These terms refer to a spiritual guarantee that once we have "accepted the Lord Jesus Christ" as our personal Saviour, then we are secure for all of eternity regardless of lifestyle. For a converted person, one whose life has been completely changed, there is, of course, a wonderful feeling of security as we think about eternity. That feeling of security in Jesus Christ will remain with us as long as we walk with the Lord and do His will. In that sense, we can find "eternal security" in our salvation.
However, it is very important that as children of God we recognize that we can walk away from our salvation. If we allow ourselves to go places or engage in activities that expose us to danger, we are tempting God and giving Satan an opportunity to cause spiritual shipwreck. These unwholesome activities can weaken our resistance and may cause us to fall.
Numerous passages of scripture state clearly that it is possible for a child of God to return to sin. "Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;" (I Tim. 4:1). "Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee" (I Tim. 4:16).
Paul was instructing Timothy to be watchful of the false doctrine he would encounter that could deceive him and cause him to be careless. Several words in these passages are especially important "depart" and "continue". Clearly we cannot depart from something we never had, nor can we "continue" something we have not begun. Therefore, we are sure that Paul was speaking to Timothy about converted people.
In the last days, there will be believers who will be convinced to turn away from Christ and return to sin. There will also be those who grow impatient for Christ's return. They will be deceived and will try to convince others that the promises God made about Christ's return to claim his bride, the Church, are false. "...there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, where is the promise of his coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation" (II Pet. 3:3-4). We must patiently continue to "hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown' (Rev. 3:11).
In the Book of Revelation, John wrote about those who at one time had placed the Lord first in their lives but had allowed themselves to grow careless and were very much in danger of losing their place in God's favor. "Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works, or else I will come unto thee quickly, and remove thy candlestick out of his place..." (Rev. 2:4-5).
We take great comfort in the promise that "He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life,..." (Rev. 3:5). This would certainly indicate that the faithful, the overcomers, will retain their place in the Book of Life. The importance of this is emphasized when John wrote "...and another book was opened, which is the book of life, and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books,..." (Rev. 20:12).
Jesus explained to His disciples of the dangers and deceit that His followers would face before the end times. There will be false teachers and much sin in the world. "And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold" (Matt. 24:11-12). The only way for love to wax cold is for it to exist. Again, clearly Christ was speaking of those who once loved the Lord but allowed sin to intervene and their love for Christ grew cold.
Jesus Christ did not leave His disciples without hope. He promised them "But he that shall endure to the end, the same shall be saved" (Matt. 24:13). This beautiful promise would not have been needed unless there was a danger of falling away.
Not only do we need to be careful that we are not deceived by others, we must be careful that self-confidence does not cause us to grow careless. "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall" (I Cor. 10:12). We must also remain dependent upon the Lord to keep us safe and in His love. "How excellent is thy loving kindness, 0 God! Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings" (Ps. 36:7).
In addition to the danger of puffing trust in ourselves and losing our salvation, we must also not put our trust in riches. "...an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children:.. following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness" (II Pet. 2:14-15).
Numerous other scripture passages could be cited that help us understand the false doctrine of once saved, always saved. Time and space do not permit a complete list but a few more are simply listed without comment. "And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:62). "But now, after ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage" (Ga. 4:9). "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" (II Pet. 2:22).
In spite of the seriousness and frequency of the warning in the Holy Scriptures that those who have become followers of Christ would return to sin and lose their salvation, there is no need for a child of God to despair. To each of the seven churches that are addressed in Revelation, a promise of a secure eternity was made to those that overcome and remain faithful. That promise is still in effect for us today.
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From The Silver Lining, Jan. 1998. Address RR 2 Box 50, Roanoke, IL 61561. Prepared by an editorial committee of elder brothers of the Apostolic Christian Church to address some of the special needs of our times.
Biblical Viewpoints Publications
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June 22, 2000
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