I serve as an adult Bible study teacher in a Southern Baptist Church that preaches and teaches eternal security. I often get the impression that people think I teach eternal security simply because it is the doctrine my denomination supports when, in fact, it is the other way around; I am a Southern Baptist, due in no small part, to the fact that the SBC endorses a Biblical view of salvation. Here is an excerpt from the Baptist Faith and Message …
All true believers endure to the end. Those whom God has accepted in Christ, and
sanctified by His Spirit, will never fall away from the state of grace, but shall persevere to
the end. Believers may fall into sin through neglect and temptation, whereby they grieve
the Spirit, impair their graces and comforts, and bring reproach on the cause of Christ and
temporal judgments on themselves; yet they shall be kept by the power of God through
faith unto salvation.
The first three words of the above passage from the Baptist Faith and Message are of vast importance, “All true believers …” It is important to understand the implications of these words. We are not talking about people who shallowly recited a particular prayer, people who attend church, or people who were raised in Christian homes. We are talking about true believers. In other words, we are not talking about people who simply exhibit some of the qualities of being a Christian; rather, we are talking about people who have had a genuine, life-saving encounter with Jesus Christ. Who are these people? The Word describes them as those who believe in Jesus Christ:
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16, NASB).
“They said, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household'” (Acts 16:31, NASB).
It is important to understand that salvation isn’t about the outward behaviors a person may exhibit. Rather, it is about an earth-shattering, life-changing belief in Jesus Christ:
“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
In fact, this change in our lives is so earth-shattering and dramatic it is impossible for us to manufacture on our own. It can only be received as a gift from God:
“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9, NASB).
Salvation is based on an earth-shattering, life-changing faith in Jesus Christ that only comes to us as a gift from God. No amount of works will achieve it and when God gifts us with salvation it should humble us. This is the context in which we approach the doctrine of eternal security. The Baptist Faith and Message then explains that those people who have been gifted with salvation will be sanctified by the Holy Spirit. Wayne Grudem defines sanctification as “the progressive work of God and man that makes us more and more free from sin and like Christ in our actual lives.” Sanctification is the means by which God separates a true believer from the world and makes them Christ-like. It begins at salvation (Titus 3:5), should continue throughout our lives (Romans 6:19, 2 Cor. 3:18), and is completed upon our death as our souls go to be with the Lord (Hebrews 12:23). Believers enjoy sanctification as a process that God works on us and also bear responsibility to participate in the process through obedience.
The Baptist Faith and Message teaches that those who have been truly saved and thus sanctified by the Spirit will never fall away from a state of grace and will persevere to the end. This is a position that is demonstrated in Scripture:
“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39, NASB).
“… and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand” (John 10:28-29, NASB).
“Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen” (Jude 1:24-25, NASB).
Simply put, if God gifts a person with genuine, earth-shattering, life-changing salvation in Christ Jesus, nothing will be able to undue it. To suggest otherwise is to suggest that God does not have the power, nor the ability, to save a person once and for all. Christ’s work on the cross can not be undone. He has died for our salvation and his sacrifice was completely sufficient to accomplish the task! A true believer can have complete confidence that they are saved from hell. This confidence enables us to live the abundant life that Christ speaks of in John 10:10.
Two Common Objections to Eternal Security
There are two common objections to the notion of eternal security and Scripture addresses both.
Objection 1: Christians are free to keep on sinning because of our eternal security.
Anyone who teaches or believes this is guilty of a heresy known as antinomianism. Scripture clearly teaches that believers have a responsibility to leave their sinful life behind. In fact, the Bible suggests that those who continue to willfully and habitually sin may not be Christians to begin with:
“No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him” (1 John 3:6, NASB).
Objection 2: What if someone becomes a Christians and then later denounces their faith and rejects Christ?
While a true believer may have doubts at times, if they genuinely and permanently denounce their faith and reject Christ, Scripture teaches they were not Christians to begin with:
“They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us” (1 John 2:19, NASB).
The Baptist Faith and Message is right on target. Can a true believer step out of the will of God and refuse to participate in the sanctification process? Certainly. Can a true believer have doubts and periods of disobedience in their lives? Certainly. One thing remains certain, however, a true believer can never be separated from the grace of God and the salvation found in Jesus Christ. This certainty provides the believer with a joy in this lifetime like none other! It is a joy we can’t earn or work for, rather, it is a joy that is gifted to us by God … and it all hinges on one point … are you a true believer in Christ and have you had a genuine, life-changing, earth-shattering encounter with our Lord Jesus Christ?