Is My Salvation Indestructible?
I have long been a believer in the doctrine of eternal security. In fact, I have been one of its strongest and most vocal advocates. I have argued extensively in favor of it in open forums, subjecting my view and interpretations to welcome scrutiny of many. I have heard their arguments against eternal security, but I discounted them. Recently I have been enlightened by a study in scripture that has opened my thinking on this subject, causing me to reconsider the dogmatic position I once had. Below is a discussion and review of both positions (for and against eternal security) and the relevant scriptures associated with both. I have tried to be fair to both persepectives.
Reference to “eternal security” requires definition. Just on face value, when I say “eternal security”, do you reallly know what is meant? Or, do you assume a definition that is more akin to your own understanding or assumptions? We all tend to do this until we define our terms of reference for our common usage. Lets be sure we are all singing from the same hymnal and on the same page!
The doctrine of eternal security usually refers to the condition of a born again believer in Jesus Christ, in whom the believer has sincerely and genuinely believed. Eternal security refers to the personal condition of a person’s soul. Eternal security does not apply to the lost or unsaved. To be secure eternally is usually meant to mean “no matter what I may do in my life after I have been born again, I cannot lose my eternally secure position with God (which is through Jesus Christ).” This definition means that no matter how badly I may sin, no matter how much sin has become a part of my life, no matter how backslidden I have become, my entrance into heaven is still guaranteed. That guarantee is founded on a genuine born again experience. This is the most common, modern day understanding of “eternal security.”
Now that we have defined what we mean by “eternal security”, lets examine more closely the born again experience and the life in Christ afterwards in accordance with what the Bible teaches.
The Bible teaches that when one is born again (John 3:3-7) he is then able to see the kingdom of God. The Bible also teaches that our born again experience is one that comes directly from God, as stated in 1Peter 1:3:
“ Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” (NASB)
Since God chooses us for salvation, His choice cannot be in error. SeeEphesians 1:4-6 and 2 Thess 2:13,14. After we have been born again, we receive a new life in Jesus Christ. Our old self is dead (Ephesians 2:1). Since we received our new condition into a “saved” state by the grace of God, and through faith alone (which we have received from Him), and not by our own works, is it then possible to “undo” that which God has done for us? Ephesians 2:8-9 states:
“For by grace you have been saved through faith and that not of yoursleves, it is the gift of God, not that any man should boast.” (NASB)
And, 1 John 3:1-2 teaches that we are “called children of God.” It stands to reason then, that if we are creatures of a new birth, and that birth is of God (and not of ourselves), and we have a new heavenly Father (God) such that we are His children, then we could not by our own doing, undo that which God has done. In essence, it stands to reason that we do not have the power to undo the work of the Lord. Certainly our human power is not greater than His. Consider 1 John 3:9:
“No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.”
Further, the Bible does promise us eternal life to all who receive Jesus Christ. In 1John, the purpose of writing the book is to affirm to the believers that they do, in fact, have eternal life.
See 1 John 1:2, 2:25. 1 John 5:11-12 states:
“and the witness is this, that God has given us eternal life, and the life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.”
And to summarize this, the apostle John states it again in clear, plain language in verse 13 as he explains why he has written:
“These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God in order that you may know that you have eternal life.”
We can also look to Romans 6:23; 2 Cor 4:15-18; Heb. 5:9, 9:15.
John 6:37-40 tells us that to those who come to Jesus Christ, He will not cast them out (v. 37). Jesus elaborates that He “loses nothing” (v.39), and that we receive eternal life from Him if we believe (v.40). Many other references that refer to our eternal life in Christ come from the apostle John:
John 3:15-16, 36; 5:24, 10:27-29; 11:25-26; 17:2.
Seems pretty cut and dry, then doesn’t it? In reading these verses it sure seems like we have eternal security, doesn’t it? Can we, then, as children of God, enter into sin in such a way as to destroy our position with God? Can we destroy our personal relationship with Him?
Jude 24 tells us
“Now to Him who is able to keep us from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy,...”
And Hebrews 5:9 states
“...I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
In conducting a study of the book of Hebrews, I came to Chapter 3, and starting with verse 6, was forced to re-evaluate my firmly held conviction of “once saved always saved.”
“but Christ was faithful as a Son over His house whose house we are * if * we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end.” (NASB)
This admonishment to “hold on” was also an introduction to his concern that there might be some "brothers" with an unbelieving heart, which are referred to in Hebrews 3:12. There they are referred to as "falling away". Let us examine verse 12:
“Take care, brethren, lest there be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart, in falling away from the living God.” (NASB)
Coud it be that a brother in Christ could actually have an “evil, unbelieving heart”? But that is what this verse seems to be saying. And we see further that in verse 13 this concept is somewhat explained.
“....lest any one of you be hardened by the decitfulness of sin.”
So, we can obtain a hardened heart, if we allow oursleves to be decieved by sin. But the key to understanding this concept lies in the definition and intent of the writer of Hebrew’s use of the term “brethren.” If “brethren” is defined as “born again believers in Christ” then we can conclude that it is possible to have a change in heart and to “fall away” as verse 12 teaches. On the other hand, if “brethren” is meant to mean all the people who are inlcuded in the same group, who are worshipping in the same congregation, then the scope of this admonishment could be widened to include persons who had yet to be born again.
We have a definition of how the writer of Hebrews uses “brethren” provided for us in Hebrews 2:11 and 7:5. In 2:11 it states:
“For both He who *sanctifies and those who *are sanctified are all *from one Father; for which reason He is not ashamed to call them *brethren,”
Or being sanctified
So in this sense, “brethren” are “those who are sanctified from the Father.” Yet we see in Hebrews 7:5 “brethren” is used in a different contextual style. In verse 7:5, it is used to refer to countrymen.
And those indeed of *the sons of Levi who receive the priest's office have commandment in the Law to collect a tenth from the people, that is, from their brethren, although these are descended from Abraham.
Lit according to
Lit have come out of the loins of
So in accord with our desire to decipher Hebrews 3:12 properly, it appears that the term “brethren” is used in the strictly spiritual sense. One can safely conlcude that the writer of Hebrews 12:2 meant “brethren” in the same sense and by the same definition he afforded in 2:11-12.