Eternal security.... or?

Some time ago I witnessed a very emotional discussion on the subject of eternal security. The discussion circled around the question: "Can a believer loose his eternal state of salvation through rebellion and unbelief?" In our 11th Bible Study in the second letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 6:1-10, we touched on this subject. It was the line in verse one of the sixth chapter, that drew us briefly to this subject: "That you do not receive the grace of God in vain." Though most commentators are of the opinion that Paul was not thinking of loosing eternal salvation here, the question if the believer in Jesus can loose the eternal salvation of his soul need not be suppressed.

The eternal security doctrine - in easy to understand language, 'once saved, always saved' - is based on scriptures like John 10:27-29, where it is recorded that Jesus said: "My sheep, no one can pluck them out of my hands". It is also based on the theological position that the salvation of the individual depends not so much on his decision to believe in Christ, as on the decision of the sovereign God, who chose- or predestined him to become a believer and to be saved for all eternity. Thus, a predestined believer, even if he falls repeatedly in temptations and sins, shall nevertheless not loose his salvation. On the other hand, those who hold the position that believers can loose their salvation base their doctrine on scriptures like Matthew 24:13, "He, who endures to the end will be saved," Matthew 25:14-30 and the serious teachings in Hebrews 6:4-8 and 10:26-36.

The idea that one can loose his salvation in Christ, may be bad news for some, who live lukewarm, easy-going Christian lives and think themselves sure of all the future glories of heaven. "For", so they believe "I am saved for ever - so what?" But the New Testament seems to warn believers that they can loose their eternal salvation by not taking it serious enough and by apostasy,'(Hebrews 2:1-4). The debates between the two camps, taking seemingly opposite doctrinal positions can be quite vehement. May I present a possible solution to unite both doctrinal positions?

I remember from my studies in the sixties that a South Wales theology professor offered the following solution. He said: "Of course, nobody can pluck anyone out of the hands of Jesus. He simply will not allow that to happen. No evil person, no demon of hell, no force or cosmic power can snatch a believer out of his hands. But, if that believer makes the personal decision to leave the hands of Jesus, that is, he rejects after having experienced His love, grace and saving power, what can Jesus do, but respect the personal will and let him go? So, if that person persists in his stupidity till death, he lost - by his own decision - his safe position in Christ and all he once had in Him, or not? Of course, we leave the decision about such a person in the hands of the Almighty God and Jesus Christ Himself, the Judge of all men."

Another question which need not be suppressed is this one: Can such a backslider, who completely turned his back on Christ, despised his grace and grieved the Holy Spirit, be restored to faith later on and have a second conversion? Scriptures like Hebrews 6:4-8 and 10:26,27 may raise difficulties with regards to a new conversion. There are, however, many stories of backsliders who returned later in life to their former faith in and allegiance to Christ. Of course, they may never have been backsliders of the serious nature described in Hebrews 6 and 10. Those, who hold the doctrine of 'eternal security' say of those who backslid and died in unbelief, that they never had been real believers.

Finally, let us look at the issue of eternal security from the standpoint of God, as far as the Holy Scriptures allow us to understand that. The Omniscient God knows who will be saved for all eternity. This knowledge remains in Him even when they fall into sin, or in temptation or weakness keep battling on to hold the faith, when they feel like loosing it.

But let us be clear about it: Gods foreknowledge is not causation; believers will not be saved because God (fore)knows that they will be saved. Paul says in 2 Timothy 2:19, "The Lord knoweth them that are His." Though God knows them 'that are His', we don't always know for sure, who is a true or a false Christian, we can only judge by behavior, words or deeds. For those who believe that the gift of discernment makes it clear: Be careful, even mistakes in discerning are possible. Therefore Paul says also: "Everyone, that nameth the Name of Christ, depart from iniquity." This can be practically understood as follows: "You say that you are a believer, you name Christ as your Saviour and are sure that you are saved for all eternity? Well, that's wonderful, but now I will be looking for some evidence, some holiness, some righteousness, some love and compassion, some real spiritual fellowship and a real Christian walk. And if I do not see this at all in you I have difficulty to believe you." Scriptures to support this view: 1 John 3:9-10; 4:6; 4:20,21; 1 Timothy 6:9,10; 6:17-19; Ephesians 5:3-9.

This short treatise of this subject has not the pretention to be a theological study. It is meant to give answers to some urgent questions. Any comments, questions or contributions are welcome.

T. J. de Ruiter, Pentecostal Pastor & Bible Teacher in The Netherlands, december 1999.

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