Eternal Security/Part 8
|By: Dr. John Ankerberg and Dr. John Weldon; ©2001|
|So far in this series we have discussed why the doctrine of eternal security is important, the meaning of the term “eternal,” and how it relates to salvation. Now we begin to consider Scriptures that appear to teach the loss of salvation.|
Eternal Security—Part Three: Objections to Eternal Security
How valid are the objections?
In previous articles we have discussed why the doctrine of eternal security is important, the meaning of the term “eternal,” and how it relates to salvation. Now we shall consider Scriptures that appear to teach the loss of salvation.
Before we begin, we should ask a number of questions which help set the stage for our discussion. What is truly remarkable is this: given the importance of the issue, nowhere in Scripture are there teachings and instructions specifically stated which one would expect must be stated in order to safeguard against the possibility of loss of salvation or the reinstatement of salvation among believers.
Assuming that Christians can lose their salvation, how often on the whole does the average Christian do so? Once in his lifetime? Five or ten times? Five hundred times? Where is the specific line drawn that causes believers to lose their salvation? Why is not this “vital demarcation” point clearly defined and discussed in Scripture? For example, how much doubt in God or discouragement over personal circumstances leads to loss of salvation? What kinds of sins cause the loss of salvation? What manner of rebellion against God? Below we discuss the three principle means cited for loss of salvation: sin, Satan and self.
First, can sin cause the loss of salvation? There isn’t a single place in Scripture anyone can point to which says that the committing of a specific sin causes the loss of salvation. And if sin causes loss of salvation, how many sins does it take—one—fifty—fifteen hundred—five thousand? Nowhere in Scripture do we find stated even the general number or kinds of sins which cause loss of salvation. Believers sin in thought, word or deed every single day when their behavior is placed against a standard such as the two greatest commandments that Jesus spoke of—loving God with all your heart, mind and soul and your neighbor as yourself (Mt. 22:37-39). Thus, in one form or another, even though they are saved, Christians sin on a regular basis. Yet, even the smallest of sins is sufficient to send one to eternal judgment. So why be concerned about the loss of salvation over only “big” sins?
The Scripture itself recalls even serious sins by believers but supplies no evidence that they lost their salvation. Samson committed suicide, yet he is in the hall of faith (Heb. 11:32). His great zeal for the Lord was completely offset by his love for Philistine women, but nowhere is it implied he lost his salvation. Noah was drunk, but Jesus called him great. David committed adultery and murder, but God said he was a man after His own heart. Abraham lied and committed fornication and yet he is the father of the Jewish nation and offered to us as a classic symbol of the believer’s justification. Even as an apostle, Peter denied Jesus three times—yet with an oath! All these men were commended because they were characteristically men of faith in spite of their sin; not because they were perfect.
On the cross, all our sin had to be fully propitiated no matter how small and insignificant or large and weighty. Otherwise, the Christian is faced with only three options. If sin truly causes the loss of salvation, then every Christian must either be 1) sinlessly perfect or 2) perfect in confession (1 Jn. 1:9) or 3) a lost soul. Since neither one nor two is the teaching of the Church nor the Scriptures, nor the experience of Christians, it must be conceded that either all Christians are lost or that Christians sin “all the time” and yet retain their salvation. What if a Christian dies with unconfessed sin? They still go straight to heaven. Why? Because no Christian has ever confessed all his sin.
Christians may pay a very heavy price in this life for their sin, but sin has no power to cause the loss of their salvation because of the atonement of Christ. Again, if God went to the extreme of the cross—judging His own Son to justly pay the full penalty for all sin—and He did so that the Christian could be saved, then how can we logically claim that any particular amount of sin would eventually cause a Christian to be lost? If God has taken out His full anger toward sin on Jesus, on what basis would He now be angry against the children He loves?
When Scripture seems to speak in perfectionist language, e.g.—“we know that no one who is born of God sins” (1 Jn. 5:18)—the Greek tense indicates that this is referring to habitual sinning as in the kind of lifestyle a person lived before he became a believer. No one will argue that the common testimony of the Christian is that because he is a new creation in Christ and the old things have passed away (2 Cor. 5:17), that he is a new creature who desires to live for God and does not sin in the manner of his former self. No one can deny there are definite changes that take place after spiritual rebirth. Nevertheless, the fact that sin remains with Christians is a testimony of every godly man or woman to their dying day. Indeed, the most godly of saints are the ones who are most aware of how deeply sinful they are, even after a lifetime of sanctification and commitment to Christ.
Looked at another way, if it took God’s own blood (Acts 20:28) and His very death and judgment to save us even when our own wills were opposed to the idea, is anything less than that (i.e., anything less than God) going to cause us to be lost, even if we will it, assuming this were possible? If God promises to keep the believer, will we ever be found deficient before Him? “To claim that a child of God is not safe because of the supposed unsaving power of sin is to put sin above the blood and to set at naught the eternal redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”
The issue of whether any sin can cause the loss of salvation was settled at the cross, for on the cross, Jesus died for all sin and thus
“He forgave us all our sins” (Col. 2:13).
“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses…” (Eph. 1:7).
“He [Jesus] entered the Most Holy Place once for all by His own blood, having obtained eternal redemption” (Heb. 9:12).
“Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more” (Heb. 10:17).
Can we imagine the Christian moving from God’s love to God’s wrath again and again, over and over, throughout his lifetime? Remembering the infinite gap that exists here between the love of God and the wrath of God, how would this be possible? Is the Christian juggled back and forth between the kingdom of Christ and the kingdom of Satan on a regular basis? Not a chance.
Second, can Satan cause Christians to lose their salvation? Satan is undoubtedly a formidable enemy, and we are warned against his schemes and traps in Scripture, which teaches us that he prowls about like a roaring lion seeking whom he can devour (1 Pet. 5:8). Satan may indeed harass Christians, attack them and even bring them to the point of despair, but he can never cause the loss of their salvation. Why? Obviously, if from the point of being reborn, a Christian has eternal life, has all his sins forgiven, is guaranteed a place in heaven, etc., then his salvation is already eternal, and therefore, no creature, however powerful, could possibly thwart the purposes of God. This is what Romans 8:28- 39 teaches us. If God has chosen His children from before the foundation of the world, why would He possibly let the devil cause them to be destroyed during their lifetimes?
The Scriptures emphasize that believers in Christ never need fear that Satan can cause their loss of salvation. For example, we are told that “greater is He who is in you, than he who is in the world” (1 Jn. 4:4). Thus, Satan wanted to destroy Peter, but Jesus would not permit it (Lk. 22:31-32). The apostle Paul emphasizes that he is “convinced that neither… angels nor demons” can separate us from the love of God (Rom. 8:38-39). We are told that Jesus “appeared for this purpose, that He might destroy the works of the devil” (1 Jn. 3:8; cf. Col. 2:15). We are told that Jesus rendered “powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Heb. 2:14). We are promised that “we know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the one who was born of God keeps him safe, and the evil one cannot harm him” (1 Jn. 5:18). Jesus Himself promised Peter that He would build His church and “the gates of hell shall not overpower it” (Mt. 16:18). Every believer, of course, is part of that Church.
According to Revelation 12:10, Satan is always accusing believers before God: “For the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, who accuses them before our God day and night.” Do we think we can make a better case against ourselves than Satan can? But the Scripture emphasizes the intercessory power of Christ before God for us. Thus, it says of those in heaven “And they overcame him [the devil] because of the blood of the lamb” (Revelation 12:11).
In conclusion, the devil cannot thwart the ultimate purposes of God. If it is God’s purpose to save the believer, then to think that Satan can hinder this is to say that Satan has more power than God.
- Chafer, Salvation, p. 124.