By Shari Abbott, Reasons for Hope* Jesus
This subject has come up again. In January a reader asked, Can I lose my Salvation?, now the question arises, How can I convince someone that they have eternal security? The simple answer is we cannot convince anyone of their eternal security…however, the Word of God and the testimony of the Holy Spirit certainly can.
A friend of mine is in a Bible study with some Christians who believe they can lose their salvation. It has been very frustrating for my friend who wants these people to come to an understanding of the peace and rest that we have in Christ—the assurance of eternal life with Christ that has been secured for us by Him.
Securely Saved or Working out Salvation
Doctrinal differences are the foundation for this centuries old debate. The Arminian denies that the true child of God is eternally secure. They believe that one can fall from grace and lose salvation, and therefore is in a process of working out their salvation. The Calvinist insists that one who is truly saved can never lose their salvation–the Christian has eternal security in their salvation. The Catholic faith believes that through baptism into the Catholic church the person is saved by Christ and sins are forgiven, but the person must work to receive their total inheritance of going to Heaven. This is accomplished by staying in a state of grace by keeping the traditions of the church, i.e. confession of sin to a priest, partaking of the sacraments, etc. This is another form of working out salvation.
The confusion about eternal security comes from a failure to adequately distinguish between justification and sanctification.
Justification is a judicial term. It is what takes place the moment that Christ saves a repentant sinner. Through the washing of sins by the blood of Christ (Revelation 1:5) we are forgiven, made clean, justified (Romans 5:9). When one repents and trusts in Christ’s finished work on the cross, Christ saves sinners and and imputes His righteousness to them along with the blessing of His indwelling Spirit.
- Justification is a one time event and it is a declaration of receiving forgiveness of sins by Christ’s finished work on the cross., and Christ’s righteousness. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus…” (Romans 8:1).
- Justification is a declaration by the Judge of one’s standing in Christ (1 Corinthians 1:30). God declares us justified because our sins have been washed away and we stand before Him with the righteousness of Christ.
- Justification is permanent declaration because we are sealed by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13, 4:30)
In our justification we are made “just as if I’d never sinned,” and, additionally, because of the imputed righteousness of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21), we are made “just as if I’d always lived a sinless life.” Notice, this is a justification based on the Lord’s sinless life…not on anything we have done.
At the moment of justification a person is sanctified (made holy/set apart) because of the imputed righteousness of Christ. However, because mankind is still living in the flesh in a fallen world, believers continue to sin. At the moment of our justification, an ongoing process of progressive sanctification begins and it lasts until we go to be with the Lord. This is the part of salvation that is spoken of in Philippians where it says we are to work out our salvation:
Philippians 2:12 Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
This verse in Philippians is one that is often used to deny eternal security. However, Paul is speaking of “our own salvation.” This is our walking in the Spirit in our daily lives. This is our sanctification process, which includes our desire to honor God. That desire produces obedience to Him. When Paul wrote this admonition to “work out your own salvation,” he had already written that the One who justified them would be with them and would complete their sanctification process:
Philippians 1:6 Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:
Paul tells us that we can be confident of God’s completion of His work that He began when He saved us. reminds us that the process of sanctification includes the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. The indwelling Holy Spirit works in us to conform us to the image of the Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 8:29, 1 Peter 1:15,16)
Understanding that the failure to distinguish between justification and sanctification is the basis of the confusion on eternal security, let’s now focus on the Bible’s teachings that inform us we cannot lose our salvation.
We can’t un-earn something we did not earn.
The greatest support for eternal security is the basis on which justification is given. We did not do anything to earn our justification, therefore we cannot do anything to un-earn it. God is the One who justifies us. To proclaim that justification can be lost, taken away, or even unfinished, is to un-do the work that God has done.
Justification is a sovereign work of our Triune God. All three persons of the Godhead are involved in preserving the justification of sinners who God has regenerated.
God the Father
- Eternal security is founded upon God’s sovereign purpose. His eternal purpose is declared in Ephesians 1:11-12 and anchored and confirmed in Hebrews 6:17-20.
- Eternal security is founded upon God’s solemn promises, not our faithfulness (Romans 4:16) and it is confirmed throughout the Bible (Genesis 15:6; John 3:16; Acts 16:33; Romans 4:23-24, et al.)
- Eternal security is founded in God’s justice and love. Christ’s death paid the penalty for man’s sin and therefore God is just in giving us eternal life because we have been given forgiven our sins and given Christ’s righteousness (BCV). He’s done this because He loves us (Romans 5:6-10)
- Eternal security is not only a gift to us, it is also a gift from God the Father to His Son. Believers are a gift to Christ. In Jesus’ high priestly prayer (John 17) He prays for all who believe on Him and declares the He has given His glory to those who are one with Him (John 17:22).
God the Son
- Eternal security is dependent upon Jesus’ substitutionary death (Rom 5:8, 8:34). We cannot be condemned because our sins have been paid for and we have been redeemed (Romans 8:1).
- Eternal security is dependent upon Jesus’ substitutionary life. He has given us His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21) therefore, we cannot be condemned (Romans 8:1)
- Eternal security is dependent upon Jesus’ word. He has promised eternal life and eternal life means without end: John 10:28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.
God the Holy Spirit
- Eternal security is given through the work of the Holy Spirit’s ministry of regeneration (Titus 3:5; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 2:10)
- Eternal security is given through the work of the Holy Spirit’s ministry of baptizing (Romans 6:3, 8-11; 1 Corinthians 12:13)
- Eternal security is given through the work of the Holy Spirit’s ministry of permanently sealing those who are saved (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14) We are “sealed unto the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30)
The Triune God is the One who saves us. We could only lose our salvation if He were to act counter to His character, nature and expressed will. He cannot do that for He is immutable…without change, and He is faithful and true. His promises are secure and His glory is magnified by the eternality of the gift of justification through the work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Hallelujah, what a Saviour!
Again… the answer to the question, “How can I convince someone that they have eternal security?” is, you can’t. You can’t convince anyone of it, but you can share the truths of the Bible with them and pray that the Holy Spirit will open their understanding.
Key Verses That Offer Assurance of Our Eternal Security
(all emphasis and bracketed information added)
1 John 5:10-13 He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself [the Holy Spirit who seals us unto the day of redemption]… And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God [WHY?]; THAT YE MAY KNOW that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.
Note: These things were written for our assurance… “that ye may KNOW…”
John 10:28 I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.
Note: The new life in Christ is “eternal” and we are told we will “never perish.” Never means NEVER. “Any man” includes us. We cannot do anything that will “pluck” us out of His hand.
Romans 8:38-39 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Note: Paul could not be clearer in the book of Romans. NOTHING can “separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Romans 11:29 For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.
Note: This word repentance means, to care afterwards, i.e. regret. God does not change His feelings toward us, nor does He change His mind about saving us. Even if a believer backslides, the gift of eternal life (our justification) will not be take away, nor can the person give it back.
We are in Christ and we are His body:
Ephesians 5:30 For we [Christians] are [present tense] members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.
2 Timothy 2:13 If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.”
The gift of salvation is irrevocable by God He will not deny us. We could only lose our justification if our justification was earned by us. But it is not. It is a work of God, the Just Judge and the Justifier of those who repent and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. Our justification is a gift freely given by God and freely received by us.
Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast
Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
Give thanks to the One who has given you the greatest gif you will ever receive, and live your life in thanksgiving to Him
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