Debate: Eternal Security – Part 1

Below is a comment I received on my article Eternal Security. The comment is in block quotes, and I’ll address each point as we go. Let me first say that eternal security is a point of contention among the Christian community. We should not let this cause division, as whether or not a person believes they can lose their salvation is not an essential element of the faith. What is important? We trust Christ alone for His finished work on the cross, as we are saved by faith alone and not our works.

“It is clear from John 6, John 10, and a plethora of other Scripture that believers in Christ will never perish, so we must interpret the remainder of Scripture consistent with John 6, John 10, etc.”

Respectfully, you assume that the above scriptures are consistent with your interpretation. However, particularly in the KJV which you have cited, words ending with the suffix “th” indicate present tense verbs. Therefore in Jn 6:40 those that “believeth” are those who are “believing” as the Greek word for believing is “pisteuon” which is a present tense verb. This verse accurately reads “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone beholding the Son and believing in Him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up in the last day.”

I have no problem with the assessment that the verb πιστεύω (pisteuō) is present tense. Let’s look at how the New American Standard shows this verse:

“For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.” – John 6:40 NASB

This indicates that the Christian must go on believing in order to have eternal life. If he/she no longer continues in belief, then eternal life is no longer possessed and thus no eternal security.

The grammatical meaning surrounding the tense of “believe” has been a subject of intense debate. I do not believe we can hinge an entire doctrine based on the tense of a verb. Let me give you some examples:

  • “Everyone who boards the airplane will be flown to the destination.”
  • “Everyone who exercises will improve their health.”

Both statements use present participles. In the first example, it is a statement of general truth and not continuing action. In the second example, it is a continuing action. Considering both viewpoints, can we definitively know the proper word usage of “believeth” in the text? No, we cannot. We must rely on other statements and clues from elsewhere in the Scripture.

John 6:40 was brought up, but it seems verse 39 was neglected. What is verse 39?

“And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.” – John 6:39 KJV

Even if we debate the meaning of “believeth” in verse 40, it still does not solve the issue with verse 39. Jesus tells us that He will not lose one that was given to Him. Are believers given to the Son? Are believers chosen? Consider 1 Peter 2 and Romans 8:

“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” – 1 Peter 2:9 KJV

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” – Romans 8:28-30 KJV

Peter tells us that we are chosen. Paul tells us that we were predestined, called, justified, and glorified. This corroborates what we find in John 6 that believers are given to the Son by the Father.

The promise of not perishing, having eternal life and not being plucked from the Father’s hand has to be taken in the context of v.27. This promise is only made to those sheep who “hear” and “follow” Jesus. Those sheep who do not hear and do not follow the Lord and instead disobey, do not have the assurances of verses 28-30. Those who hear and obey are those sheep who are obedient.

This discussion is about eternal security involving a hypothetical situation. Can a believer fall from grace and be eternally damned? In other words, can one of Jesus’ sheep stray and lose the assurance of eternal life? Can any man, even Satan, pluck someone out of God’s hand? Or to take it a step further, can a believer pluck himself out of God’s hand?

My point is that a true believer becomes one of Jesus’ sheep the moment he believes. At that moment, he is given eternal life and shall never perish:

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.” – John 10:27-29 KJV

What is “eternal life”? Isn’t it life everlasting? What about when Jesus says “and they shall never perish”? What does never mean? Merriam-Webster defines it as “at no time in the past or future; on no occasion; not ever.” The text does not say “and they shall never perish as long as they believe and are obedient.” We cannot take from the text more than what is there.

Jesus died on the cross for the payment of all sin: past, present, and future (Hebrews 10:10-17). Theoretically speaking and assuming the person was a true believer at one time, wouldn’t any future sin of unbelief be covered in this as well? Don’t Christians at one time or another struggle with faith? Aren’t some weak in faith during trying times?

Jn 3:16 states that believing is required for eternal life.

(This discussed above.)

Heb 5:9 states that obeying is required for eternal life. Therefore, both belief and obedience are required for salvation as the scriptures do not contradict each other.

Are both belief and obedience required for salvation? Is salvation dependent upon how “good” a person can be? No, it is not. If it were, that would equate to salvation by works which is entirely against Scripture:

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” – Ephesians 2:8-9 KJV

See Salvation Through Faith Alone for more details.

Similarly, notice that the list in Rom 8:38-39 does not include sin as sin does indeed separate the believer from Christ. The believer who habitually disobeys is not eternally secure as Jn 10:27-30 indicates.

Does sin separate a believer from Christ? How can that be when our sinful flesh is put off by the circumcision of Christ?

“In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ” – Colossians 2:11 KJV

How can sin separate us from God when all of our sins were nailed to the cross?

“And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross” – Colossians 2:13-14 KJV

“Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.” – 1 Peter 2 :24 KJV

That is why Paul warned the brethren in Rome: “For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” Believers who choose to live their lives according to the flesh, will spiritually die. This verse cannot be referring to physical death because everyone physically dies – no matter how we live our lives.

Paul is correct in his statement that if you “live after the flesh, ye shall die” (Romans 8:13). But is Paul talking about believers living after the flesh? No, he is not. As all things in Scripture, you must read the context.

First of all, he is addressing the believers in Rome. He begins in verse 1 saying “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” By Paul’s definition, believers cannot walk after the flesh. Why?

Again speaking to believers in verse 9 and 10, he says “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” This part of Scripture (Romans 8:13) is not about believers falling from grace at all. What is Paul talking about? Paul is telling the believers in Rome that those who don’t have Christ (i.e. those who walk after the flesh) will die. Romans 8:13 is inapplicable to a theoretical discussion about a believer that backslides, whether it be into lack of faith, disobedience, etc.

Conclusion

As I said before, this theoretical debate regarding a believer’s eternal security can be a hot topic in the Christian community. It is okay if we disagree on eternal security on faith vs. former faith, but we cannot bring obedience or works into the gospel. Christians must trust what Christ did on the cross for the payment of their sins, and never trust how good or obedient they can be. When we begin to trust in our obedience or our goodness, we start to take away from Christ’s sacrifice.