Debate: Eternal Security – Part 2

The following is Part 2 of a debate on my article Eternal Security. You can read Part 1 here. The original comment is in block quotes, and my responses are underneath each section.

Employing anthropocentric examples to illustrate spiritual truths can sometimes be a risky thing. The examples you provided regarding boarding a plane and exercising indeed indicate possibility or perhaps even probability; however we know that the Scriptures being the truth, also teach from a position of certainty which then removes the possibility of any doubt.

I completely agree on the fact that the Scripture is entirely truth, inerrant and infallible. The examples I used were given strictly to demonstrate how verbs can be interpreted, and that simply because a verb is present tense doesn’t necessarily mean it is continued action. You say that the Scriptures “also teach from a position of certainty which then removes the possibility of any doubt.” This statement is a bit vague. I would agree that the truths in Scripture are certain, but I’m unsure what is meant by “which then removes the possibility of any doubt.” I don’t believe that anyone who agrees Scripture is truth would doubt the certainty of said truth. The issue is extracting the truth from the Scripture. The mere existence of numerous interpretations of Scripture proves this. Proper biblical exegesis is a necessity to determining the true meaning of the text, and not just the fact that the text is true.

Thus I would assert that the need to go on believing in order to have eternal life is a valid interpretation indicative of a certain outcome.

The flow of your thought here seems illogical. If I’m understanding you correctly:

  • The Scriptures are truth
  • The Scriptures teach from a position of certainty
  • The position of certainty removes the possibility of any doubt
  • Therefore, interpreting “believeth” to mean “continues to believe” is a valid interpretation

These seems like a non sequitur fallacy. I don’t see how your points are connected, or how your premise draws your conclusion.

Having said this though, you bring up a valid point regarding context pointing to v.39 as Jesus appears to make an absolute claim that he will lose nothing. From this statement it would certainly seem that Jesus will absolutely lose nothing that the Father has given him. Is that really true? If we also examine John 17:12 Jesus makes this apparently contradictory statement: “While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.” Despite Jesus himself keeping them in your name and guarding them, Judas was still lost. Since he was lost, was it because Judas was never a believer and therefore different from the rest of the disciples? The rest of Chapt. 17 provides the clues as there is no distinction made between Judas and the rest of the disciples in this chapter. I concur with you that believers are given to the Son by the Father. With that understanding, note Jn 17:6-10 NKJV caps for emphasis:

“I have manifested Your name to the MEN WHOM YOU HAVE GIVEN ME out of the world. They were YOURS, YOU GAVE THEM TO ME, and they have KEPT YOUR WORD. Now they have KNOWN that all things which You have given Me are from You. For I have given to them the words which You have given Me; and they have RECEIVED them, and have KNOWN SURELY that I came forth from You; and they have BELIEVED that You sent Me. I pray for them. I DO NOT PRAY FOR THE WORLD BUT for THOSE whom YOU HAVE GIVEN ME, for THEY ARE YOURS. And all Mine are Yours, and YOURS ARE MINE, and I AM GLORIFIED IN THEM.”

Nowhere in this chapter is a distinction made between Judas and the rest of the disciples. The terminology used in this chapter are certainly indicative of genuine believers. They were all chosen out of the world and given to the Son by the Father. All of these men belonged to the Father and the Son, and the Son is glorified in them. They received and believed. The only distinction made is that despite Jesus keeping them in his name, none was lost except the son of perdition in v.12. This passage indicates that like the other disciples, Judas was given to Jesus by the Father and hence he was a fellow believer. Yet despite being a believer, Judas was still lost. To assert that Judas was not a believer goes against the plain language of this passage as Judas described in this passage is indistinguishable from the rest of the disciples except for the fact that he was eventually lost. Acts 1:29 supports this as it does not state that Judas was an unbeliever; rather it states that Judas turned away/fell by transgression. Being chosen and given to the Son by the Father therefore does not necessarily indicate that one will always persevere unto salvation.

First, was Judas one of Jesus’ sheep? No, he couldn’t have been. Why? Because he was lost, and according to John 6:39 Jesus loses none. Was Judas given to Jesus by the Father? In the “sheep” sense, no. But was Judas used to facilitate God’s divine plan? Yes, he was. If there was no Judas, there would have been no betrayal and no arrest of Jesus by His captors. God has used several people to facilitate His plan (e.g. Pilate, the Jewish leaders, etc.). I find nothing in John 17 that would definitively indicate that Judas was given to Jesus by the Father for salvation.

Rom 8:28-30 is arguably one of the strongest if not the strongest scripture in support of eternal security. This golden chain of salvation at first glance appears to support the belief that those whom the Father predestined/chose will in fact be glorified – no exceptions. However if it can be demonstrated that any of the “links” in this chain of salvation can be broken, then salvation is not so secure after all – even for the elect. Note the word called/kaleo in v.30. It is the same Greek word found in Gal 1:6. In this verse Paul marvels at the fact that some Galatians despite being “kaleo” are deserting Christ and turning to follow another gospel. If kaleo/called refers to the elect in Rom 8:30 then it must also refer to the elect in Gal 1:6.

Your argument against Romans 8:28-30 hinges on the verb καλέω (kaleō), meaning “to call.” You allege that because the same verb is used in Galatians 1:6, the meaning is also the same as in Romans 8. Let’s review a handful of times when καλέω (kaleō) is used throughout the New Testament:

“And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call (kaleō) his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.” – Matthew 1:21 KJV

“Then Herod, when he had privily called (kaleō) the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.” – Matthew 2:7 KJV

“And both Jesus was called (kaleō), and his disciples, to the marriage.” – John 2:2 KJV

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called (kaleō) according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28 KJV

“Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called (kaleō): and whom he called (kaleō), them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” – Romans 8:30 KJV

“I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called (kaleō) you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel” – Galatians 1:6 KJV

As we can see, the usage of the verb varies throughout Scripture. Simply because the verb is used in Romans 8:28-30 along with Galatians 1:6 doesn’t necessarily mean that it carries the same meaning and intent. But for the sake of argument, let’s say the verb carries the same meaning in Galatians 1 as in Romans 8.

These kaleo Galatians were true believers who were apostatizing from the faith in order to follow another gospel. Despite being the elect – chosen and called by the Father – they did not persevere and instead fell away. Therefore the linear chain of progression leading to salvation in Rom 8:30 does not by Paul’s own witness in Gal 1:6 demonstrate any security of salvation.

From what I see, your thought process is basically:

  • 100% of the members of the Galatians church were true believers in Christ (elected, chosen, and called)
  • The entire Galatian church “fell away” (I assume you mean losing their salvation)
  • Therefore, Romans 8:30 does not indicate eternal security.

I don’t think we can conclude from Paul’s letter to the Galatians that the entire Galatian church fell away. There is nothing in the text to indicate the “salvation status” of the individual Galatian believers. Paul’s letter was written to address the church as a whole, and to address false teachers that had crept into the Galatian church (i.e. the Judaizers).

Of course there is Galatians 5:1-4:

“Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.” – Galatians 5:1-4 KJV

Many who challenge eternal security love to quote Galatians 5:4 as a proof text, as it reads “ye are fallen from grace.” But again, context is everything. Who is Paul speaking to? Notice he says “Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.” Paul is referencing those who are attempting to be justified by the law, not those already justified by faith.

Another interpretation of Galatians 5:4 focuses on the meaning “ye are fallen from grace.” What does Paul mean when he says “fallen from grace”? Is it possible to fall from the graces of God without your soul being eternally damned? Some believe there is a difference between “falling from grace” and losing one’s salvation.

As I wrote previously, I respectfully disagree with your interpretation of Jn 10:27-30. In context, the assurances of vs.28-30 are predicated on the referent subject in v.27 consisting of sheep who listen and follow. The germane question is: Is eternal life promised even to those sheep who do not listen and follow? The text does not state nor even imply that eternal life is promised to sheep who are not listening and following. All it simply states is that eternal life is given to sheep who continue to listen and follow. The conditions are listening and following. Thus those sheep who do not meet these conditions, i.e., those who are disobedient, cannot be said to have eternal life as the requisite conditions are unfulfilled.

Let’s review the Scripture in question:

“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

I believe the point of contention is the meaning of “follow me.” When Jesus says His sheep “follow” Him, what is He talking about? Does “follow” refer to lifestyle and obedience? Is Jesus speaking literally or figuratively? Does He mean that His sheep will literally follow Him as we were literally sheep and He were literally a shepherd? Or is Jesus using a figure of speech? Look at the preceding verse (v.26):

“But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you.” – John 10:26 KJV

Jesus, speaking to the Jews, tells them that they are not His sheep because they don’t believe in Him. If they believed in Him, they would be His sheep.

Consider what Jesus says in John 5:

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.” – John 5:24 KJV

This parallel to John 10 doesn’t mention “following” Jesus. All that is mentioned here is believing will result in eternal life. What can we draw from all this? I suspect that “follow me” in John 10 has nothing to do with our obedience, but is rather a figure of speech for believing in Christ.

Imagine if “following” Jesus meant obedience as you say. Christians would be in constant fear worrying if they’ve been “obedient” enough, if they’ve “followed” close enough. You would live your entire life never knowing if you had done enough to get to heaven. Is this the case? The Scripture teaches that Christians can know if they have eternal life:

“These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.” – 1 John 5:13 KJV

I am unaware of any scripture which specifically states that all our sin including future sins are automatically forgiven.I would maintain that Jesus died for our past and present sins – given that we repent of them. 2 Pet 1:9 states that we are forgiven from our “past” or “former” sins.1 Jn 1:9 states that IF we confess our present sins, (since no one is without sin) God forgives and cleanses us. I am unaware of any scriptures which specifically state that we are automatically forgiven of future sins. 1 Jn 1:9 states that confession of sin is required in order to receive God’s forgiveness. How can we confess future sins that we have not yet committed? The only time when we are forgiven of all of our sin is when we are made alive in Christ at our conversion according to Col 2:13. The notion that Jesus’ sacrifice met payment for future sins yet to be committed is contradicted by Rom 3:25: ” Whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were PREVIOUSLY COMMITTED (NKJV). If our sins both present and future are already forgiven, why did Jesus say that he will not forgive us if we do not forgive others? I do not have reason to doubt that you are a genuine believer so for the sake of argument, if you are still around during the tribulation and have to decide whether or not to take the mark of the beast, would you take it? After all, if future sins are already covered by the blood and forgiven, then taking this mark would be of no consequence. And if you did take it, the Reformed view would claim that you were never a believer in the first place.

You wrote:” Does sin separate a believer from Christ? How can that be when our sinful flesh is put off by the circumcision of Christ? How can sin separate us from God when all of our sins were nailed to the cross?”
As I referenced earlier Rom 3:25 specifically states that our former sins are forgiven upon regeneration – not present or future sins which require ongoing repentance. The Colossians passage which you cite in order to support your view describes what happened to our PAST sins which occurred at the moment we were buried with Him and made alive in Christ (Col 2:13). Indeed we are all weak in the faith and struggle with sin at times because Scripture states that no one is without sin (1 Jn 1:8,10). The key is to repent, turn away from sin and receive His forgiveness.

You say that Jesus died for our past and present sins, but not future sins. So what happens when we commit a sin in the future? What atones for our future sin? Does Christ have to die all over again? Does He have to be sacrificed again? Of course not. That wouldn’t make any sense. God is not restricted to time as we are. The only way for the blood of Jesus Christ to cover our future sins is if He died for them at Calvary. Otherwise, He’d have to die all over again. Let’s see what the Scripture says:

“By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.” – Hebrews 10:10-17 KJV

The above quote is lengthy, but necessary for context. The point is that Jesus Christ made one sacrifice for all sin. What is “all” sin? To say that Christ only died for past and present sins is just not biblical, and I do not know of any biblical scholar (either on the Calvinist or Arminian side) that would claim that. There is no question that Christ died for all sin, but some arguments do arise between Calvinists and Arminians regarding the application of the atonement.

Furthermore, to deny that Jesus died for future sin is to deny the penal substitution and imputed righteousness of Christ:

“But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” – Isaiah 53:5-6 KJV

“But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification. For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.) Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.” – Romans 5:15-19 KJV

“For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” – 2 Corinthians 5:21 KJV

“Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith” – Philippians 3:8-9 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

In regards to your statement of the mark of the beast, you are applying the current dispensation of grace in the church age today with what will take place in the tribulation period. These are apples and oranges.

You wrote: “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:…”
Nowhere in either the OT or NT are works done out of obedience to God condemned. The confusion is a result of conflating good works which we were created to do (Eph 2:10) with works of the Law, (Rom 3:20) works done in our own strength, (2 Tim 1:9) and works of the flesh (Gal 5:19-21) which are all condemned. The Apostle Paul described the gospel message that he himself preached: “…but declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do WORKS befitting REPENTANCE” (Acts 26:20). The Apostle James confirms this when he wrote that faith without works is dead (Js 2:17) and that we are justified by works and not by faith alone (Js 2:24). Our works done out of repentance and obedience to God are the outward manifestation of inward saving faith. These kind of works are never condemned.

No, good works are not condemned. However, they are condemned when it involves justification. How are we saved (justified)? By faith:

“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

“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” – Romans 5:1 KJV

Good works are not the cause of salvation. They are the result of salvation.

You wrote: “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.”
Yes context – given that it is the correct interpretation of context.

You wrote: “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.”
Note that the phrase “in Christ Jesus” in v.1 is modified and defined by the clause which immediately follows – “who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” Paul conveys the same idea again in v.4. Therefore true believers who have no condemnation are those who walk after the Spirit. However Paul does not say that believers “cannot walk after the flesh” as you assert. How so? Because believers are still capable of sowing to flesh and sinning. 1 Cor 6:8 identifies believers who cheat and do wrong: “Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers and sisters.” This verse specifically identifies believers who do such things as it says they do it to their fellow “brothers and sisters.” 1 Cor 10:7-10 ,Paul warns Christians against becoming idolaters, committing sexual immorality, tempting Christ and complaining. If believers cannot walk after the flesh, then why would Paul issue such a warning to Christians commanding them to refrain from such sins? Is such a warning issued because Christians will only lose their rewards but not their salvation? No. 1 Cor 10:7 warns believers against becoming idolaters. Do these idolaters only lose their rewards. Not according to Rev 21:8 “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and IDOLATERS, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.

I don’t see anything in 1 Corinthians 10:7-10 that has to do with eternal salvation. Paul is simply giving Christians a “code of conduct.” I agree that Christians shouldn’t have false idols and fornicate.

If Revelation 21:8 is to be interpreted the way you present it, then I’m fairly certain every human being on the planet would be cast into hell. We all have lied, haven’t we? It is true that one lie is enough to condemn someone to eternal hell. What can save that person? The blood of Jesus Christ.

You wrote: “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.”
How is it possible for Paul to write to those “who don’t have Christ” the warning – for IF you live according to the flesh…if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body? In other words, how can an unbeliever put to death the deeds of the body since they are incapable of doing so due to the fact that they are unregenerate and have no choice other than to live according to the flesh? Only believers have a choice of whether to sin or not to sin thus appropriately Paul’s use of the qualifier “if”. Moreover the verbs in v.13 are rendered in the present tense so Paul is not speaking in terms of what an unbeliever might do in the future in terms of belief in Christ. Instead Paul is describing what actions are currently ongoing in the believer’s life (walking in the flesh vs. walking in the Spirit) and warning of the attendant consequences; i.e. spiritual death or spiritual life that is reaped based upon the believer’s choice of lifestyle.
On the other side of the coin, people who don’t have Christ have no choice other than to live according to the flesh since they are still dead in their sins. It is not a matter of IF they walk in the flesh – they already ARE walking in the flesh since they are still unregenerate sinners. It is impossible to ascribe to sinners the POSSIBILITY of walking in the flesh; rather it is a CERTAINTY due to their unsaved state that they are and continue to walk in the flesh. If Paul were addressing unbelievers as you assert, instead of using IF he would use the term SINCE you walk in the flesh. Unbelievers cannot choose whether to sin or not to sin. Only believers can choose whether to sin or not. Therefore for these reasons I believe Rom 8:13 can only apply to believers; hence Paul’s warning is a reality that the believer’s salvation is not secure IF he/she continues to walk according to the flesh.

Was Pauling speaking in generalities? Or was he speaking of believers?

“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.” – Romans 8:13 KJV

Is Paul saying:

  • “For if you (a believer) live after the flesh, ye shall die,” or…
  • “For if you (general statement) live after the flesh, ye shall die”?

I could say “if you buy a car, it can get expensive.” The usage of “you” could refer to my audience or could be just a general statement… “you” meaning anyone.

I don’t believe Romans 8:13 is conclusive of disproving eternal security.

Conclusion

I do not believe there will ever be any agreement on this issue. With that said, I encourage my readers to read the Scripture for themselves and make up their own mind. Romans 14:5 tells us to be persuaded in our own mind. Do you believe that a Christian can lose their salvation? Read the bible and decide for yourself. However, believing or not believing in eternal security isn’t essential. The question is are you trusting in Jesus Christ alone? Are you trusting in His sacrifice?