Christ." Instead, we warn: "If you are not willing
right now to live fully for Christ as Lord of your life, how can
you say that you were really sincere when you supposedly
committed yourself to Him at some time in the past?" And to all
we declare with Paul, "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the
faith; prove your own selves" (2 Cor 13:5).
confidence for eternity rests in His unchanging love and grace
and the sufficiency of God’s provision in Christ-not in our
worth or performance. Only when this is clear do we have real
peace with God. Only then can we truly love Him and live for Him
out of gratitude for the eternal life He has given to us as a
free gift of His grace- a gift He will not take back and which
He makes certain can never be lost!"