By Stan Nelson
Eternal security is the biblical doctrine that God guarantees our eternal salvation from beginning to end. Therefore, a saved person—someone who has trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ alone for eternal salvation—can never lose that salvation. “Once saved always saved,” is another way of saying it.
To many people this is unthinkable. “After all,” they might say, “if I can’t lose my salvation, what does it matter how I live?” But this question indicates a belief that salvation is somehow achieved or maintained by the saved person rather than given and guaranteed by the Savior.
Although it’s possible to abuse His grace (Rom 6:1), God doesn’t disown His children (John 6:35-40). Yet there are consequences for willful disobedience. We can experience His discipline (Heb 12:3-11). We can lose potential rewards (1 Cor 3:10-15). We can be ashamed when He appears (1 John 2:28). And we can even be taken home “early” (Acts 5:1-11; 1 Cor 11:27-30).
Moreover, the greater the understanding and appreciation of God’s grace the greater the incentive to live faithfully for Him (Titus 2:11-14).
Although there are problem passages that have been argued for centuries, eternal security is clearly taught in the Bible. The Bible teaches that salvation is:
- accomplished for us by Christ (John 1:29; 1 Cor 15:3; 1 John 2:2)
- a gift (Rom 5:15-18; 6:23)
- by means of God’s grace (Eph 2:8-9; Titus 3:4-7)
- conditioned on faith in Christ (John 3:16, 36; 6:47; Rom 4:5; 1 Tim 1:16)
- not of our works (Rom 4:5; Gal 2:16; Eph 2:8-9)
- a present possession (John 5:24; 6:47)
- eternal (John 3:16, 36; 5:24; 10:27-30; 11:26; Rom 8:31-39; 2 Tim 2:13)
Consider the following questions:
Does God know who will enter heaven? The answer is obviously, yes.
Is it possible that any of those He knows are going to enter heaven might not enter? No, that’s not possible. If He knows they’re going to enter, they must and will enter heaven.
If it’s certain they’re going to enter heaven, are they eternally secure? Yes.
Who are these eternally secure people? They’re believers—those who have trusted Christ as their Savior.
Are all believers eternally secure? Yes.
Someone might answer that the believers whom God knows are going to enter heaven are eternally secure but maybe there are other believers who aren’t eternally secure.
But the Bible doesn’t classify believers into some who are eternally secure and some who aren’t (2 Tim 2:19). Salvation isn’t probation. If it were, the word saved couldn’t really be applied to someone until the probation was successfully completed (Acts 16:31; Eph 2:8-9). Neither is the giving of eternal salvation delayed until the end of earthly life. Everlasting life (which lasts forever) is a possession received as a gift at the time of faith in Christ (John 6:47). Those who don’t enter heaven simply never believed.
In His atoning sacrifice on the cross, Jesus Christ paid the penalty for all our sins—past, present, and future. (All sins committed after His crucifixion are future from it.) He alone does the saving and He alone must get the glory (Rom 5:8-9; 1 Pet 2:24; Eph 2:8-9).
All who have trusted in Christ for salvation are eternally secure. If you’ve trusted Him to save you, He has and you’re saved, safe, and one of His forever! To deny this truth would be to say that it’s possible to have believed in Christ for eternal life and not received it (John 3:36). And that would be to disbelieve Him.
I want eternal security to be true. I need it. Of course, this doesn’t make it true. But eternal security fits the fact that the gospel of salvation by grace through faith is good news (Rom 5:10-11). Conditional security—the belief that I can lose my salvation because of something I do or don’t do—is depressing and inconsistent with the good news of the gospel.
If I must keep myself saved, can I ever be sure I’m safe? Can I ever know if I’m going to “make it”? No. In fact, under that system it’s certain that I can’t. How discouraging or prideful if one thinks his personal behavior is (and will remain) good enough to save him.
Subjectively, then, eternal security is a powerful force for good in the believer’s life. It produces gratitude and humility. It motivates the believer to live for the One who has given him such a wonderful gift—eternal security.
The doctrine of eternal security is biblical, logical, and necessary to harmonize with God’s grace. The fact that the Bible teaches eternal security should settle the issue for anyone who respects God’s word. The additional support of logic and the subjective impact of eternal security on one’s life provide confirmation of the truth of this wonderful doctrine. Eternal security honors Christ as the Savior and encourages believers to be faithful to Him through gratitude for what He’s done for us.