Eternal security (salvation)

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Eternal security is the doctrine of unconditional eternal salvation as an irrevocable gift 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 works 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 is absolutely assured, and cannot ever be lost or forfeited or revoked, even if one later renounces Christianity and/or engages in a grossly immoral lifestyle.[1] It is also informally called "Assurance". See Romans 8:38-39; 10:10-11; Hebrews 6:11-12.

It is confined within Protestant denominations, as neither Catholics nor Orthodox hold to this view. The majority of Protestant denominations hold to it: notable exceptions include Churches of Christ, Free Will Baptists, and Assemblies of God.

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). The last two verses of Romans 8 are also used to support this view, mentioning numerous entities that are unable to destroy the relationship between God and one who is saved.

Commonly, if someone makes a commitment to Christianity in the beginning and later renounces Christianity (either openly as in "de-converting", or by actions such as not attending church though able or by open sin such as adultery), the advocates of eternal security often say that the person has either been trapped by sin (and therefore is still saved), or (more commonly) was never a Christian to begin with. In support of the latter, they refer to when 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), but they never made Jesus their Lord and Savior (i.e. the individuals never repented nor wanted to be under the lordship of Jesus Christ, simply praying hoping to escape eternal punishment in Hell).

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)[2]

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"
  • 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 the doctrine of Irresistible Grace and Eternal Security as a heresy, primarily the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church,[3] but also notable Protestant groups such as Free Will Baptists, Assemblies of God, and Churches of Christ, and all who agree with the doctrine of Arminianism.

Groups that oppose this doctrine support their views on the basis of the following texts, among others:

1 Corinthians 10:12 "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall."
2 Peter 3:17 "beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness."
Ezekiel 18:24 "But when the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and doeth according to all the abominations that the wicked man doeth, shall he live? All his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned: in his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die."
Romans 11:19-22 "Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in. Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off." (boldface emphasis added)
Hebrews 6:4-8, 11-12 "For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned. ... And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end: That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises."
1 Peter 2:15-16 " For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God."
2 Peter 2:18-22 "For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error. While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage. For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire."
Jude 3-4, 8, 12-13, 16-19 "Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. ... Likewise also these filthy dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities. ... These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots; Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever. ... These are murmurers, complainers, walking after their own lusts; and their mouth speaketh great swelling words, having men's persons in admiration because of advantage. But, beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts. These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit."[4]
1 Thessalonians 4:3-8 "For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour; Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God: That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified. For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness. He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us his holy Spirit."
Matthew 7:21-23; 25:14-46 "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." ... "For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey. Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two. But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord's money. After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them. And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more. His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them. His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed: And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine. His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed: Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal." (He does not ask them what they believed; he does not ask them if they abstained from alcoholic drinks, read the Bible, prayed, and went to church.)
James 2:14-26 and 1 John 3:17-18 "What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also." ... "But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth."

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

"There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." (Yet those Christians who act unrighteously by freely practicing sin are condemned.)
"Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin. Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him. Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother." (boldface emphasis added)

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

"He spake also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground? And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down." ... "He said therefore, A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return. And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come. But his citizens hated him, and sent a message after him, saying, We will not have this man to reign over us. And it came to pass, that when he was returned, having received the kingdom, then he commanded these servants to be called unto him, to whom he had given the money, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading. Then came the first, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained ten pounds. And he said unto him, Well, thou good servant: because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities. And the second came, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained five pounds. And he said likewise to him, Be thou also over five cities. And another came, saying, Lord, behold, here is thy pound, which I have kept laid up in a napkin: For I feared thee, because thou art an austere man: thou takest up that thou layedst not down, and reapest that thou didst not sow. And he saith unto him, Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant. Thou knewest that I was an austere man, taking up that I laid not down, and reaping that I did not sow: Wherefore then gavest not thou my money into the bank, that at my coming I might have required mine own with usury? And he said unto them that stood by, Take from him the pound, and give it to him that hath ten pounds. (And they said unto him, Lord, he hath ten pounds.) For I say unto you, That unto every one which hath shall be given; and from him that hath not, even that he hath shall be taken away from him."

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

" 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).

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; 10:26-29
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 the unmerited free gift of 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 Galatians 5:6

"For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love." (boldface emphasis added)

See Revelation 22:12:

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

Those who oppose unconditional eternal security point out that if, according to the doctrine of Eternal Security, the grace of salvation cannot be lost, forfeited or revoked for any reason, for any sin whatever, after receiving Christ as our personal Savior, then the warnings found throughout the New Testament to believers to be careful not to fall away, not to be led astray, not to sin, not to act unrighteously, not to return to indulging the lusts of the flesh, lest we lose what we have in Christ, would never have been written, as being irrelevant, pointless, without purpose or justification and totally unnecessary.

See 2 Peter 3:14-17.

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, 13.

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

See also


  1. Christianity is split somewhat evenly between those who do not believe in eternal security and those who do believe it, even to the point that even if one later renounces Christianity and/or engages in a grossly immoral life style, salvation will not be lost or taken away. There will be judgment, but not condemnation to hell. They maintain that salvation is entirely dependent on God alone, who will not break his promises, and is not dependent on whether or not the Christian is virtuous or depraved, because God's promise of salvation is not dependent on any works man can do or does not do. The Christian has a "license to sin" because he/she is "not under the law" and "there is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus". Sending the Christian to hell would be to send a member of Christ's body to hell.
    "How can eternal life be anything else but eternal? It cannot be lost, forfeited, or sinned away, for 'the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable' (Rom. 11:29). Eternal life once given is an everlasting gift." (boldface emphasis added).
  2. See the following:
  3. See the following:
  4. 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.
  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 (

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