Eternal security (salvation)

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Eternal security is the doctrine of unconditional eternal salvation as an irrevocable gift of salvation from God through Christ as Savior. Reformed Christianity/Calvinism commonly refers to this doctrine as the "perseverance of the saints".

It is also called, "Once saved, always saved", a nickname for the belief that Christians are eternally saved from sin and damnation to hell once and for all eternally by faith alone, sola fide, by believing in Jesus Christ as one's own personal Savior, without any merit or any earning of salvation by anything the repentant sinner can do, and that once it has been given and received by accepting Christ "into your heart" as Lord and Savior, salvation and eternal glory in heaven with God cannot ever be lost or forfeited or revoked. It is also informally called "Assurance". See Romans 8:38-39; 10:10-11; Hebrews 6:11-12.

Supporting arguments

The theology of the perseverance of the saints is based on various biblical arguments. For example, writing to the Philippians, the Apostle Paul says, "He who has begun a good work in you will perfect it to the end" (Phil. 1:6). The Apostle John quotes Jesus as saying: "and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand." (John 10:28-29).

Commonly, if someone makes a sincere commitment to Christianity in the beginning and later renounces Christianity (Matthew 13:1-23), the advocates of eternal security often say that the person was never a Christian to begin with. Jesus said, "Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' "And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.' (Matthew 7-22-23).

The Reformed evangelist Paul Washer and like-minded individuals commonly criticize people who think they are saved because they simply "prayed a prayer" (commonly called the sinner's prayer), as far as wanting to become a Christian, but they never made Jesus their Lord and Savior (In other words, they merely wanted Jesus as their Savior, but never wanted to be under the lordship of Jesus Christ). In addition, the individuals never repented.

There are some holders of the "once saved, always saved" position who argue that simply saying the sinner's prayer or similar words makes one guaranteed to go to heaven even if one later renounces Christianity and/or engages in a grossly immoral lifestyle.

Martin Luther famously wrote: "Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong (sin boldly), but let your trust in Christ be stronger...No sin can separate us from Him, even if we were to kill or commit adultery thousands of times each day." (Martin Luther: Letter to Melanchthon)[1]

Other scripture used to support this doctrine includes the following:

  • Rom 8:38-39: "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
  • 1 Corinthians 1:8: "He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ"
  • Philippians 1:6: "Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."
  • 1 Peter 1:5 "Who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time."

Opposing arguments

There are those who reject this doctrine as a heresy, primarily the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church[2], on the basis of the following texts:

Ezekiel 18:24
Hebrews 6:4-8, 11-12
1 Peter 2:15-16
2 Peter 2:18-22
Jude 3-4, 8, 12-13, 16-19 [3]
1 Thessalonians 4:3-8
Matthew 7:21-23; 25:14-46
James 2:14-26 and 1 John 3:17-18

Compare Romans 8:1 with 1 John 3:4-10.

See Luke 13:6-9; 19:12-26.

This is the contrasting doctrine of "conditional security" which is dependent on "good works" as necessary to retain the gift of unmerited salvation. Romans 2:3-13.[4]

There are Evangelical Protestant Christian online sites which present the following Biblical texts as opposing unconditional eternal security[5]:

Matthew 6:15; 10:22-32; 19:21-35
Luke 12:41-46
John 15:4-6, 10
1 Corinthians 6:9-11; 15:1-2
Galatians 4:9; 5:1-5, 19-20; 6:8-9
Ephesians 5:5-6
Colossians 1:21-23
1 Thessalonians 5:21-22
Hebrews 3:6, 14; 10:26-28
James 5:19-20
2 Peter 2:20-22; 3:17
1 John 2:1-29
2 John 8
Revelation 2:4-7, 10, 25-36; 3:1-5

This is the contrasting doctrine of "conditional salvation" which depends on personal perseverance in heroically living a virtuous life pleasing to God, actively avoiding even the appearance of evil and striving to remain faithful to the Christian calling even unto death, so as not to lose salvation and forfeit eternal life—the argument that if salvation cannot be lost, there would be no warnings in the New Testament to Christians to remain faithful, to avoid sin and error, and to persevere to the end lest they be found wanting and be condemned with the unrighteous. St. Paul himself said,

"Not that I had already attained this or am already perfect; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brethren, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the mark for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are "perfect" be thus minded; and if in anything you are otherwise minded, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained." Philippians 3:12-16.
(See multiple commentaries on Philippians 3:13.)
"Do you not know that in a race all the runners contend, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every man striving for mastery exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable crown. Therefore, I do not run aimlessly, I do not box as one beating the air; but I control my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified." 1 Corinthians 9:24-27.
(See multiple commentaries on 1 Corinthians 9:27.)

See James 3:13:

"Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show his works by a good life in the humility that comes from wisdom."

See Revelation 22:12:

"And behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every one according to his work."

Rejection of conditional salvation that requires good works

Martin Luther wrote this about a good life manifested by good works:

There is no more dangerous, more pernicious scandal than a good life exteriorly manifested by good works. Those pious souls who do good to gain the Kingdom of Heaven not only will never succeed, but they must even be reckoned among the impious; and it is more important to guard them against good works than against sin.
—Works of Luther, Wittenberg, Vol. VI, 160 [6]

No sin can separate us from Him, even if we were to kill or commit adultery thousands of times each day. - Letter to Melancthon.

Rejection of the doctrine of unconditional eternal security which can never be lost or forfeited or revoked because of sin is seen as part of the Great Apostasy from the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

See Also

References

  1. See the following:
  2. See the following:
  3. Jude 8 and 16-19 was seen as especially applicable to Martin Luther because of his polemic against the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, his rejection of their authority, and his doctrine of Christian freedom and unconditional salvation; see his pamphlet On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church and the Catholic document of Pope Leo X, the papal bull Exsurge Domini Condemning the Errors of Martin Luther.
  4. " To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good" Romans 2:7-10 KJV (boldface emphasis added).
  5. Two of these Protestant online sites list more references than are presented here in this article:
  6. Luther Said: Doing Good Is More Dangerous Than Sinning - Beggars All: Reformation & Apologetics (beggarsallreformation.blogspot.com)

External links

See the following sources related to the controversy over the doctrine of unconditional eternal security:

Compare the following Bible texts:

Matthew 7:15-27
Romans chapter 6
1 John 3:4-18
James 1:16–2:26
John 15:1-10

See also:

commentaries on Ezekiel 18:24
commentaries on Matthew 7:21
commentaries on Matthew 12:33
commentaries on Matthew 25:29
commentaries on Revelation 22:12