Arminian Today

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For Those Who Believe in Eternal Security: Be Balanced With Your Teaching

I admit up front that I don’t hold to the doctrine of unconditional eternal security.  I do hold to conditional eternal security.  I believe that if we are in Christ and remain in Him by faith, we will never fail to have eternal life and never will be cast out from Him.  I believe this is the balance of Scripture.  On the one hand are many passages that speak to our security in Christ but the key point is in Christ.  There is no security apart from Christ.  This is why I believe  that the condition for salvation is always faith (John 6:29; Romans 4:5).  Faith in Christ is our security for it is Christ that saves us from the wrath of God (Romans 5:8-9).

That said, I know that some may still hold to eternal security.  After all, there are precious promises given to us as children of God about His keeping power (see John 10:27-29; Romans 8:37-39; Jude 24-25).  I love the promises that God has given in His Word to keep us.  I receive them, meditate on them, and love them.  I agree with you (those who hold to eternal security) that God’s Word is clear that He will keep us (Philippians 1:6).

But may I simply ask that you do me one favor and be balanced when you preach this doctrine.  Through many conversations I have had with people in evangelism, I believe one of the greatest threats to eternal salvation is the unbiblical notion that we are “once saved, always saved.”  This teaching has produced so many false converts.  I meet people on the streets who claim to be going to heaven because they once prayed a prayer or once were baptized.  They claim that they are forever a child of God because of their “salvation experience.”  These people are clearly Titus 1:16 or 1 John 2:3-6 yet they claim to be washed in the blood and bound for glory because someone once told them that they were “eternally secure.”

Now I know that some of my Calvinist friends preach that if the person does not persevere, they were never saved to begin with (1 John 2:19).  They point out that Jesus had false disciples such as Judas and others (John 6:60-71).  They point out that there are even false apostles (2 Corinthians 11:14-15).  There is another gospel that can be preached (Galatians 1:6-9) and those who follow that false gospel are not saved though they claim otherwise.  Jesus said that false disciples would be proven by their fruit (Matthew 7:15-20).  Only those who do the will of the Father are truly saved (Matthew 7:21-23).

Yet the problem becomes the issue of assurance.  How can I know that I am saved right now?  Can I be sure that I will be saved next year at this time?  Those who hold to unconditional eternal security will say “yes” to this.  Yet if that same person is not walking with Christ at this time next year, they were never saved to begin with because they failed to persevere.  So why not balance your teaching on eternal security by emphasizing that a person must continue in the faith (thus a condition is added)?  Just as Paul preached in Acts 14:22.  Just as Paul preached in Romans 11:20-22.  Just as Paul preached in 2 Corinthians 1:24.  Just as Paul preached in Colossians 1:21-23.  Just as Paul preached in Philippians 2:12-15.  Just as Paul preached in 2 Timothy 3:14.

The preaching then would look like this: you are saved in Christ and secure in Him provided you continue in the faith in Christ alone.  Don’t turn away from Christ for idols of this world (1 John 5:21), or sins of the flesh (1 John 2:15-17).  Don’t turn away from Christ for a false gospel that does not save (2 Corinthians 11:2-4).  Make sure you are in the faith always (2 Corinthians 12:21-13:5).  Obey Jesus as Lord (Luke 6:46-49; James 2:14-26).  Abide in Him (1 John 2:28) and don’t go on sinning (1 John 3:4-10).  Repent of your sins (Matthew 3:8) and stop sinning (John 5:14; 8:11; 1 Corinthians 15:34).  Love the gospel and worship your King (Hebrews 12:1-2).  Forgive your brothers and sisters (Matthew 18:21-35).  For we have His promises (2 Timothy 2:11-13):

11 The saying is trustworthy, for:

If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
12 if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful—
for he cannot deny himself.

Praise God for His grace and His security but let us also cling to Him alone for His grace and His security.  Let us balance this teaching out a bit.

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6 Responses

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  1. Seeking Disciple, I’ve been considering Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology at my Open Theism WordPress blog. Later this month I’ll reach his chapter on perseverance. I plan to include a link to your “Eternal Security” post in my consideration of it. May I post your article as a guest article instead?

    Bob Hunter

    06/02/2014 at 5:23 PM

  2. As an arminian myself, I’ve struggled with this idea of perseverance. I’ve read those same verses that seem to imply you can lose your salvation, and I’ve come to the point that they have to be viewed as the person was never actually saved. Reason being, in new covenant teaching, the scriptures do not show the Holy Spirit entering and leaving a person in the new covenant like He did in the old covenant. In the NC, the Holy Spirit is given permanently, a seal (Ephesians 1:13-14). Also, adding that a person must continue in the faith rubs dangerously close to works based salvation after being justified, and that lack of assurance does not line up with Paul’s confidence in the crown he WILL receive. So, I’ve decided I agree with the P in TULIP, and that once we’re saved, we’re always saved. That’s my take on this.

    ovationeddie

    06/04/2014 at 6:47 AM

    • I don’t know if you have read them but two books I would suggest are “The Believer’s Conditional Security” by Daniel Corner and “Life in the Son” by Robert Shank. Both are good books that focus in on this issue.

      Two things for me here. First, I have found over the years that the only people who tend to want to argue for eternal security generally are people who have some besetting sin or they simply are not wanting to submit to the Lordship of Christ in all areas of their lives. For me, this issue is not a big issue. I don’t struggle with my security because I love Christ and His gospel. I adore Him, seek Him, long for Him, and can’t wait to see Him face to face (1 John 3:1-3). I don’t live in fear because I love Christ more than I love my sins. But I am not accusing you of living in sin nor do I think that all who hold to OSAS want to live in sin but I do believe that OSAS can provide some comfort for those who live in sin despite Scripture never giving this assurance.

      Secondly, the idea of necessary perseverance being based on works righteousness has no foundation. I reject OSAS and hold to necessary perseverance but I can assure you that I do not believe works either obtain salvation nor secure it. I would argue though that true faith works (as would Calvinists by the way). James 2:14-26 is clear that true faith works. True faith obeys Christ (1 John 2:3-6). True faith does not merely agree with the facts of the gospel but true faith submits to Christ as Lord (Luke 6:46-49). Therefore, only those who have true faith are secure in Christ. This is why we must test ourselves to make sure we are in the faith (2 Cor. 12:21-13:5).

      But I do hope you know that I regard you (despite our disagreement over OSAS) as a brother. I have many brothers who would say they hold to unconditional eternal security while I don’t but I don’t make that an issue with them. They are passionate for Christ and that blesses me.

  3. Just speculating but if OSAS teaching is false (as I believe it to be}, would Paul and the rest of the Apostles still fellowship with those who promulgated such doctrine or would they warn the churches to avoid such false teachers and even put them out of the church? At what point does unity become disunity?

    Evan

    06/12/2014 at 6:16 AM

    • I have met some folks like that. There are a group of Calvinist on Twitter who are like that. They attack anyone and everyone who are not Calvinists and will bombard you with one tweet after another to force you to repent or try to catch you in something you say that shows you are “man-centered” in your theology. They are convinced that Calvinism is the only pure gospel (and even the only way to salvation in some ways) and that those who reject Calvinism are (for the most part) lost in their sins. For instance, I asked them if John Wesley was in heaven and they said said either “I don’t know” or “no.”

      I can have fellowship with believers who differ with me over OSAS but I wouldn’t if OSAS becomes the standard for orthodoxy. I have found that those who want to debate over OSAS typically have some besetting sin in their life that they want to hold on to (pornography seems to be the biggest) and they want to claim heaven while knowing that they are living for hell. The thought of hell terrifies them and so rather than repenting of their sins, they hold to their sins and seek to claim Jesus as Lord as well by appealing to OSAS. These folks I cannot unite with. To me, they are apostate and need to repent. Holiness must be the rule for the disciple of Christ (1 Peter 1:15-16).


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