Eternal Security and the Place of Continued Repentance

January 10, 2016, concerning a questionable doctrinal stance that came up: The debate rages on about whether or not an individual can lose their salvation after coming to faith in Jesus. Or does it? I actually struggle to come across notable theologians that reject eternal security. The carefully sought out conclusions of these wise Christian leaders grips me as something more than just a truth by popularity. While most seem to be of that persuasion, it is not fair to say that there aren’t solid Christian leaders that conclude the opposite while remaining Biblically-centered teachers and leaders.

While I think both sides are well within orthodoxy, for one side to call the other side teachers of heresy is, I think, overstepping the bounds of Christian unity. However, there may be more underneath the surface that would reveal more dangerous teachings. What are the dangers beneath the surface? For the one teaching eternal security, the danger would be in lacking such self-reflection: “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves!”[1] One could say that such a stance could lead a person to a lazy or even sin-filled life. Won’t sin continue if we see ourselves as under grace only, and not under law? The Apostle Paul anticipates this contention and writes about it in Romans 6. He never backs down from the idea that grace continues regardless of our behavior. He also defeats the contention by saying that we will no longer have close identification with the old lifestyle of sin because coming to faith in Jesus quickens our spirits and makes us alive in that realm.

After hearing that eternal security is an outright false and dangerous teaching, I was deeply bothered. I believe that this violated the Word of God. It would not have been so bad if it was phrased as a suggestion to be investigated; but it was presented as fact. I believe it can lead some people astray, and should be corrected. If we just heard “I personally don’t believe in eternal security”, that would have been ok.

 It’s not just the statement that eternal security may be heresy that is bothersome, but the particular context that I heard it that day seemed to make the problem very profound. The context of confessing and turning from sins . The fact that the context was not clarified and explained to fit well with Scripture was troublesome. I am concerned how people might respond to such an idea–an idea that could lead to a form of works righteousness. 

The Apostle Paul could have taken much more control over the people that he was writing to if he would have said that their salvation was dependent on them doing what he said—or even what Jesus said. Instead he risked them abusing grace because he refused to violate the message of grace that God inspired him to write. “Yep, it’s true you Romans, you Galatians, you Ephesians; you are saved only by grace through faith. It has nothing to do with how well you can follow the laws and standards.”

One sin is enough to separate us from God. In fact, we are not marked by sins, plural; we are marked by sin, the state of fallen existence. Applying the atonement of Jesus through faith removes the sin nature to where it is no longer our identity. Instead we identify with Jesus—that is what happens at the moment of conversion, repentance, salvation.

Yet we still sin because of the war that wages in this in between location of our bodies—the battleground between the earthly and the heavenly. Our sin nature is already graciously atoned for, paid for, redeemed, and forgiven if we are truly in Christ by faith. Ultimate repentance for the forgiveness of sin has already taken place. We are like adopted children into God’s household, co-heirs with Christ. Is there a particular number of sins that we can commit before our title of son or daughter is removed? Are we Christians to look at our mistakes as possibly getting us booted from the household of God?

Jesus said, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.”[2]

Jesus also taught, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me;

and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.”[3]

We will not be forsaken children because of future or present mistakes. I think teaching such things is the true abuse of grace, because it teaches that God is only partially gracious, but it’s up to you to keep yourself in that grace by continual repentance and moral improvement. But it is God who keeps us, and not we who keep ourselves: “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy…”[4].

Thus, Paul, moved by the Holy Spirit was able to teach that nothing—no created thing—can separate those that are in Christ Jesus from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39).

Repentance in no way re-saves us. Teaching such things really distorts the Gospel. Instead, repentance, for the believer, is the continued response to God’s goodness. When we catch a glimpse of who He is, we see how feeble and fallen we are. If we truly love something, we desire to conform ourselves to it. By the working of the Holy Spirit we conform more into the characteristics (fruits) of the God that we love. He brings about the desire to change because we are His—not because we stopped being His!

Be faithful. Be strong. Be investigative like Bereans, my brothers and sisters.

-EVS

[1] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (2 Co 13:5). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

[2] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Jn 6:37). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

[3] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Jn 10:27–28). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

[4] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Jud 24). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

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