One of the most powerful and destructive heresies to penetrate the Christian community is the teaching that once people are saved they cannot lose their salvation. This is often referred to as “once in grace, always in grace” or “eternal security.” This false teaching has likely gained prominence due to the fact that it has such appeal to the fleshly, carnal nature. According to this doctrine, once a person is saved, he cannot lose that salvation regardless of how far back into sin he strays. This supposedly produces that which is impossible, “the sinning Christian.” To the man who wants to gratify the lust of the flesh while still maintaining the promise of eternal life, this doctrine is enticing.
Is there a Sinning Christian?
The Word of God simply does not support this teaching. It is the invention of men who are unwilling to accept God’s requirements and provisions for sinless living. Scripture plainly tells that once a person receives salvation he ceases to practice sin. “Whosoever abideth in him[Jesus Christ] sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him. Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God” (1 John 3:6-9). The primary distinction between sinners and Christians is that sinners sin, and Christians do not sin. “In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother” (1 John 3:10).
Those who insist that they are under grace, and therefore will not be held accountable for sins committed after salvation, have surrendered to a strong deception. Paul gave stout warning against the spirit which teaches that people can be saved while continuing in sin: “…because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believe not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thessalonians 2:10-12). Those who think they can continue to have pleasure in unrighteousness and still make heaven their eternal home are in for a tragic awakening on judgment day! Paul admonished in his letter to Rome, “…Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? (Romans 6: 1, 2).
By no means does grace give us the privilege of continuing in sin as so many assert. In fact it is grace that delivers us from sin and teaches us to live holy. “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;” (Titus 2: 11, 12).
Do Christians have the Promise of Eternal Security?
Concerning eternal security, the Word of God plainly teaches eternal security for every believer who continues to love and obey the Lord; however, those who turn away from God will experience His disfavor and will be lost. “And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved” (Matthew 24:12, 13).
Some have falsely believed that once a person’s name is entered into the Lamb’s book of life, it cannot be taken off. God refutes this idead in Exodus 32:33, “And the LORD said unto Moses, Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book.” This fact is confirmed in the New Testament in Revelation 3:4, 5, “Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy. 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, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.”
The punishment for those who once knew God and chose to turn away seems from Him seems to be increased. “He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under food the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?” (Hebrews 10:28, 29). “For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them” (2 Peter 2:20, 21).
Can Eternal Life be Lost?
It is often reasoned that if a person can lose eternal life, then it was not truly eternal life in the first place. According to this philosophy, if it is eternal it cannot be cut off; however, they forget that eternal life is a gift from God that can be received, rejected, or returned. The Bible clearly reveals that there are some who once possessed eternal life and then lost it. Adam and Eve, for example, had eternal life, but God told them if they disobeyed they would die. Only by faith in His promise and obedience to His commands could they continue in everlasting life. When they sinned, they forfeited it. Likewise, the angels possessed eternal life; however, those that rebelled with Lucifer lost it.
Another example of one who lost eternal life was Judas. The Bible calls him a friend of Jesus in Psalm 41:9. In addition, it is recorded in Matthew 10:1-21 and Mark 6:7-13 that he was chosen to preach and was given the power to heal the sick and cast out devils. It is often argued that Judas was never saved, but this cannot be true. Did Christ choose a devil to be an apostle? Did Christ ordain a devil to preach the saving gospel? did the Lord give Satan power to cast out Satan? Jesus said in Matthew 12:26, Mark 3:23, and Luke 11:18 that Satan does not cast out Satan. Yet, Judas, as an apostle, cast out devils. Scripture shows that Judas betrayed the Lord, and in order to be guilty of betrayal one must have first been trustworthy; it also shows that Satan entered Judas after he ate the Passover meal with the Lord (John 13:27). The writer of Acts states, “…from which Judas by transgression fell…” (Acts 1:25). Judas could not fall unless he had once stood.
“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). When a person ceases to walk in the light, the blood of Jesus ceases to cleanse. The word “if” is a mighty important word, and it carries eternal weight!
Satan is using “…all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved” (2 Thessalonians 2:10). Those who backslide will be just as lost in eternity as if they had never given their hearts to the Lord. Eternal life is God’s promise, but that promise is to those who faithfully walk after receiving the salvation experience. The lie, “…ye shall not surely die…” (Gen 3:4) is still believed by men in the world today. The whole purpose of God’s plan of redemption is to deliver men from sin and its curse, restoring mankind to the blessed state of holiness.
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