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Security of the Believer


Here is a question I received among the comments on an earlier post in answer to another question: What Sin Does Not Lead to Death? At the end, I have also appended the response from the questioner.

Do you believe that a born again believer can once again fall into sin and not make it to heaven?

I replied as follows:

It is not so much a matter of what I believe – but of what the Scriptures teach.

There are many warnings to believers in the Scriptures that would be nonsensical if it were not possible for people who once believed to, as you said, “Once again fall into sin and not make it to heaven.”

That is not the same thing as saying that a believer’s position before God is insecure, which it is. As Peter wrote, our inheritance is “kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:4b-5, ESV).

God’s power to save believers is the gospel (Romans 1:16). That same power (the gospel) guards us through faith for the salvation that is yet to be revealed. Paul encouraged Timothy:

…wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith,, among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme. – 1 Timothy 1:18b-20, ESV

When a believer’s faith is shipwrecked because he does not “hold faith and a good conscience” his connection with God and His grace that saves us through faith is severed.

In Galatians 5:4 Paul states categorically that some, who were seeking to be justified by law (circumcision + Christ), rather than by the hearing of faith, had fallen away from grace and are severed from Christ.

Paul’s warnings are very serious. In his discussion of the Gentiles coming to the gospel after the Jews had rejected it, he said, in comparing the Gentiles to a wild olive tree grafted onto the Jewish root:

But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the braches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. – Romans 11:17-23, ESV

These warnings mean something. We need to take them seriously. Failure to take God’s warnings at face value has contributed much to the indifference of many nominal Christians, many of whom have at one time had an experience with God.

Jerry

Response:

That is the most complete and thorough answer I have ever received concerning receiving/retaining/losing salvation, especially in your following two paragraphs.

| There are many warnings to believers in the Scriptures that would be nonsensical if it were not possible for people who once believed to, as you said, “Once again fall into sin and not make it to heaven.”

That is not the same thing as saying that a believer’s position before God is insecure, which it is. As Peter wrote, our inheritance is “kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:4b-5, ESV). |

Thank you very much. I now have a basis to move forward in my doctrine of sin study.

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5 Responses

  1. Once again, Jerry, thank you.

  2. what do we say to those that say a person who falls away was never saved in the first place?

    • I ask them about Simon the Sorcerer. Acts 8:13 says that he believed and was baptized. Jesus (Mark 16:16) said that those who believe and are baptized are saved. Was Simon saved?

      Yet, in Acts 8:20, “Peter said to him, ‘May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money!” In John 3:16, we learn that God’s love for the world caused Him to give His Son so that those who believe in Him might not perish but have everlasting life. Perishing contrasts with eternal life. If Simon was in danger of perishing, was he in danger of the second death?

      Or was Simon another who, like Hymenaeus and Alexander, had rejected good conscience and made shipwreck of his faith (see 1 Timothy 1:19-20)?

  3. Jerry,

    I spent many years wrestling with the concept of losing one’s salvation, and since our last conversation I made some very important discoveries, as follows.

    While fully realizing we Christians are called to live apart from sin, we still have a fallen nature, which means we will eventually, inevitably, sin. But, in the event we do sin, do we consequently lose our salvation, or does God instead grant us free-license to indulge our sin because salvation is irrevocable?

    Some say that once Jesus takes up residence in one’s heart, that person is guaranteed eternal life, even if he or she dies with an unrepentant heart. This belief makes a mockery of living a Holy life pleasing to God, and also devalues Christ’s ultimate sacrifice on the cross, the total game-changer that not only blots out our sin upon accepting him into our heart, but so too empowers us to live apart from sin thereafter. Another belief is that, yes, an individual does lose his salvation upon sinning, but as long as the individual repents of that sin before dying he will obtain eternal life with Jesus. This belief creates the bondage of perfectionism and legalism (or Pharisee-ism), forcing one to focus more on not sinning than on building a powerful relationship with God. It makes one seek human perfection at the expense of Godly Holiness, thus robbing us of spiritual power at best, and ultimately becoming our God-replacing idol of faith-devoid works at worst.

    Neither belief completely reconciles with scripture, as they both are two artificial divisions of the underlying indivisible truth. So what happens if a true believer sins but dies before repenting? As stated on my recent post, Can I Lose My Salvation?, “I don’t believe it is the sin itself that negates one’s salvation, but instead the state of heart that does the sinning. Willful and unrepentant rebellion always assures separation from God, and ultimately incurs his wrath. This was the downfall of Lucifer, the one who knows, and once gloried in, absolute truth but tossed it away for his own arrogant pride against God.” Therefore if one’s heart is oriented rightly toward God, not only is he assured an eternally secure salvation but he also retains free-will, thus giving him the ability to choose at each given moment which path to take, obedience or rebellion. It also says that the only criteria for maintaining assurance of salvation is maintaining a heart that hates sin and loves God, which necessitates both a repentant heart and growing our relationship with God.

    Providing one’s heart is oriented rightly toward God, he will not sin out of blatant rebellion but instead out of weakness due to our fallen nature, and he is therefore covered by Christ’s blood sacrifice, should death occur before conscious repentance of that sin. However, in the event the Holy Spirit convicts him of that sin – ultimately insisting he choose between repentance and eternal damnation – and instead of repenting, he willfully, rebelliously, chooses to reject the Holy Spirit in favor of sin, rebellion immediately fills his heart and his relationship with God terminates. The Lake of Fire then becomes his eternal destiny.

    So in the end, both “eternal security” (eternally secure salvation) and the ability to lose one’s salvation are together valid, but not separately. That is my conclusion. Thanks again for setting my mind at ease with your wisdom-filled answer to my question.

  4. […] want to give my heart-felt thanks to Jerry Starling (“Committed to Truth” blog; post, Security of the Believer) and Fr. Robert (my personal friend: “Irish Anglican’s Weblog”; post, Apostasy in the Church, […]

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