Charles Ryrie famously said that if eternal life could be lost, it has the wrong name. He wasn’t the first to make that point. Watchman Nee, the well-known Chinese theologian (whom I consider to be an early proponent of Free Grace theology), said the same thing way back in 1937:
The Bible shows us that the duration of God’s salvation is eternal; it is not temporal. In other words, God’s salvation is given to man eternally, rather than temporarily. Once a Christian is saved, there is no possibility for him to perish (The Gospel of God, p. 2:287).
Eternal life is eternal. Once you have it, you have it forever. That’s why it’s called “eternal” life. In a world full of “too good to be true” offers, Jesus’ promise of eternal salvation can seem too good to be true.
“Eternal salvation? By faith apart from works? Can never lose it? That’s too easy!”
People assume there must be a catch. They think you must be able to lose it somehow. But here’s the good news: you can’t!
Man always has the thought that even though he is saved, he does not know whether he will become unsaved after a while. God says that we have passed out of death into life (John 5:24). But we wonder whether or not we can pass out of life into death. God says that we will not perish but will have eternal life (3:16). But we wonder if we will not have eternal life but will perish. We do not know if our salvation before God can be shaken. However, after we read the Word of God carefully, we find that once a person is saved, he is eternally saved (The Gospel of God, p. 2:288).
Nee presents several arguments for why eternal life is eternal (besides the term “eternal” life). For example, here is one from the fact that eternal life is a gift, not a loan:
What does the Bible say about the way to receive eternal life? The gift of God is eternal life in Christ (Rom 6:23). Therefore, the eternal life that we have received cannot be lost. What is a gift? A gift is a present from God. It is something that God gives to us. If others give something to us, can they ask for it back? We are not kindergarten children, giving others some candy one day and asking for it in return the next day. A gift is something given freely. If our salvation could be lost, Romans 6:23 would have to say, “The loan of God is eternal life in Christ.” A loan can be reclaimed, but something that is given cannot be reclaimed. Once it is given, it is given forever. If eternal life is given to us in Christ, then it can never be reclaimed. The word gift in the original language clearly indicates that it is something given freely; it cannot be reclaimed. If it cannot be reclaimed, then there is no possibility of us losing the gift…God is not like us, wavering and changing frequently. He is not one way today and another way the next. Once God has given us something, He will never claim it back (p. 2:289).
What have you believed in God for?
Have you believed in Him for a loan of temporary salvation? Or have you believed in Jesus for the gift of eternal salvation?