Children flourish most when they live in a stable, loving home. Likewise, believers thrive best when they know their relationship with God is stable and loving. Knowing that we have everlasting life through faith in Christ and will never perish (i.e., once saved, always saved) is what motivates us to grow as Christians. As Miles Stanford once wrote,
Resting in our eternal position frees us from the futile and sinful self-effort of trying to make our condition the basis of our security. Abiding in our eternal security in Christ gives the steadiness of faith necessary for the Holy Spirit to carry on His gracious ministry within—that of dealing with the self in crucifixion, and thereby causing us to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18) (Stanford, The Complete Green Letters, p. 98).
But many people reject eternal security, calling it heresy, of the devil, and a false gospel. They resist it tooth and nail. Why?
Often, people object to it because they think it creates a license to sin and tempts Christians to backslide. So, you must teach that salvation is forfeitable to encourage people to grow. (I don’t know about you, but threatening my wife with divorce or my kids with abandonment doesn’t do much to encourage their love!)
Stanford thinks there’s a spiritual reason for this opposition:
The spiritual explanation for opposition to true eternal security is not the claim that it produces lawlessness. It is rather that those who oppose do not exercise faith in the Word, which would enable them to see and accept their position in the risen Lord for assurance, acceptance, and security. They are condition-centered, hence self-centered and earthbound (Stanford, The Complete Green Letters, p. 99).
In that quote, Stanford gives two reasons why people reject eternal security.
First, people reject it because they do not exercise “faith in the Word.” For example, when Jesus promises that the believer has everlasting life and will never perish, thirst, or hunger, and adds that he will never be cast out, snatched away, judged, or die (see here), you ought to believe Him! But they don’t.
I agree. Somewhat. To be a little more charitable than Stanford, I would say that many people do not exercise faith in God’s Word about eternal security because they haven’t heard the NT teaching about it or might have misheard it and confuse it with something else (e.g., Calvinist predestination). You can’t be persuaded of a truth you don’t know or understand. That’s why readers of this blog have the critical job of reaching out to friends, family, and co-workers with the promise of life. Explain it to them. Give them a chance to believe it (or oppose it).
Second, people who reject eternal security are “condition-centered, hence self-centered and earthbound.” I don’t think anyone would admit to that. But Stanford’s claim makes sense to me. If salvation depends upon your performance instead of His promise, you will naturally be focused on yourself (i.e,, you will be self-centered). You’ll look to see if you’re meeting whatever condition you think needs to be met in order to be saved. Even in moments of doubt, when someone panics about his spiritual condition and asks Christ for mercy, what he’ll often mean is he hopes that Jesus will give a passing grade to his feeble attempts to save himself by being good.
The more people I meet who expect Jesus to grant them salvation based on their heart-felt faithfulness, loyalty, commitment, and goodness, the more I find myself depending entirely upon Jesus’ faithfulness, loyalty, commitment, and goodness to whoever believes. I thank Jesus that being born-again into His family through faith (John 1:12; 3:16) means being part of a loving, stable, forever home.