Crucial in Evangelism and Discipleship
by Bob Wilkin
A few weeks ago a reader asked whether it is enough to tell people that if they believe in Jesus they will go to heaven, without talking with them first about eternal security and all of its implications. The questioner indicated that more people might respond positively to trusting Christ for eternal salvation if we didn’t bring up the issue of eternal security.
This is a vital question which deserves a response. Can we clearly present the gospel without presenting eternal security? I believe there are three reasons why we should share eternal security when we explain the gospel.
Eternal Security Is the Promise of the Gospel
The first reason is that the truth of eternal security is the heart of what the gospel promises. Let’s look at a few examples: "He who believes in the Son has everlasting life" (John 3:36). "He who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life" (John 5:24). "He who believes in Me shall never thirst" (John 6:35b). "And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand" (John 10:28).
The Lord Jesus did not promise temporary life to those who believe in Him. He promised eternal life. Those who believe in Him will never come into judgment regarding their eternal destiny. They will never thirst again for the water of life. Nor will they ever hunger again for the bread of life. They will never die spiritually. Nothing can separate believers from the Lord. Eternal life is eternal. Eternal salvation is guaranteed by the One who died and rose again.
Eternal Security Is Essential to Evangelism
The second reason why we must share eternal security is directly related to the first. If we fail to make the guarantee of everlasting life clear, then we have failed to communicate the promise of the good news.
Why is there resistance to the conclusion that a person is not born again until he has believed that by simple faith in Christ he himself is eternally secure? The reason is simple. We all know people who as far as we know have never believed in eternal security, yet who love Jesus and do good works. We then conclude that belief in eternal security must not be necessary. Yet this is backwards. Experience is not a reliable gauge to determine the truth of a particular doctrine. We do not interpret Scripture in light of experience. On the contrary, we interpret our experience in light of Scripture.
Many people who believe that Jesus died and rose again on their behalf don’t understand or believe the finished work of Christ. The finished work of Christ is the promise of eternal security to all who simply believe in Him. If you don’t present the idea that eternal life is eternal, then you haven’t presented the finished work.
Eternal Security Is Essential to Discipleship
The fact that eternal security is the foundation of successful Christian living is the a final reason why we should share this doctrine when we evangelize. Eternal security produces a sense of love and gratitude in those who dwell on it. "We love Him because He first loved us" (1 John 4:19). And love and gratitude are crucial motivations in progressive sanctification (2 Cor 5:14, "The love of Christ compels us").
A person who thinks he must pray, give, attend church, and do good works to keep eternal life is a legalist. And legalism doesn’t work (see Gal 4:21-31; 5:15, 26). It is dishonoring to God to try and buy our eternal salvation. He paid it all.
Eternal security is not only the promise of the gospel. It is also essential discipleship truth.
The promise of the gospel is the promise of eternal security. We should not present the cross without presenting its significance. Some preach the cross and then tell people that if we follow Jesus’ self-sacrificing example we will make it into the kingdom. That is not the gospel. Substitutionary atonement, the correct doctrine, is not that Jesus has taken away some of the sins of the world. He has taken away all sins—past, present, and future. Sins are no longer a barrier to eternal life (John 1:29; 1 John 2:2). That means that all who simply believe in Jesus Christ have eternal life. Now that is indeed good news.
Because of His substitutionary death on the cross, Jesus guarantees eternal life to all who simply believe in Him. That message is essential both to evangelism and discipleship. Let’s share it far and wide.