You’ve seen it happen often.
A celebrity pastor has a dramatic moral fall and loses his ministry.
It seems to happen several times a year.
But it’s not just celebrity pastors. Local ministers are regularly involved in immorality. This one has had a long-running affair. That one is accused of theft. Another is guilty of abuse. And when their dirty deeds come to light, they leave their ministries and families and churches in tatters.
Jesus will never cast away anyone who comes to Him in faith (John 6:37). Once Jesus gives you eternal life, and you’re in His hand, you can never be snatched away (John 10:28). In short, believers are eternally secure. That’s basic Christianity. To deny that is to deny Jesus’ promise of salvation.
However, contrary to popular criticism, the doctrine of eternal security does not imply that believers can get away with disobedience or sin scot-free. On the contrary, sin has negative consequences for everyone, including those who are eternally secure.
If you sin, you have much to lose.
For example, you can lose your ministry.
Scripture is full of examples of people who lost their ministry because of sin and disobedience.
Moses was let go of leading Israel into the promised land, Samson’s strength was sapped, and the kingdom was taken from Saul and given to another. However, that does not mean Moses, Samson, and Saul lost their salvation, because losing your ministry is not the same as losing eternal life.
People can still lose their ministry today.
For example, Paul gave Timothy a list of requirements to become an overseer or deacon, such as:
deacons must be reverent, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy for money, holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience (1 Tim 3:8-9).
What would happen if a formerly faithful deacon became deceitful, developed a drinking problem, or defrauded his fellow believers? At the very least, he would need to be rebuked (cf. 1Tim 5:19-20), but it is likely he would lose his ministry.
And that would be devastating. But it would not be the same as losing his salvation.
Eternal security does not guarantee eternal service, but neither does losing your service imply losing eternal life.