Readers Ask about Eternal Security and Evangelism
by Bob Wilkin
I’ve received many calls and emails about my Mar-April article on the necessity of belief in eternal security. Three questions in particular need clarification.
I wasn’t saying that if you’ve never believed that assurance is of the essence of saving faith, you’ve not yet been born again. One reader wondered that since I admitted to not believing this until 1990, was I saying that I personally was not born again until then. No. A person is not born again until he believes that simply by faith in Jesus he is eternally secure. I believed that I was eternally secure in late 1972. I didn’t realize until 1990, however, that this is the message all must believe to be born again. Prior to 1990, I personally thought that eternal security was something I had to believe since my works-salvation thinking wouldn’t go away. In 1990 I realized that no one’s works salvation thinking will go away until they believe in eternal security.
I wasn’t saying that if you don’t specifically mention everlasting life or eternal security you can’t clearly explain the saving message. I was talking about the concept, not the precise words. Obviously the expression “eternal security” isn’t even found in the Bible. While everlasting life or eternal life is found repeatedly in John’s Gospel and elsewhere in the NT, other terms are used too. Paul speaks of “justification” in Galatians and “salvation” in Eph 2:8-9. Clearly he sees in those terms something that is once-and-for-all, irreversible. The concept of eternal security is there, even though the expression is not. If you never make it clear to a person that by faith in Jesus his eternal destiny is set and unchangeable, then he may well retain works-salvation thinking. Of course, a person might believe in eternal security even though the evangelist doesn’t even hint at it. However, the clearer we are, the more likely the listener will understand and be able to believe.
I wasn’t saying that if you tell people that Jesus promises them heaven when they die that you can’t clearly explain the gospel. If you make it clear that this is a done deal, that they will go to heaven when they die no matter what they do or fail to do in the future, then you have made the issue clear enough. If, however, you simply invite them to believe in Jesus so that they will go to heaven when they die, you run the great risk that the person will think you mean what most mean who say that: that as long as a believer perseveres in faith and good works, Jesus promises him heaven when he dies. They may think that while believing gives me salvation; perseverance allows me to keep it. They obviously do not believe John 3:16; 4:13-14; 5:24; 6:47; 11:25-27; Eph 2:8-9; etc.